If you aren’t an avid runner already, you may be reading this blog to find out how to get into long distance or trail running. It’s simple really – if you want to become a trail runner, find some trails and run them. Boom. Trail runner. If you would like to become a long distance runner, just run over a longer distance, it’s as simple as that. There’s no test to sit or licence to gain, all you need is running shoes and some motivation, and that is the beauty of the sport. Although if you want to take your running to the next level, or just make things easier for yourself, there is a bunch of specialist gear you can utilise to enhance your performance and make training more enjoyable. And that is what this week’s instalment is all about – running gear – what I use and recommend, and how they can benefit your running if you are new to the sport.
As your feet are the ones taking most of the pounding, your shoes will be the first thing you are concerned about as a runner. When buying new shoes, it is worthwhile getting a biomechanical assessment done (most sporting and running shoes stores do this) as everybody moves differently when they run and needs a specific make of shoe to complement their form. Take myself for example – I have one foot than supinates while the other pronates, one leg that is 3 centimetres longer than the other, and when running my toes cause me to push upwards rather than propel me forwards. Theoretically speaking I should be a terrible runner, yet somehow it works, and I owe that largely to the shoes and orthotic insoles I have been fitted with.
If you’re doing the Hillary or any other off-road event, you’ll be wanting a shoe that’s light weight yet water-resistant, super grippy to provide traction over a variety of terrains, and durable enough to not wear down with your high mileage training. And if this is what you’re after then you can’t go past a pair of Icebug trail running shoes. Now I don’t mean to come across as a salesperson but, holy cannoli, what a magnificently engineered pair of footwear. Since receiving my pair of Icebug Anima3’s last week (thanks Tim!) I have been wholeheartedly converted – who knew a shoe with so much grip and support could make you feel almost weightless? It’s grippy rubber tread means I no longer have to pull on the breaks on hill descents, and instead of losing traction on gravelly trails, the Anima3 tread allows me to push forward by spraying rocks behind me rather than sinking into the gravelly terrain (so if by chance you are running near me, I’d watch out for flying pebbles). I can’t speak highly enough of the Icebug brand, and the same goes for anyone I know who has given them a go as well. You can check them out for yourself here http://www.icebug.nz/#!shoes/c12wo
Are just as important as your choice of footwear as a decent pair will act as your blister preventors, and help determine the dryness and comfort of your feet. Through trial and error you’ll quickly learn which type work best for you. Same goes for underwear. It only takes one run of your underwear wedging itself into uncomfortable places to work out when a pair of undergarments doesn’t work for you.
COMPRESSION LEGGINGS & CALF SOCKS/SLEEVES:
They’re everywhere – all kinds of people from professional athletes to weekend warriors to social gym bunnies are wearing them to promote their performance and feel (or even just look) better. Compression garments are about exploiting highly engineered elastic fabric to increase blood and lymphatic blood to specific areas of the body. Although I once believed compression tights were only beneficial after training for muscle recovery, I have recently realised the benefits of compression wear during exercise. After Tim Farland hooked me up with some CEP calf compression sleeves last week I decided to put them to the test by running some hill reps followed by a resistance training session – something that would normally annihilate my calf muscles. But when I took off the sleeves after training my legs still felt reasonably fresh, and remained so for the rest of the day! So there you have it, I’m convinced, and I suggest you give them a crack too to see how they work for you.
Is as important for functionality as it is for looks – and I’m not just saying that as a 20-something year-old female. Sure you want clothing that is lightweight, breathable and comfortable to run in (see above point about underwear), but knowing you look damn good serves its own purpose. When you’re wearing your flash, state-of-the-art running gear, you get a bit of a confidence boost right? You feel more confident so you run faster. Maybe it’s to fit your new runner persona or feel-good endorphins at work, but anything that will help you run like Wilson Kipsang has got to be a positive. It’s also important to consider the colour of your clothing, and I don’t mean to bring out the colour of your eyes. White and other light colours reflect the heat emitted from your body and the sun, while black clothes absorb the heat. So remember when running in the warmer weather, white is the new black.
No longer are watches merely a device for measuring time. With Garmin, TomTom and other smart watches you can refine your training sessions, and monitor your effort and fitness progress. These watches can give you your pace and distance in real-time, your elevation, energy expenditure, personal records, and so much more. There’s not too much these top-end watches can’t do these days! Apart from the fact my Garmin Forerunner watch doesn’t have an alarm. I guess with all its features, its designers forgot the primary purpose of a watch – an aid in time management.
BACKPACK + BLADDER:
This is one of your greatest companions in long-distance running. Any time I run for longer than 1:45 hours I carry a pack with me to ensure I am hydrated as it can massively improve your endurance capacity, especially in warmer temperatures. Perfecting your hydration on the run is vital in The Hillary because, depending on which distance you are pursuing, you’ll be on the move for many hours and/or in the heat of the day where you can fade quickly if you don’t drink fluids between aid stations. It’s important to drink early and often, even at the slightest sign of thirst, as long as you don’t overdo it. This mistake has caused me to learn the location of every public toilet (or concealing bush on some occasions) on the North Shore in Auckland.
The longer the duration of your training session, the more valuable music becomes if you are running solo. Music gives you something to focus on to take your mind off any pain, or inspire you to feel like some kind of present-day Rocky and push you through those trying times. I swear if The Champ by Nelly ever comes on I seem to think I’m some kind of super athlete capable of anything.
HAT OR VISOR:
This goes with protecting yourself from the effects of the heat. It’s amazing how much faster you dehydrate when you are exposed to the sun. Plus who wants to look like a cherry red lollipop with a sunburnt face? Not me, thank you.
OTHER EQUIPMENT/FEATURES OF A RUNNER (although not essential):
Lack of toenails
Copious containers of Vaseline
A diet featuring goos, One Square Meal bars and Clif Bars
Plasters to nurse any scrapes acquired after a fall (because you’re not paying attention or are distracted by some scenic view. It happens more often than you think)
So that’s my take on the essentials of long-distance running based on my novice experience and what I have learned. If you’d like to share your views on any other essentials or have any questions, feel free to drop us a comment!