Right now I am on a plane heading to Chicago. In two days I will be running the Chicago Marathon. All 26.2 miles of it! Crazy distance? I don’t know. This is not my first marathon and hopefully will not be my last.
Whatever your favorite distance is, I’d like to share some essential items with you that could help make your runs outdoors much more enjoyable.
A hip pack and a water bottle. No matter what distance I am running, I generally carry water with me. It’s important to stay hydrated during a run so having a bottle with me reminds me to drink. If the weather is hot and I am going long, I have a hip pack that holds two bottles. Believe it or not, if you fasten the strap fairly tight around your hips, the bottles bouncing up and down will be a non-issue. Find one that is comfortable for you. I use the REI brand.
Energy gel. Energy gel comes in little foil packets and is made up of carbohydrates, amino acids, and electrolytes. When you are on the run, simply pull one out of your pocket or hip pack, rip off the top and squeeze the great tasting gel into your mouth. Always follow with a swig of water. Mmmm… instant energy. My favorite is Hammer Gel. Be careful because a couple of the flavors contain caffeine. I prefer not to use caffeine during a run (or anytime actually). I consume 1-2 gel packs per hour of running.
Sportslick. Runners chafe and this is a great lubricant to apply to areas that are prone to chafing. It comes in an easy to use tube and is made for athletes. I always apply it to my axillary and inner thigh areas. On very long runs I may also apply some to my heels or potential hotspot areas on my feet. This stuff is a lifesaver!
Plastic first-aid tape. I use this to cover my nipples to prevent chafing. I just use two small pieces. Works like a charm. Women, I cannot personally vouch for how this tape will work for you but I do know there are alternatives for the female anatomy.
Electrolytes. On longer hotter runs, it is not enough to just take energy gel and drink water. You are losing sodium, potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes that MUST be replaced. You can do this with energy drinks or capsules. For many years I was a big energy drink fan. Gatorade is pure junk as far as I am concerned. Too much sugar! Most of them contain sweeteners of some sort and I do not like that. These days, I use Hammer Endurolytes. They are clean and simple. I take two or three every hour and wash them down with water. Done!
GPS watch. Running has really entered the tech age. I use a Garmin watch, which tracks practically any statistic I would need. Besides elapsed time and distance, it tells me my exact pace, split times and so much more. Then when I get home I can upload my run to the web and I can see my exact route, elevation change, times, distance and more. Out of everything I recommend for training and racing, the GPS watch is one of the coolest things ever. It will cost you at least a couple hundred bucks but it is a great investment in the sport! I have been using a Garmin Forerunner 405 for the past few years now and am currently testing a Garmin Forerunner 610.
A bandana. Carried in my hip pack for a runny nose or on my head as a headband, I have a ton of these. The brighter the better! I love tie-dyed bandanas… they definitely attract a lot of attention at a race!
Sunglasses. No matter what the weather is, I practically always wear glasses during a run. They can protect your eyes from sun, wind and rain. My regular prescription glasses are very lightweight and automatically get darker as the sun gets brighter. If it’s a real sunny day, I generally just put on my lightweight polarized sports sunglasses. I use Maui Jim.
Please feel free to experiment with everything discussed above. I have zeroed in on these items during my thirty plus years of running. They all are essential for me. But your needs may vary. Have fun trying different things out. See you on the road!