I recently posted in a running community on Google+ “Running is about you and a pair of shoes. Okay, and a shirt and shorts unless you want the cops involved. But many in our sport are also geeks and end up pushing ourselves harder and further. We want to know more about the how, why and what's happening to our bodies when we run. We want to adjust and tweak.”
While someone just trying out the sport may watch others of us geek out, remember you don't need all the sporty gear and tech to get the job done. You don't have to look good, be color-coordinated and sport all the latest gear. I've said this before and really meant it: running is a form of playing. Just watch kids; they just run. They don’t geek out about gels, don’t wear fancy hydration belts or sport GPS watches and heart rate monitors. Even though it’s fun to geek out with all the latest goodies, we can do just what the kids do, and it’s okay. You, a pair of shoes, and clothing adequate for the climate: that’s all you need, especially if you’re just starting out.
Shoes. You don’t even have to get overly stressed about all the varieties of shoes out there. Find a friend who runs and head to a running store. Tell them you’re starting out, and you want an appropriate pair of shoes to give this running thing a go without breaking the bank. Or, unless you have issues with your feet, hit a major chain sports store or even the shoe section in a department store. Try on a variety of shoes and buy a pair that feels good on your feet and fits well. You probably won’t go wrong with a recognized brand that makes running shoes, but don’t feel like you have to succumb to the marketing machine either. Many of the big brands have a variety of shoes including several models a reasonable price. Just remember, how your new shoes fit is important. How they look is not.
Socks. As a new runner, if you’re going to buy anything else other than shoes, buy yourself a few pairs of running socks. Again, easy to geek out and find all sorts of custom running socks out there, and they all have a place in the sport. Don’t spend the money to buy those just to find out you don’t like the whole running thing. If you don’t already have something that’ll work at home, grab a few pairs of ankle-high athletic socks. They’ll work just fine and keep you from looking like your grandfather when you wear those over-the-calf white, high school athletic socks with your shorts. (I said you don’t have to look good, but you also don’t want to scare folks either. (This is why I don’t run shirtless. I don’t think I look very good without a shirt and I really don’t want to scare small children or cause passing cars to crash at the terrible sight of my pasty bod.)
Running Clothes. Clothing is easy because new runners run short distances. Somewhere in your stuff is a cheap pair of athletic shorts or sweats and a t-shirt. They’ll work just fine. Go with long sleeves or throw on a wind-breaker if it’s chilly. Don’t worry that all your friends who are veteran runners have those technical shirts that wick water away, keep you warm (or cool), and are rumored to deflect rogue cyclists and cars along with rain and snow. Those shirts are great (and I own a bunch of them!), but I promise you can trot around the block or cover a few miles in those old shorts and tees. Also, if you work your way up to entering and running 5K (3.1 mile) races, find the ones that offer a shirt. They’re usually the technical tees and you’ll quickly end up with a drawer full of them. Bottom line: don’t pay the money to outfit yourself for a marathon when you’re just exploring those early, short distances.
Running Buddies. Finally, find a buddy to encourage your running and not your fashion sense. Related, runners are like anyone else and come in two basic varieties: demanding and encouraging. The demanding ones will want to drag you “up” to their level immediately and make you another version of themselves. They’ll try to drag you along (and probably suck the fun out of the experience). You’ll be equipped to run a marathon before you’ve even decided if you like running a couple miles, and you’ll feel guilty you’re “not dedicated enough, wearing the right gear, or doing more or better. They may be great friends, but they’re probably not the best running buddies. They need to run with someone who is at their level, not with you. You’ll also know a person or two who is happy to work with you to explore the sport just as you are: someone with the heart and mindset of a mentor or coach. They’ll encourage you rather than drag you. They’ll answer your questions and help you along the way. Most importantly, they’ll allow you to become the runner you are, not a carbon copy of themselves. If you’re a social person and already know you’ll be a social runner too, or you’ll need the encouragement, find that encouraging person and team up.
Now get out there and run like you mean it!
It’s great to be a dad!