Getting in Gear: Running essentials to make the miles fly by

We just celebrated a minor holiday in my house: New Running Shoe Day! This is a special day that doesn’t come around too often. A good pair of running shoes will set you back somewhere between $100 and $200, and like tires, mileage will vary. When I was a newbie runner, I naively thought a pair of old gym sneakers was all I needed. I’ve been running, in some capacity for about 35 years, and by now I’ve managed to sort through the hype and have a pretty good grasp on what I do and don’t need. I’ll share with you my take on the “must-have” items to get you ready for race day.

To get the most out of your runs, here’s my list of go-tos:

  • Running Shoes
  • GPS watch
  • Music
  • Headphones
  • Anti-chafing cream
  • Socks
  • Sports bra
  • Anti-chafing shorts or leggings
  • Hydration belt or vest
  • Fuel for long runs
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses

While the only item on this list is that is non-negotiable is running shoes – although there’s a very small minority of runners that would argue that even those aren’t necessary, bless them – this post will focus on the first 4 essentials for many runners.

Running Shoes: I belong to a lot of running-oriented social media sites, and probably the scenario that irritates me the most is new runners asking “what kind of shoes do you recommend?” and the ensuing litany of answers from anonymous “experts”. The fact of the matter is that everyone’s needs and physiology are different. There are lots of different running shoes designed to solve all kinds of different problems. The only way to know the right one for you is to get a professional fit from a store that specializes in running shoes. A good running store will measure your feet, put you on a treadmill, take a video of you running and do a gait analysis to help you find your perfect match. There is really no substitute for a professional fitting!

GPS Watch: Let me tell you a story about when I started running long distances. There were no GPS watches back then. I would look at a map and figure out a “precise” distance to run. I thought I knew how fast I was running and knew how to pace myself. When I got to race day, with the timing clocks running, I was always disappointed. It always took me so much longer to finish the races than my training runs…but why? How? The races felt pretty much the same in my body as training runs. I couldn’t fathom why I was so much slower on race day.

The day finally came when I got my first GPS watch. That was the day I found out my “10-mile” route was only. Eight. Miles. My map method was completely off and I had to do a complete mental recalibration of my running capabilities. I have been using Garmin watches exclusively and tried a number of models. They seem to last me a couple of years before they die or I decide I need an upgrade. Garmin was an early player in GPS technologies and favored by runners for its precision. When I look at my post run maps, I can see the times when I stepped to the side of my path to grab a drink of water. The level of tracking accuracy is slightly creepy to me, but very reassuring for my performance!

Entry-model Garmin watches start around $150, but I’m sure you can find quality used ones on eBay for far less. The top-of the line watches top out over $1,000, but I’m wondering who actually needs a watch that washes your windows for you.

Activities menu on my Garmin

I’m currently using the Garmin Venu 2S, and I absolutely love it! It’s got all the great running features I love, and handles all kinds of other activities well! I was seriously into weightlifting over the winter and loved being able to track all my reps and weights on the watch. It even tried to guess what exercise I was performing, and was right more than wrong. Hands down my favorite feature of this watch is the music function. I can store my running playlists on my watch and connect with wireless headphones. No more need to carry a phone or an iPod with me. One less thing to worry about!

Music: I’m not going to tell you what kind of music to listen to. Next.

Headphones: Now this is a topic on which I have some strong opinions. I’ve tried just about every style out there, and there is a clear winner. There are 3 predominant styles that I’ve seen on the market:

  1. Over-the-ear: These have the advantage of staying put while you’re running but are often big and bulky. If you use headphones not specifically designed for sports, they will probably get corroded with time and lots of sweat. Yuck. Some over-the-ear headphones have noise-cancelling capabilities. That’s great if you’re on a plane. Not so great if you need to listen for traffic.
  2. Earbuds: Lightweight and convenient, I can’t get these things to stay in my ears while running. I have extra small ear canals, so that doesn’t help. They are always painful in my ears after about 20 minutes. I’ve tried extra small earbuds, earbuds with hooks, keeping the earbuds in place with a bandanna, and never met a pair that really did the job. I know that wireless earbuds are extremely popular right now. Given how easily they fall out of my ears, I think those are a pretty bad idea for running. If you really want to use earbuds, at least look for a pair that has a wired connection between left and right earbuds so that you are less likely to use them.
  3. Open-ear: I have to be completely honest, I didn’t even know these existed until recently. These are headphones that are a bit like earbuds but they sit outside the ear on the tragus which, apparently, is that little flappy thing at the front of your ear that you would push on if you wanted to plug your ears. The sound travels through your bones and the quality is amazing. Added bonus is because nothing is actually inside your ear, so you can still hear approaching cars. I invested in a pair of Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones (currently retailing at $179) and they were worth every penny! Honestly, after registering for Club runDisney, everything feels like a bargain. There is another model that goes for $129. My Shokz are so comfortable and have a 10-hour charge, so even at a pace like mine, they’ll last a full marathon. Hands down, these are my choice!

There’s much more to say on running gear. The next post will cover clothing, anti-chafing and other “hidden” tools for race day success.

2 thoughts on “Getting in Gear: Running essentials to make the miles fly by

  1. Damon July 9, 2022 / 7:00 pm

    This is a great website. I know it will help so many people. Well done! 👍


  2. Apryl July 19, 2022 / 8:45 pm

    I’m ready to ready set go do more disney races after reading this blog!!!!!!


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