The gear that doesn’t grind my gears

Like anyone hooked into a hobby, pastime or serious sports life addiction there’s always a lot of ‘stuff’ you can buy. Clever marketing suggests that new products will make the best impact, solve the ‘problem’ we’ve been having or generally make us superhuman. But that, in reality, is just the marketeers job. Unfortunately, I fall into the category of being a marketeer’s dream customer because I get drawn into the new ‘shiny things’ and before I know it I’ve hit the order button in a moment of weakness. I cannot lie, that moment is typically when I have a post-run beer in my hand. In my defence when I look at the running gear I own I reckon I’ve gotten away lightly. In some way, I may have spent more on travelling to an event and the event itself than on gear, which of course is my way of justifying a recent spend up.

So what does the wardrobe of this runner look like? It’s a simple affair of kit that fits the category of “It just works”.

Running Shoes

There’s no doubt that this will make or break your enjoyment. I apply the same thought process of buying car tyres as I do to my shoes. You only get what you pay for, it needs to be a brand name and something you’d put your trust in. I’ve tried footwear from a few major names and found that Asics fit me well and seem to do the job. So much so that I own road, hybrid and trail variants and as you’d expect, there’s more than one pair of each because, well, I saw a newer model in the store… Here’s my defending statement though, I’ve only ever bought from the Asics Factory outlet stores as I’m not too bothered to be owning the latest editions. I find a model that works and I’ll keep buying it until it’s eventually replaced and when there’s an offer for buying more than one pair I do so, leaving the other pairs in my wardrobe ready to replace their worn out predecessor.

So here’s a glance at what’s currently in use.

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Clockwise: Asics Gel Sonoma 4 GTX (Goretex trail), Gel Sonoma 3 (trail), Gel Pulse 8 (road), Alpine XT (hybrid), Gel Sonoma 3 (trail)

T-shirts & tops

Big brand names? Nope. I’ve found that for the past years the technical t-shirts from Old Navy have been brilliant. Vibrant designs that work for casual wear too. I wear one for my daily use and before placing it in the laundry basket I give it one last wear when I’m running. At that point, it definitely needs to be cleaned or burned.

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When the winter months roll in the t-shirts have an opportunity to rest. Long sleeve tops from, again, Decathlon tick the box. Simple plain colours, no design and sensible pricing.

Socks

Decathlon has proven to outlast my Salomon and Karrimor purchases, considerably. The other brands themselves had been fine they just didn’t see it to their 1 year anniversary. To date, my Decathlon Kalenji purchases have exceeded a year, which is a win. I prefer the ‘fine strap’ edition it offers a tighter fit and so far I’ve yet to suffer from blisters. Many years ago I tried a simple sports sock but soon discovered that once they were on my feet, the material stretched and in a 10k trail event I soon realised I needed to invest more money to keep my feet healthy.

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They’re also Left/Right designed.

Underwear

For years I’d just used my normal cotton attire, and on long events suffered more on some occasions than others. One winters day I’d rocked up to a night a run with a friend and the conversation of anti-chafe products came up. Needless to say, he was somewhat surprised I hadn’t invested in underwear more appropriate to exercise. After much internet fu and reading of countless reviews, I opted for a product from a local company based in Poole, called Runderwear. Totally brilliant. The fit is supportive and with a clever design that ensures no seams.

No photos needed!

Anti-chafe

I’m not entirely sure why there’s so much price difference between so many offerings. Let’s be realistic here, the product either works or it doesn’t – and you’d know about it too. I can understand that some contain a higher percentage of natural ingredients but the variance could be equated to buying socks from Primark compared to Hugo Boss. A quick search on Amazon led me to purchase Body Glide and it’s worked very well for me.

Shorts

As a keen mountain biker, I spent my formative running days years in baggy shorts which seemed fine. Then one day, I happened upon an Asics Factory outlet store. Like a magnet, I honed in on the shoes and seemingly managed to exit with a pair of shorts too. What a revelation. I now own 3 pairs of Asics shorts and swear by them.

