Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Five: Running Things I Love that I Didn't Know I'd Need A Few Years Ago

Long title, but I couldn't think of a better way to phrase it. I ran my first marathon in 2008, and realized that since then, I've somehow become more pro-gear.

1. Hydration Pack. For hiking? Yes. Biking? It could be handy. But running? Honestly, just a few years ago, I would have laughed at the runner who purchased a pack just for running. Gear snob, I would have scoffed, feeling smug in my running-purist status. But then, I signed up for a marathon. And found myself trying to line up water stops on my long runs--a manageable feat in College Station, where I lived at the time. I could hit parks with water fountains and campus buildings that I knew would be open on the weekends or early in the mornings. After a while though, the same routes got old, and I resorted to a hand-me-down Camelback that slid and slapped around on my back. When I got myself a Nathan hydration pack designed for runners last year, I learned what I had been missing. It's perfect for long trail runs and non-runner-friendly cities. And I even carry it on shorter runs sometimes because it's perfect for carrying my...

2. iPhone. One thing I always said I would never run with is headphones. And strictly speaking, I still do not run with headphones. For one thing, I think they can be dangerous whether you run on trails or on the road. But because the iPhone plays things aloud, sans headphones, and because my Nathan has a nifty little pocket perfectly sized for the iPhone, I can take the tunes or a book along and still be able to hear my surroundings. Carrying it also makes me feel safer on solitary runs in isolated places.

3. Gels and chews. Same as the hydration pack--until I was doing long enough runs, I thought they were just an expensive gimmick. I still think they're overpriced, and, using some recipes I've found online, I'm going to experiment with making my own for those times I just can't stomach whole foods on a run. More to come on this later!

4. Expensive socks. This has more to do with being cheap thrifty than anything, but I buy my socks in packs at places like Walmart and wear them until they are visibly done. I currently own and wear socks purchased at least five years ago. But...last year, Runner's World sent me a pair of Thorlo Experia socks to try out (if you sign up to take their surveys, occasionally Runner's World will mail you things to test). I loved them. When I went to buy some more, I found out they cost fifteen dollars! Who pays that much for socks?? Many runners, apparently. I have two pairs for long runs, races, or blister control, because they're great, but for shorter runs I stick to my cheap socks.

5. Running hat. Possibly, this is more of an El Paso thing than a running thing, because I happily ran for many years without a hat. Without sunglasses most of the time, too. But the sun seems to be 8 million percent brighter here, and most of the time there is no shade. Now I wear the hat no matter where I'm running, unless it's going to be dark the whole time.

There are probably some other things that make my running life easier that I didn't know about a few years ago. I love improvements in running technology and trying out new gear, but often it's fun to leave it all behind and run without even a watch.

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