I remember someone once saying that, to play football, one simply needs a ball. With running, you don’t even really need that. However, as I got going I found myself looking at equipment and things that I felt I needed and this was the stuff I started to use. Some of it I already had and decided to carry on using above something else, while other bits I got especially for my race training.
The most obvious piece of kit has to be trainers. I bought these ages ago, mainly because they’re the most comfortable shoes I’d ever put on my feet. They’re so comfortable, I would love to be able to wear them anywhere, but they are running shoes and I don’t like wearing sports clothes for anything other than playing sports.
The main technology is Boost, which too all intents and purposes looks like polystyrene but it’s squashy and bouncy. The upper is knitted, and I love knitted shoes, and it has a cage connected by the laces to tighten round your foot. The concept feels like strapping a sole to your foot rather than wearing trainers.
I love them. They are more bouncy the more energy you put in; if you plod, you may as well be wearing brogues. I have been getting blisters on the end of my second toe on each foot in very strange shapes at the further distances, though. I’ve never run this far, so I couldn’t tell you if it’s a problem with the shoe or my really long second toes!
When I bought them I thought I was never going to run more than 10km a week, let alone a half marathon. I’ve no idea how much I paid for them anymore, but the new ones made my eyes water when I’ve just checked and they’re £160. The guy in the shop, a keen runner, said that he wouldn’t buy them. His advice is probably better than mine, but I still love them and I do feel that they help my performance over a pair of Asics running shoes I once had, and definitely over a pair of “fashionable” Pumas I ran my first 10k race in.
Shorts, Shirt and Socks
It feels extravagant to say that I bought a t-shirt and shorts specifically for this purpose, but where I live we have roads without a lot (if any) street lighting, so I wanted something with reflective panels considering I was going to need to train in the dark.
The t-shirt I went for because it was one of the only ones I could find with significant reflective elements is an adidas Supernova Tee and the shorts are with similar reflective elements and a small zip pocket to put my house key in are adidas Own The Run Shorts. I didn’t try to be a FKW, they were just what I wanted!
They’re both thinner than I would have thought in terms of the material, but they’re comfortable, look alright and do the job. Cost me about £60 for both. I doubt that £60 adds any significant performance benefit other than giving me a little extra confidence that I have less chance of being hit by a lorry.
My socks were Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks. These didn’t help my aforementioned blisters, but they were comfortable socks.
Apple Watch Series 4 GPS+Cellular
I had a first generation Apple Watch which I was unable to recommend to anyone unless they already knew they wanted one, even days after I got mine (which was on release day). It was useful for notifications but, ultimately, it was a watch.
The Gen 4 was the first real leap in technology in the watch and I, for some reason, decided it was a good idea to jump on that tech. In practice, it’s still a watch. I wonder if I don’t push its limits. However, I have been using it to track my runs using the Workouts app and it’s pretty good. It would be better with a heart rate strap. The GPS isn’t completely accurate (it seems to smooth corners and doesn’t completely stick to roads on the map overlays it produces), which is one of the reasons I think it maybe artificially decreases my recorded pace – it knows the time between two points but marks the distance as the crow flies.
I got the cellular one because I thought it would be a good idea if I didn’t have to carry my phone round during training. It works, but you look like a prat talking in to your wrist (even in the privacy of your own home). Decide yourself how useful the feature is.
I’d recommend something like this as a training partner if you don’t have one. Being able to monitor your pace is useful. I had a Garmin Forerunner back in the day that broke after not too much of a pounding, but the Apple Watch isn’t a dedicated exercise device, which helps justify its cost.
I have some absolutely excellent Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones that I would 100% recommend to anyone. They are brilliant.
However, they’re over ear and big I had never had any intention of wearing them for exercise, but oh how bored I was without anything to occupy me than putting one foot in front of the other. I reached the decision on the AirPods this way… I wanted something with great sound quality, that wasn’t Beats and which had no cables. The better running option would probably have been the Jabra Elite Active 65t but the decision turned on the fact that I could wear AirPods normally, without exercise, without them looking out of place.
The other thing against the Jabra was that I had no requirement for noise cancellation. I actually want to let noise in, so I can hear the traffic. You can turn off the noise cancellation on the Jabra, but there was still the aesthetics.
Earhoox give me the confidence to run in the AirPods, but aren’t (in my opinion) necessary.
Performance benefit of listening to music while exercising will be subjective.
Skins RY400 Compression Recovery Tights
I’ve reviewed these recovery tights before. I maintain that I can’t test them in a controlled environment because I can’t do the same run under the same training levels again to judge their effectiveness versus not wearing them. I suspect that they’re good and I wouldn’t want to now not use them.
Radox Muscle Relax Bath Salts
I’ve used similar things before, either bubble bath or other salts, and not been completely sure what they did but used them anyway. I’ve had people try to explain it to me, with some being far more certain of the body’s ability to absorb minerals through the skin than the anecdotal medical evidence from precisely zero trials.
However, this product from Radox appears to be very good! I’ve certainly got out of repeated baths feeling far more relaxed than with the other stuff I’ve used. The peppermint scent can be a bit overwhelming until you’re used to it.
This was recommended to me by a friend. There is anecdotal evidence from a small study conducted by the makers for this cherry cordial (or a similar one at least) that its active ingredient improves sleep quality. My friend swore by it and I actually think that it works too, but it doesn’t override any stressors or stimulants that may stop you sleeping at all – it’s not a sedative. What it did seem to do, when drunk just before bed when all other conditions for sleep were good, was enable a deeper sleep and I did honestly wake up more refreshed than usual the morning after drinking it.