Runners pride themselves in being able to do their sport anywhere. No need for a field, a bat, a team, pads, raquets, or other sports gear; just a pair of sneakers and a willingness to run anywhere. It’s certainly one of the most attractive aspects for the financially strapped athlete such as myself who moved to New York City with four suitcases and a dream at 22 years old. But, as I started to dive into the world of marathons, I found that I needed more than just any pair of sneakers. I needed the right gear.
First, I needed to have my feet assessed and my gait analyzed. The very knowledgeable folks over at Jackrabbit took their time checking my gait as I ran on their treadmill and played back the video of my foot strike for me to explain why the New Balance and Nike shoes I’d been wearing were so totally wrong for me (maybe not for you, but definitely for me). What I didn’t know was that I have a very normal gait, which they could see when they played the video of me running back in super-slow motion. The other stores kept telling me I supinated or pronated (I don’t think they actually knew what either meant, but I do: supinate-foot rolls outward, pronate-foot rolls inward). Jackrabbit put me in Asics, which I loved for about 4 years until the style changed dramatically. Then I married the Brooks Defyance. It’s been 5 years now and we’re still going strong! The new shoes changed my life and made running more comfortable. Shoes matter.
But you need more than the right shoes. You (mostly women, but everyone really) need the right undergarments. Undies matter. Trust me. Shop around. The wrong ones chafe like the devil and make your life miserable.
The right skivvies make shopping for shirts and shorts that much easier. Here’s the thing about shorts: they have to fit you right. Too big and they bunch up. Too small and your everything is hanging out and you spend your entire run pulling your shorts down, not running. But size isn’t the only thing to consider. Please, for the love of your own body, stay away from cotton. Moisture wicking materials will make your running life soooooo much easier. If it’s humid and your shorts are suddenly dripping with sweat and falling down, you are going to put less energy into running and more energy into wishing you had worn different shorts.
And while we’re on the issue of bottoms, can I just say that compression shorts have been my go-to marathon shorts for almost my entire career? I thought they were hideous at first, but their function far surpasses any doubts I have about their lack of style and I have been searching for my perfect pair ever since. Any recommendations? My friends over at lululemon Athletica run design team are working on it right now and I know those will be far more flattering than the ones I’ve been rocking. ‘Til then, I’ll be wearing my old ones…which are not perfect for me and the fabric kinda sucks. I love regular ‘ol running shorts for most of my runs and that took me about 7 years to find. For the record, if you can’t find any Turbo Run Shorts, it’s because I have bought them all. Sorry.
Shirts matter mostly in the winter. Thin, moisture-wicking base layer followed by a vented warm layer is the best way I know to layer for the rain, snow and crazy winter months here in the city. Again, though, it’s the fit that you’re looking for. A snug base layer won’t bunch up and will keep the heat in your body and draw the sweat off your skin. The second layer being vented is important because you gotta let the heat out. Vents under the arms or down the back are good places to allow heat to release without letting too much out. It’s a fine line, kind of Princess and the Pea stuff.
All of this stuff matters because when your gear is working for you, you don’t even know it’s there. You shouldn’t feel it moving around, bunching up, chafing all over. It should feel so natural that you might be running naked, well…without the whole nightmare of realizing you left your house without clothes and are now running naked. Yikes.
So, be picky with your stuff and don’t cheap out where your clothes are concerned. The best running clothes (not shoes, of course) will last a long time when you take care of it. That, and it will allow for you to do what you set out to do: RUN. If you’re noticing your gear instead of focusing on your pace, it’s time to find some stuff you can really run in.
Ok, so hit the shops and then GO OUT AND RUN!