I know Oprah has her favorite things show or whatever it is called and I suppose this post is going to be kind of like that but it has to do with running and I don't have any freebies to give away.
But people do ask me frequently what I like and what I wear and all that good stuff--as if I have any idea what I am talking about. But since I have many friends who have recently taken up running or have finally decided to step it up and run their first half marathon I thought I would put it all down here. Keep in mind this is what works for me so it isn't the end all be all.
Okay, let's get started.
Where to shop?
First off my favorite running store is The Big Peach. I really don't go anywhere else and they are my go to people for all things running. They now have 4 metro Atlanta locations: Brookhaven, Decatur, Kennesaw and Marietta. They are knowledgeable and passionate and an absolute great resource. Most of the stores have group runs out of the store. They also have a trail running series so you can find out about all the local trails. They do seminars on a regular occurance that are free and cover all the various aspects of running.
Even though I go to Big Peach for just about everything I do occasionally order online.
I have ordered compression socks from Revel and found them to be affordable and fast. I also found their over the calf compression socks to be the most affordable. Suddenly these socks are everywhere and they run over $40+ a pair. Revel still offers Oxysox for under $25.
I have, in the past, ordered running shoes from Kelly's. Never had a problem.
I also love Swimoutlet.com. Not just for swim apparel but they sometimes have the best prices for running and triathlon apparel. Definitely worth a look.
Speaking of triathlon Team Estrogen has the cutest stuff but it is sometimes too pricey for me. Look there first and then Google what you like for a better price is my advice before buying. I found a Zoot tri top for half the price it was at TE on Ebay.
Bottoms: I like running skirts. My current favorite is the Brooks Running Skort. I wore this for GA ING marathon and Country Music Marathon and for most of the long runs I do. I like this skirt because it has 2 pockets-- one with a zipper even. And it has a draw string so it doesn't slip down as a lot of my other skirts do. It doesn't cause me chafing but I don't typically have that problem anyway.
I also like Skirt Sports skirts. I have 4 and have worn them in marathons, half marathons and 10k's. They even have "skirt chaser" shirts for the boys, if you men are so inclined.
I don't really like the full length tights. I do have one pair from Nike but I always roll them up. I do like the capri length tights. I have a few pairs of Champion capri length from Target. I like these because they have a draw string. I gotta have that drawstring; without it the pants slide down my hips and I spend the run hitching up my pants.
The only shorts I wear are Nike 2.5" low-rise compression shorts. I like these for the gym or really hot days outside. I also like to wear them when I do long brick training. I'll wear them under my bike shorts and then pull the bike shorts off for the run. I hate running in padded bike shorts. These are my "get away" shorts.
I will do whatever but I do love Nike tanks, triathlon tanks (extra pockets!) and my favorite is of course one of my "Run Like a Girl" technical shirts by Reebok. I tried to find a link but I guess Reebok doesn't sell the shirt anymore. But it is just a light weight short sleeve technical shirt.
If it is colder I usually go the long sleeve technical top route.
Or, even better, I have a few 1/4 zip mock fleece tops from Target.(I know, again with the Target. I am little cheap about somethings.) Sometimes you can find them on sale. I bought 2 last year on clearance for $10 a pop.
This is my a favorite cold weather running shirt.
However I don't really need to break this out for running until it is below 40 around here unless I am cycling. I'll throw it on under one of my summer sleeveless bike jersey's.
For really cold I like a light weight vest rather than a jacket. Running distance in cold weather is all about the layers. A vest is great because if you go light weight long sleeve under the vest you can always pull the under shirt off and stuff in a pocket or tie around your waist if you get hot. I have two vests: a fleece one from the Gap that I've had for years and it works great. I also have a windbreaker one with down from Target. Keep in mind; it doesn't have to be running specific to work for running. I use a lot of my stuff I bought for skiing for when it gets really cold. I've even worn my unlined ski pants over running tights on a super cold day.
A light weight wind breaker is nice to have but really when the wind is a problem it is usually pretty cold so that Underarmour shirt I recommended and the windbreaker vest seem to work best for me.
A rain jacket I don't have. I did have one once but they get really hot. I've found it is just best to suck it up and get wet when it comes to rain. Typically it is a bit warmer and humid when it rains. A rain jacket can feel suffocating. So in the case of rain technical light weight fabrics are a must--no cotton--and some sort of hat with a brim to keep the rain off your face. I prefer a visor but ball caps work too.
