What you need for speed*, part 1

*Your definition of "speed" may vary

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned gearing up for the Hudepohl 14K, and it made me think about all the stuff runners carry.

We live in a world of FitBits and fitness apps, and we are constantly sold the idea that if we don't own this or that specialty piece of performance equipment, we are Doing It Wrong.

So, based on my nearly 10 years of running experience, here are my thoughts on the gear you need to run.

What you need to start running:

  • Sneakers.
  • Some sort of pants that aren't jeans or work pants (sweat pants, yoga pants, leggings, whatever).
  • A T-shirt.
  • A sports bra (ladies).
  • Your hair in a ponytail (ladies, and certain men).

That's it. That is literally all you need to get started. That's all I had that first day nearly 10 years ago, when my dad and I met to run a minute and walk a minute. Don't be intimidated by your lack of custom-fit sneakers or specialty fabrics or "sports" earbuds. Just go out there and give it a try.

What you need to run a 5K:

Not much more than the above list, really. You'll probably want to get a little more specific than plain "sneakers," but just about anything from the "running" aisle of your local sporting goods store will work. You may also decide to invest in pants and a bra made of "technical" fabric, because cotton gets wet, heavy, and HOT very quickly.

What you need to run long distances (say, eight miles and up):

  • Distraction. Whether it's headphones or a buddy, you want something to keep your mind off of the fact that you're spending more than an hour constantly exerting yourself. I use a behind-the-head-style set of headphones so I can take them off and have them around my neck, and I choose the cheapest possible model so I don't feel bad about destroying them with heat and sweat.
  • Hydration. You gotta do it, even if it's a pain. Especially in the summer heat. You can plan your route around water fountains and vending machines. You can make your own water stops, like a marathoner I once knew who would stash bottles of Gatorade along his route. You can arrange for friends to meet you and deliver sweet, precious fluids. Or you can carry it with you, which is what I do now. I always thought that was more trouble than it was worth, but training in 90-degree weather this year made me a believer. Now, I strap a bottle of water to my hand and take a sip every half mile or so. The evening I bought it, I couldn't believe I was spending $26 on a water bottle. Now I can't believe I spent 10 years running without one.
  • Nourishment. Everyone has a different take on how often you should carb up when running. I do it every 4-5 miles, so I take 1 gel for training runs of 6 miles and up, and 2 for a half marathon. Your preferred type of energy delivery source will vary, and it might change as you gain experience. I used to swear by Sport Beans, but I prefer gel now because it's compact and I can eat it while running without worrying about silly things like chewing.
  • Lubrication. Gross, right? Sorry, running is kinda gross sometimes. Put that Body Glide all over your feet, including in between your toes, and anywhere else that might chafe. You'll learn as you go where your hot spots are.

Now, I don't mean to say that this is all you should need, and anything more is bloated self-indulgence. I myself have much more gear that I use, and I'll get into that next time. All I'm trying to say is that the entry point for running is a lot lower than you might think. Grab a buddy, go out there, and give it a try! You might enjoy yourself, and you will definitely be doing something better for yourself than sitting on the couch.

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