Like most things worth learning, the process takes time. Here are some hints from a veteran runner to help you save some money and choose more wisely which translates to having more time to run.
First, the who. I am an athlete and have been for the greater part of my life. Not the Micheal Jordan type but the type that lives modestly, camps at races and skimps where I can so that I can play and train lots whether as a windsurfer, asurfer, a cyclist, a climber, a backpacker and now an ultrarunner. I am also 48.
What this translates to is a bunch of experiences pre-internet and many poor purchases. Now, on social media, there are daily questions about what to buy as a runner: shoes, vests, clothes and the rest of the kit. Here are my hints if, like me, you are on a budget:
1. Contact points matter: Do not skimp and shoes or vests and belts. These are your contact points with gravity, the Earth and where the worst types of chafing can occur. What is chafing? Skimp on these two products and you will learn very quickly.
If you are a new runner, go to a shop and try a few pairs. With running shoes we are all Cinderella and the right slippers will transform us all into princesses while the wrong ones will transform us into her step-sisters.
Now, do you need the latest and greatest $200+ shoe? No. Remember when you learned to drive a car. What type of car did you use? A simple one, not a Lambo or a Bentley. Shoes are the same. They need to fit well and get you out the door running. Period. Second shoe after running 300 miles down the road, you will have a clearer idea of what you want. What worked with your first shoe and what didn’t. But, do not skimp here. Shoes make the difference between falling in love with running and hating it.
2. Vests or belts? That is the question and it is a simple question. Ask yourself, ‘where do you see yourself in a year?’ Most of us get introduced to running through friends, social media or an attraction to it. Like all attractions, you are interested in part of it, not all. So figure out what drew you or is drawing you to running. Is it basic fitness, a goal to run a marathon or a desire to hit the trails and spend all day playing in the mountains? Depending on your answer, the question becomes clear.
If all you want to do is 5-10km a few times a week, running belts are great. They carry your phone, water and an extra layer as needed. $20 will get you in the door and you are good to go. Again, try them on. Not all fit the same and rule number 1 applies here.
For those dreaming of running a marathon and longer, a vest is a great tool for training that requires more time outside. You can carry food, water, extra layers, gloves, raincoat and anything else short of the kitchen sink. They are designed as a vest, not a backpack. They fit like a tight vest that would be seen under a suit jacket. The key to choosing a vest is simple. The more it moves, the more chafing will occur. A good vest moves very little as you run. It’s why so many runners use them.
This is another kit piece not to skimp on. Why? Because it will affect your love or hate for running. Read some reviews, try some on, pick the one that fits like a glove and doesn’t give off the impression that you are running with boobs whether you have them genetically or not. Movement can cause chafing. Chafing sucks.
3. Waterproof jacket: If you live somewhere wet, get a decent jacket. Something with a membrane. The inside looks like it has lots of dots. The best is Gore-Tex but there are plenty of other products today that work just fine. I suggest buying one that you like well enough to also wear as your summer raincoat. I have been in the jungle during rainstorms and having a raincoat has kept me warm enough to get home. It may be 85 in the city, but that does not mean it’s 85 under a wet canopy.
4. Socks: Buy many. Find what works for you. I use the same socks year round and they worked well for me for years. When you find something that works, don’t change it. It works.
5. Shorts, shirts, nutrition and the rest of your kit: There is plenty of product out there that is high quality and on sale. Find kit that fits you well. I race pleny and therefore I have plenty of race shirts. For me, they are all I will ever need. They work fine. The rest is trial and error.
Some gels and food supplements work for some while not working for others. It’s part of the process that can be fun. And I guarantee you this, once you have a 1000 miles under your feet, you will have a clearer idea of what works for you and what doesn’t.
6. Lastly, to avoid buyers remorse, especially when getting ready for Ultras, watch a few videos, go crew or help out at a race or two and see what most are using. There are clearly brands out there that veteran runners use and brands that are only being used by the Pros. Pros get paid. Most runners don’t. If you watch 500 runners go by and 400 are wearing the same kit component, it works. Follow suit.
That’s it. Get out there and have fun and here’s a veteran kit trick that I carry. Get a contact case and fill half with sunscreen and the other half with vaseline. Apply sunscreen always to the nose and ears and vaseline to the places that chafe because sometimes our bio-mechanics is off and that hot spot will burn if not tended to. Anyway, have fun and maybe I will see you out there.