Socks: As mentioned I have a pair of over the calf compression socks by Oxysox. I use these mostly when my legs are already fatigued from--as is often the case with me--over training. Some days are just Oxysox days. But for the most part I wear Asics Hera low-cut socks. I love these. They have arch compression and they don't slip down like other low-cut socks do. They are also thin. I prefer a thin sock. They are, however, not warm.
Shoes: I like Brooks. What works for me may not work for you. I am a slight over-pronator with low, flexible arches. I have wide feet and I like extra cushioning. Brooks works well for me.
I just recently bought Trance 8 but in the past I really liked the Infiniti and was once a huge fan of the Adrenalines. I do try out other brands before I buy but I keep going to the Brooks-- it is just what currently is working for me.
I also have their Cascadia trail shoe.They are a bit stiff but I like them--I do wear my regular running shoes on trails for the most part.
I have tried other brands in the past: New Balance use to work well but I found they wore out very quickly which is why I switched to Brooks. I like Asics and Mizuno too. Nike has never worked for me. Which is a little sad because they do make a stylish shoe. My feet hate them though.
I don't have any racing flats so I can't speak at all about the pros or cons of those or even the need for them. I am just not there.
Sports bras: I am small chested so what works for my little girls probably won't work for the gals with bigger girls. But I like those Championseamless racer back bras from Target. I think they around $15. Typically though for the marathon I will go with my Moving Comfort bra. It offers better compression support that can be nice when you are running for a long time. After a few hours every little jiggle can become painful. This bra keeps even my skin from moving. Also, for me at least, no chafing.
If any of my friends who are more blessed in the chest could pipe up with their favorite sports bra I am sure it would be appreciated.
Mittens: I find that even though I can get away with short sleeves and a running skirt to about 40 degrees I can't keep my hands warm once it gets in the below the low 50's. Cold hands and worse, numb fingers is a huge distraction. But if you're like me--a kitten that is always losing her mittens--you don't want to spend a lot of money on nice gloves. So again, Target is your friend. They have a 2 pack of mittens for a $1.50. Just buy black so that if you lose one you don't have to worry about wearing one pink and one black mitten. And if your nose tends to run in the cold weather like mine does the mittens also make a great kleenex. And since they were so cheap you don't mind tossing when they get too snotty.
Hats: I like a dryfit ball cap or a visor for most runs. But for the cold I like those head warmers. They keep your ears warm but you can also push it down around your neck if it gets too hot.
Other tips and tidbits:
For 3 hr runs (around 21 miles)I have been using one Roctane Gu at 6/7 miles in and one Vanilla Gu at 11/12 miles and 16-36oz Gatorade (depending on how hot it is) in addition to water throughout the run. I have to do the Roctane first. My tummy gets disagreeable the longer I run and things stop working as efficiently. So I use the denser stuff earlier in the run and go lighter as the run progresses.
For runs that go over 3 hrs I will usually bring a package of shot blocks or Luna Moons to munch on too-- eating one or 2 every mile or so.
For runs under 3 hours I usually do one Gu and 20oz Gatorade and water to wash the Gu down.
For runs under 2 hours I don't bring anything but may stop for water at a fountain if I get thirsty.
I buy the individually wrapped powdered Gatorade at the grocery store.
I bring my hand-held bottle. The hand-held is preferable to me over a fuel belt. I find it is easier to just stop and refill the bottle (mix Gatorade) than it is to run with the fuel belt. I also feel ridiculous wearing a fuel belt. But that is just me.
I also plan my routes with Quik Trip's and Walgreen's and CVS's on the route so I can make use of the clean potties and most often, free water. QT will let you have free ice if you bring your own bottle--so will Starbucks. I do bring a few bucks with me just in case. Target does have Powerbar gels and Sharkies in a pinch.
I am not going to say much else on the nutrition aspect of running since that is a very individual thing and a bit of trial and error. Keep in mind basic rule of thumb is every 45 minutes take in about 100 calories maybe drink some water. Everyone is different. Find what works for you.
One last thing; my "secret" pre-race/long run weapon is pretzels dipped in peanut butter: carbs, salt and protein. Wash down with some water and you got yourself a little bit of an IV drip going. Lance's peanutbutter wheat crackers worked great on the bike for me and didn't cause me tummy woes on the brick runs after.
When it rains:I already mentioned the necessity of light weight clothing (arm warmers would probably be better than long sleeves in this case) and a hat with a brim.
But what to do before the race?
