Running at its simplest doesn’t require much. That’s the beauty of it.
But if you want to get more out of it, I find there are some must-haves which make it an easier, more comfortable journey. You don’t need them but you’ll enjoy running more with them. The brands I use are a result of around eight years of personal experience and of course, being swayed by pro endorsements but so much is a result of trial and error – what is right for me isn’t necessarily right for everyone but I love them.
The one thing that you’d probably expect on this list is shoes but I still haven’t found “the one”. My current line up features Hoka One One, Nike, Inov-8, Adidas, New Balance and Altra. All of them have positives and negatives especially trail shoes which work on some surfaces and not others. I wore Hoka for the South Downs Way last year and loved them but they rub in some places so the search continues…
1 – Salomon race vest
If I could keep only one thing on this list, it would be my race vest. They’re not cheap pieces of kit but I carry mine on everything from 5k lunch runs, parkruns and up to 100 milers.
I originally bought an Ultimate Direction vest to run the London to Brighton 100k but found that it bounced too much and I didn’t like the rigid bottles. So I swapped to the Salomon Ultra and have never looked back. When fully stacked, my 12 litre version carries all the minimum kit for most races and then some. But I also just take it for a jog when I need to keep phone, keys, wallet and any little things with me.
There are more front pockets on the newer ones which I find a bonus so you don’t need to be scrabbling around in the back. And it just fits so well. I don’t ever feel like I’m carrying a backpack, it’s just a second layer. At the more technical end, there are also fittings for poles and other stuff but I’m a simple man with simple demands so just need food, drink, mandatory kit and a GoPro 🙂
It also carries three full bottles of Magners. Just saying.
2 – Injinji socks
Until I started running, I really didn’t appreciate how technical you could get about socks.
Like most, I started with normal sports/football socks but quickly realised that they tender to bunch up or move around causing blisters. So I progressed onto double-layer running specific socks but then found I would get blisters on my toes where they rubbed against each other.
Socks with individual toes aren’t a new thing. I remember having them in rainbow colours as a kid (or was that just my childhood…).
But since I got them for running, the amount of blisters almost disappeared overnight. I do sometimes get rubbing on the very long runs but it is minimal. I just feel safe with them. I honestly would never do anything above 10k without them, and even then I would always want to choose them if I had the choice.
Gloves for your feet, what’s not to like!
3 – Squirrel’s Nut Butter
Lube, glorious lube!! Nothing ruins a run more than getting into the shower afterwards and wincing as the water hits…sensitive areas. You can spot an unlubricated runner during a race as they awkwardly try to rearrange shorts or grab a handful of gloop from the St Johns Ambulance volunteers at mile 8.
Undercarriage mismanagement is not a laughing matter.
So I delved into the dark world of lubrication products. One tip, never Google it at work. Starting with with classic gateway lube Vaseline, I found it simple to use but too greasy and not breathable. I upgraded to specialist products – Bodyglide. It was better, more socially acceptable but didn’t feel…pure.
I’d heard about a new product only found in the USA which might soothe my itch but I wasn’t about to spend £20 to get it shipped over. So imagine my delight when a UK-based supplier began asking for athletes to be ambassadors. I was in there like a chair at mile 90.
Squirrel’s Nut Butter (or SNB as the cool kids are calling it) provides all my lubrication needs in a variety of styles and sizes (mini pots for on the go, big tub, stick, foot balm and even vegan) and it smells natural. It’s my favourite now and I use it for most runs, especially after Christmas when my legs were a little bit too close for comfort.
4 – Sunglasses
Let’s get one thing straight – I love sunglasses.
If I could wear them in work I would. Weirdly my “dark” eyesight isn’t that great so I probably shouldn’t wear them as much as I do but for some reason, sunglasses relax my face.
I bought a pair of Oakley sunglasses with interchangeable lenses as part of the Cyclescheme in the UK which are brilliant but cheap pairs work just as well plus you can sit on them and not worry about having to replace them. Sunglasses also mean that if you’re competitive, you can scope out the opposition without them knowing!
I wear mine so much that I’ve been caught in the rain wearing them or as the sun goes down, I’ll be running along with sunglasses getting weird looks. One pro tip, if you have a big forehead like mine, make sure you get slanted glasses or they’ll fog up and nobody likes that.
5 – Buff
Snood, neck gaiters or the most popular brand, Buffs are tubular bits of cloth. But they are so bloody useful and versatile that I nearly always have one tucked someone where on my person or in my race vest.
I usually start out using it either as a hat/headband on colder nights or as a wristband/sweatband on warmer days. Then you can add or remove it as necessary. I’ll also use them as a scarf, I’ve used them snowboarding and although I’ve yet to experience it first-hand, they are well known as emergency toilet paper substitutes…
For someone like me who gets ridiculously warm after just a mile, they’re brilliant for starting runs and then removing. Or using after you’ve finished to stay warm for a bit. I think officially they have 14 different ways of using them so get experimenting!
and a sneaky bonus
6 – Headphones
No particular brand here – I currently have Beats bluetooth headphones plus about four pairs of generic, Amazon purchases (although I’ve used my SoundMagic E10s on every ultra so far) but I’ll nearly always listen to something at some stage on a run.
Podcasts or sports commentary during the majority of runs but music if I’m struggling or if I’m in a speedy mood. Nothing slows you down quite like listening to a podcast on philosophy when you need to be hitting seven minute miles – techno or metal works a lot better for that. Music doesn’t work for me on long slow runs though as it ruins my rhythm which is podcasts are handy. Plus learning innit.
Weirdly though, I always turn off my music for downhills. I don’t know what it is but it feels like I have less sensory awareness with headphones in and less…feel for the path.