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What Gear You Really Need to Start Running

“What do I really need to do this? Do I have to have a fancy watch? Special socks? Special clothes? Sounds expensive.” – Christa G.B.

Advice from Coach Tracy Thelen:

Yay! You signed up for your first race. Or you are looking to jump up in distance for a new challenge. Now comes the hard part. What do you really need to have a successful race and a great time running? It seems like every way you turn, there’s a new gadget that people claim will make a world of difference in your running. There’s a lot of hype out there and navigating through the hype can be tricky. So, from head to toe – here’s my list of what you really need to have. I’ll also note a few nice to have, but those can be splurges for another time.

  • Headwear – I consider a comfortable hat or visor a necessity. Keep the sun out of your eyes and block reflections, as well as absorbing sweat above your eyes. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just make sure the underside of the brim is a dark color and the hat fits you comfortably. Nothing is worse than a hat that is too tight! In the winter you’ll want a beanie or headband.
  • Sunglasses – along with a hat, sunglasses are a necessity. They don’t need to be the top of the line Uber expensive sport sunglasses. Just a pair that fits your face, doesn’t slide on your nose and doesn’t bounce. Don’t be afraid to try a few pairs on and jump around to see what happens. Also, be aware of the different lens colors. Some people do better with blue-tinted glasses while others like pure grays. Again, try a few on and see what you like best.
  • Running shirt – anything goes here as long as it is not cotton! This is where spending some extra money for a technical shirt with good wicking properties is important. You want a shirt that fits well – too tight will be uncomfortable and too loose might cause chafing. Whether you go with a tank top, short-sleeved T-shirt or long-sleeved T-shirt is a matter of personal preference. I like a super lightweight long sleeved wool or wool blend shirt for longer races for the sun protection but will wear a tank top on shorter days.
  • Sports Bra -For the ladies – Again, spend the extra money here for wicking fabric, support and fit. Nothing is worse then a poorly fitting bra that doesn’t support you!
  • Watch – do you need that fancy GPS watch with all the bells and whistles? Nope. Runners everywhere were using Timex watches before GPS and plenty still do. You don’t need to spend $300 on a watch – the wrist watch from Walmart works just fine. Just make sure that it has some lap memory recall so you can review your run if you want. If you do want the fancy GPS watch,
    think about what functions you really need and shop accordingly.
  • Running bottom – comfort is queen here. You want a bottom that fits well, doesn’t bind in areas and will cover everything you need covered. Chafing of any kind is to be avoided at all costs. There are as many kinds of bottoms as there are body types, so what works for your best friend might not work for you. I’ve had great luck with the longer built-in shorties from Skirt Sports – like the Hover skirt or the Cool It skirt. If you get cold easily, then look into Capris or Knickers. The extra coverage on the legs makes a big difference to keep you a little warmer.
  • Socks – another area where spending a little more will make all the difference. You do want the technical socks that wick moisture away from your feet. Avoid cotton at all costs – once cotton gets wet, you are looking at blisters. Ideally, the socks should be wool or wool blend. Socks should fit snug, without binding or rubbing at the seams. A running specific brand is a worthy investment.
  • Shoes – definitely go to your local running store and have a gait assessment done. And then try a few pairs on – in multiple sizes. If shoes are too big, then your foot will move around and increase the potential for blisters. If too small, then the dreaded black toenails can happen. Take advantage of the treadmill any reputable running store will have and take each pair for a spin. If they don’t feel right in those first few steps, chances are they will never feel right when you are running. Of note – keep track of the mileage of your shoes and get the replacement pair before the current pair is worn out. Then you have some time to adjust to the new shoes.

Coach Tracy Thelen:

Tracy ran (hiked) her first marathon in 1993 – the Equinox Marathon in Alaska. After finishing High School cross country, she turned her attention to finishing a marathon in all 50 states, plus DC. She completed that challenge in 2010 with Green Mountain Marathon in Vermont. Over the course of that journey, she won multiple marathons and set several course records – some of which still stand today.
After finishing the marathons, it was time for a change of focus to ultra-endurance mountain biking and 24-hour racing. Between 2008 and 2017, Tracy and her husband won or podiumed at multiple 24-hour races in the Co-Ed Duo class. Tracy also did several solo events, including the 2014 24 Hour National Championships, where she won the coveted Stars and Stripes jersey as the women’s 24 solo champion.
But running has always been her first passion and in 2016, she entered the world of trail and ultra. She ran her first 50-mile race that year and is currently training for her second 100-mile race.
All of that pales in comparison to the joy of seeing her athletes reach their goals – on foot or on wheels.