This can be problematic since you almost always have to get to the race start 30 minutes to an hour before the start (sometimes as much as 4 hours!) and often there is no shelter to stay dry. For me nothing is worse than standing in the rain and having to start a race sopping wet. I see most people wearing garbage bags to keep dry but I just feel ridiculous and well, you still get wet.
So if I know it is going to be raining at the start of a race I will go to the dollar store the day before and buy an umbrella. This way I don't have to stand around in the rain getting cold and wet waiting for the start. Right before the gun goes I either hand my umbrella off to a volunteer, spectator or toss it in the trash. To me that was a dollar well spent.
My opinion on Gadgetery: I know men heart the gadgets and for them that is part of the fun of any sport. I really think that is why men are more into cycling and triathlon than women: all that glorious equipment and potential gadgetery. But I am girl who likes things simple--I especially like not having to read an owner's manual on how to work something.
These days everyone thinks they need a fancy GPS/HR monitor to run even a few miles. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that but it is absolutely not a necessity. It is an extra expense and if you can afford it then I see no reason not to have one--especially if it will make you happy. But to be certain, you don't have to have it.
Agreed. It is nice to know your splits and maybe what your heart rate is doing when you run up a hill but for me I can tell that mine is up--I don't need a monitor to tell me that. And well, I don't really care what my splits are for the most part. And in a race ultimately it is your over all average pace that gets you to the finish line. And you know, doing the math yourself and figuring out splits yourself can make the time go by faster. Not to mention, you can make pace bands to wear that will help you with this if you are not numerically gifted.
However, it is nice to know how far and how fast you ran any given run. A basic watch with a stop watch function is really all you need. I know, I know that is so old school. And mapmyrun.com will help you figure out exactly how far you ran. Even when I use my Garmin I find it so unreliable (because it loses the signal from clouds, trees, making turns etc) that I often "mapmyrun" anyway. There is usually at least a .2 mile to over a mile discrepancy. Depending how fast and how far you ran that can mean almost a minute difference per mile for the average pace.
Honestly, the only gadget that I really want is my Ipod. But if you run without music I would not suggest starting now. It is a crutch. And I need it. I love it and I don't want to run at all without it. But sadly, most races make you leave your Ipod at home. So do not start using one if you don't already; otherwise you'll be sad like I am when I have to race without it.
Some things I want to expand on:
The start: Keep in mind those at the front of the start line typically plan on bolting out at a sub 6 pace. If you cannot maintain that pace you have no business being at the front of the line. And if you plan on walking at the start of race start all the way at the back.
Passing: Often there is a lot of dodging and weaving in a race--especially if it is a popular one. If I need to cut in front of someone I like to give them a head's up. Since most often (myself included) people are wearing headphones I give a visual--instead of calling out-- of the direction I am going to go by pointing with my hand before I make my move. I also do this if I need to spit and move as far over the side as I can. Nothing is grosser than being spit on in a race and having to run with someone else's snot on you. I know you are excited about your race and bettering your time but still remember that there are other people out there trying to do the same.
Also, do not just stop in middle of the course. If you need to slow your pace and walk please move over to the left side and look behind you before you do.
Similarly at the end of a race-- and this is especially true in the half marathons that share the course with full marathoners-- do not walk 3 or 4 abreast. Keep in mind that if you are running over 2 and half hours for a half marathon you are more than likely going to be in the way of those finishing the marathon who run an 8 and under minute mile (for the races that share a finish line but may follow different routes that converge). At the end of a marathon it is very hard to weave around walls of people who are running/walking two times slower than your pace. Besides, it is always proper etiquette to yield to the faster runners in a race. It is a race after all.
Volunteers: Thank them. They are not paid and they are there to make sure you have a great race. So be nice to them and try to at least aim your trash at a trashcan. Don't make their job any harder than it needs to be.
Runner's World: articles, discussion boards, up to date running news.
McMillan Calculator: Not an exact science but a good tool to help you figure out pace goals and paces for various distances in training.
MarathonGuide: Calendar of US marathons.
Half marathon guide
Find US Races
Common Running Injuries
Okay, that is all I can think of for now. Feel free to add your own tips and tidbits in the comments.
PS. I forgot to include for the boys Utilikilts. Be sure to check out their comprehensive sight and most excellent photo gallery. There are plenty of models to choose from and some have some of those extra pockets that I love for Gu's , cell phones and dollars.
PPS. Paul, I think a kilt would look great with some compression socks. ;)
Joe, no need to be confused any longer.