As for the baggy mountain bike shorts only one pair comes out for events – I’ve had numerous comments over the years from other runners and people in the crowd as they have a pattern that, well, catches the eye…

Leggings

My least favourite item to wear. There’s something about them that feels too restrictive in my opinion but they do have a place for (very) cold winter’s days and keeping the knees warm.

Hat / Buff

Headwear is something I’ve had to wear due to the amount of perspiration (and lack of hair) to direct it from my brow. The cheap ‘buff’ type bands have been my go-to item for years although recently I’ve discovered that having a peaked cap is quite useful for bright sunny days. Given I live in the UK there isn’t a huge amount of those so ‘buff’ type bands still feature highly :-).

The Buff unisex (one size) UV cap has been a revelation. Incredibly light and flexible enough to roll up and put in your pocket or hydration pack pouch. The method of adjustment drew me to purchase it, a simple drawstring and rubber grip to keep it in place – and it works very well too – I’ve not had to adjust the cap once while on the go.

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Identical hats, one folded – it was smaller but kept expanding. Notice the adjustment drawstring with rubber grip.

Glasses

I should most probably wear my prescription glasses while out running but I don’t. I don’t like that they move around, steam up and generally obscure my vision more than providing benefit. I have a low tolerance for faff and putting up with things that have ‘a little annoyance’ so I leave the specs at home.

Saying that, I recently stumbled upon a pair of Oakley Slivers, they were on a bridle path having most probably fallen out of someone’s bag. Both lenses were heavily scratched with mud on the frame too. After a gentle clean up of them I reckoned they could be rescued to I jumped onto Oakley’s website and followed the replacement lens service and hey presto – a nearly new pair of sunnies. By chance though these fit extremely well and stay firmly in place throughout a run and importantly don’t need pushing back up the bridge of my nose or de-misting.

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My up-cycled pair of sunnies.

Hydration running vest

THE BEST BIT OF KIT I OWN. That sums it up. Decathlon’s Gilet Trail 5L is worn every time I go out regardless of whether I need to carrying water and food. The snug fit and the fact it weighs so little means it’s ideal to pop your phone and keys in. My first foray into trying out a trail gilet didn’t go well. I bought a Salomon Agile 2 but on the first outing the zip broke so I immediately returned it, didn’t even consider an exchange.

Room for 2 x 500ml flexible water containers, a single loop cord with a whistle attached, velcro stash areas just below the water pouches and a stow area at the back to pop a lightweight jacket in.

Coat

I own 3 jackets of varying price and capability. The first being a Decathlon super lightweight windcheater – ideal for hanging around in the cold mornings at start lines.

It packs down into its own pocket too and has an elasticated band, I slip this up my arm and there it remains until the event is over.

The second, an Asics showerproof jacket. It’s ok but not breathable and on runs when I use it to keep warm opposed to fighting rain the sweat literally runs down the inside of my sleeves. Not a pleasant experience.

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The third is an OMM Kamlite Smock, incredibly light, packs down to next to nothing, has a self-supporting hood with adjustable aperture. This jacket simply removes the ‘blurgh’ element of running in the rain.

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Time-keeping & tracking

Watches are my Achilles heel and when it comes to running I need no excuse to try something new. I started off with a Suunto Ambit then progressed to the Ambit 3 HR so I could track my heart rate. The heart rate band worked well but didn’t fare well for the condition of my skin – even though I followed basic hygiene/cleaning of it.

I decided to change direction to a wrist-based heart rate version and as it happened Suunto were refreshing their range and so were Garmin. Much deliberation and reading of DC Rainmaker’s in-depth reviews I opted for Garmin’s Fenix 5. It’s been on my wrist now for 3 years and has certainly held up well. My only gripe is the charging cable needed to be replaced as the connection into the watch wasn’t always lining up but, eBay offers equivalent versions at a greatly reduced price. The rubber of the small strap retainers gave up in the past year so I purchased a cheap alternative blue strap, again, from eBay and transferred the retainers across. Added a bit of colour too.

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Reasonably worn look but still going strong.


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