Monday, 25 October 2010

All the gear and no idea

Influenced by friends of a similar nature, I am always keen to help beginners to get into running. From my own experience, I think one of the biggest obstacles to people getting involved in the sport is just having the confidence to leave the house and go for that first run, and this ties closely into something else that beginners often need help with: kit.

My first proper training run, one of not-many I undertook in the run up to my first Edinburgh marathon relay, was one of the hardest runs I've ever done.  It wasn’t hard because of the physical challenge of going for a run, it was hard because I was hugely embarrassed to be seen out exercising.  I felt completely ridiculous stepping outside in an old cotton T-shirt, swimming shorts and cheap plastic trainers to do an arduous lap of St Andrews in an encroaching Scottish winter. But I laboured around and eventually made it back to the flat, exhausted and wheezing, soaked in sweat and with screaming muscles, but beaming at the accomplishment and riding the endorphin swell.

I remembered that first run recently, as I stepped out of the flat in my gleaming Saucony running shoes, wrapped against the cold in a Helly Hansen baselayer, a t-shirt from the Paris Marathon, Hilly gloves and Asics shorts, listening to my iPod shuffle with earphones from Nike. I started the timer on my Garmin watch and tightened the straps on my Mountain Warehouse backpack as I ran up the hill towards work, realising that much of my confidence to go out and run in public comes from me looking like a runner when I go out in public.

So maybe the first step towards becoming a runner is to go shopping, because being properly equipped can make a huge difference to your comfort and confidence, but there's no need to go overboard. If you’re going to run quite a lot, you need a certain amount of gear, but even if you run a great deal you can get by with not much. What you need is a decent pair of properly-fitted running shoes, which can cost anywhere from £50-100, and a few pairs of running socks, which should cost £8-10 a pair. 

My right foot after the England Kilomathon, March 2010. Good shoes, badly fitted.
A t-shirt and a pair of shorts should complete your basic kit list. However, if you’re anything like me what you’re going to want is a wardrobe full of gear catering for all conditions and all seasons, with labels covered in words like ‘dry-fit’ and ‘moisture-wicking’. This is an easy way to spend an awful lot money on stuff you don’t really need, though my collection has gradually built up over a number of years, and was usually bought in sales or received as gifts. I know runners who use new gear as rewards for reaching certain training milestones (you know who you are!), and this can be a great motivator.

Your gear is important– you need to be comfortable, you need to feel confident and – if you’re just starting out – you need all the help you can get.  My advice is don’t go overboard: just get your shoes sorted, and the rest will follow.

Happy running!

P.S. - I've just ordered a Brooks Showerproof Nightlife Hi-Viz Jacket. Will I never learn?


  1. um gross blister, i pity your girlfriend. and you mocked me for my workout gear. oh how the tides have turned.

    btws did you see the article in the nytimes this weekend about running. and there was another today. you can check them out online,, plus theres a whole blog for the lead up to the nyc marathon. just thought i'd share

  2. Thanks E! Luckily she wasn't around for this particular shoe-related blister drama, as I had to lance it myself with a safety pin from my race number. Grim.

    Your workout gear was epic. Particularly the shiny blue leggings. Fancy going for a run next time I'm in London?

    Oddly, I don't read the NY Times terribly often, but thanks for the link! Will explore the blog and get back to you.

  3. eww seriously gross. just eww.

    um shiny blue leggings were a joke for that particular occasion and i have since perfected the gear, and a run seriously, who do you think you are talking to. don't you know thats like a dirty word in my vocab. but i might just be persuaded. november is my butt in gear month so i am contemplating starting to run, eek. maybe. thats all im giving you now.