Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Iain's Running Chat Part 1 - Essential Kit

After a rather extended wait, and with apologies to those who asked for this type of content before Christmas... here is the first of two pieces in which I wax lyrical about my personal experience of running. Today, like Lloyd Grossman, I will take you through the keyhole as I cover the material goods of my running world in descending order of importance.

Plan
I appreciate this may be stretching the term, but for me this is the single most important piece of kit as without it literally nothing would happen. 
With running, as with most things of endeavour, it is very easy to harbour appealing, idealised, romantic imagery: getting up, looking out of a window at the just-breaking-dawn, deciding to pull on the running shoes and set off along an empty beach in your pants like they do in Chariots of Fire. However, this is London, I have 45+ hours of work to do in a week, this blog to maintain and at the moment a quiz night to put together. There is no beach. There is no time. And if there was time, my preference would be to spend it reading a book, watching something entertaining, seeing friends, eating or sleeping. And yet, because to be human is to strive, there is a plan and that plan is sacrosanct because if it starts to become negotiable then it will all fall apart.
I will cover my plan in detail in the next installment but for the moment let it just be said that there has been one plan covering September 2012 to April 21st 2013 and it tells me, in detail, when to run and what to do when I am doing it.

GPS Watch + HR Monitor

Because all of my training is done at set paces, a good GPS device is essential for outdoor running. Since 2011, I have used my Garmin Forerunner 305 with HR chest strap and this is my number 2 essential bit of kit. Although I am only using a fraction of the features on it, the watch simply removes the need to think during a run - it tells me when to go faster, when to go slower and when to stop and I don't really know what more I'd want to ask of it.
Tracking you with high precision, the watch provides an essential counterpoint to all subjective assessments of speed and effort and if you like your data, it provides plenty of it. Historically, the Garmin own-brand data analysis software has been quite bizarre in its terribleness, but they have finally leapt in to the internet age with their Garmin Connect service which, bar a few teething issues, I have found an excellent tool.  Specifically, I really appreciate the ease with which you can put together complex workouts  and send them through to the watch which, in my experience, has been point and click and pretty seamless. 
In the interests of full disclosure, Alison has the new Garmin 405 and there have been a few issues and bugs getting it to talk to the website and not all of them have been ironed out.

Shoes
Unless you are Zola Budd, these are pretty essential. It is also essential that they fit, that they provide the right support and that they are not worn out
I have three pairs which I wear in rotation, and I keep a track of how many miles each pair has done; when they get to 300, they get replaced with a new pair. The current mix is: 
I started off with the Ghosts but I have come to prefer the Sauconys as they are a lighter shoe whilst still being supportive. That said, I do value having a mix of brands on the go as it does not allow my legs and feet to get too used to a particular shoe, and importantly they do not get rubbed, strained or otherwise stressed by the same trainier-based issue every run.

Socks

For most runs, I head out in a pair of dual-skin running socks such as those provided by Hilly and although I have had a, not entirely positive experience with Hilly's customer service, the socks are very comfortable and have proven themselves hardy beasts. 
For long runs I will occasionally wear a pair of knee-length compression socks - current ones are from 1000 mile - and although I am still deliberating whether they make a marked difference, I am moving towards the opinion that they do, and I will running the marathon with them.


Layers
Base layer, insulating layer and protection layer. 
Could not agree more - easy, versatile, practical.
Although I have various items of clothing for layers 1 and 2, my essential bit of kit is my protection layer which is currently a Craft active run jacket for when it is cold and a Saucony Vizipro gilet for when it is warm. They are both indestructible, windproof but with great ventilation and have seen me through 24 months of year-round running. You can get away with using t-shirts for base layers, but a good outer-layer will make the difference between an ok run and a miserable one. 

Headphones
It is surprising difficult to find earphones which stay in your ears while running, and I prefer to run with some aural stimulus. For the past year and a half, I have been using a pair of Phillips SHS8100/10 Earhook headphones which despite being relatively inexpensive, have proved themselves to be ideal running kit - they stay where they should, they are not uncomfortable and I can just hang them outside my ears and still hear the music when I want to listen to the world around me - dodgy parks and the like.


Hydration
On any run over 70 minutes, I will have some water with me. My base consumption level is 1ltr/hr and so if I am going out for up to 2 hours, I will just take a belt and a 1 or 1.5ltr water bottle. If I am out for more than that though, I will take a Camelbak
Because the tube is right there, it is much easier to sip continuously throughout the run and the 2 ltr bladder means I can run for up to 3 hours without worrying about water. Very handy ideed! Alison has just got the Marathoner pack, but I am just as happy with a Day Star.

Foam Roller
This is what you need to roll out your ITB, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves and if you are doing a lot of running, you need to be doing all those things.
I have a love-hate relationship with my 66 fit roller - it can hurt like hell, but I am sure that using it regularly in combination with stretches has greatly reduced my risk of injury and that is priceless. 
Get one and use it!



Vaseline
Last, but by no means least, Vaseline. No matter whether you choose lycra or non-lycra - I run in both - you do enough miles and you will eventually rub somewhere very uncomfortable, a fact I usually discover post-run in the shower as salt from dried sweat gets washed on to the fresh chafe-age. It is a wonderful, life-affirming sensation.
All of this can be avoided with the liberal application of soft paraffin thanks to the wonders of 19th Century science and I strongly recommend you do.

So there you have it, a whirlwind tour through Iain's running kit essentials. Questions or comments on a post card to the usual address and in part 2, I will cover the running plan itself. 
Until then; happy trails.

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