All right, let's just get this out of the way. Contrary to what I may have said when I started this journey, having "real running gear" does make a difference. It's not that you can't run long distances in a cotton T-shirt and basketball shorts (because I could totally do it if I wanted to!), it's just a lot easier with the right shirt and shorts.
There, now that the whole "I was wrong" unpleasantness is out of the way, let's go through the running gear and apparel I tried and how it made a difference.
Shirts1 of 8
I spent the whole Texas summer running around in cotton tank tops like some kind of savage. What a fool I was!
The moisture-wicking technology and breathability of most running shirts won't necessarily make you a better runner but will theoretically make you more comfortable, thus allowing you to perform better. It's tough to maintain your pace three miles into a run when your shirt now weighs 27 pounds because the cotton has soaked up all your sweat and is clinging to your torso like a baby koala.
Not a problem with a proper polyester running shirt.
Some running shirts also include additional safety features like reflective material that makes you more visible when running at night (like Pearl Izumi's BioViz technology on the shirt above). I really learned to appreciate this feature after the time change this fall, because the sun now sets at what feels like 3:27 p.m. By the time I get home for my run it's pitch black outside, so it's comforting to know I'm more visible to the motorists who are trying to kill me.
Shorts2 of 8
For the record, I'm still not on board the short shorts train (Editor's note: Scott's new running shorts are not, in fact, that short; his previous shorts were just that long). They don't make me faster and they definitely don't make me more comfortable. If anything, it makes me less comfortable knowing I'm blinding my fellow runners with my milky white thighs. Avert your eyes!
However, there are a couple of features in these Pearl Izumi shorts that I could get down with in a less skimpy pair of knickers. I like that it includes a liner (aka built-in underwear), because that gives me one less piece of laundry to wash and fold. I'm also a fan of the zippered pocket on the back. In general, I think that pocket's more convenient than carrying your stuff in a gear or fuel belt.
Besides those two features, I'm #TeamBasketballShorts for life.
Undies3 of 8
This was the last change I made, but I have to admit it made one of the biggest impacts. First of all, I want it to be known I think underwear is way overpriced in general (stop price gouging us, underwear manufacturers!). So the suggested retail price of most athletic underwear is way more than I'm comfortable paying for something nobody's even going to see.
But then my wife made me go shopping with her one weekend. Any time we go to a clothing store, I immediately abandon her and go scope out the clearance rack. That's where I found these bad boys, marked down from $17 to $3. Three bucks! Naturally I bought four pairs.
These are so much better than my cotton boxers. They wick away moisture from "the area," and they don't bunch up—and believe me, unearthing a wedgie can really throw off your gait.
I also bought a couple pairs of tights (also on clearance, of course) that I think I'll really appreciate when this half marathon rolls around in December. This particular event has notoriously bad weather every year, so maybe I'll layer up with both pairs... and a snuggie.
Socks4 of 8
You guys, I'm so into compression socks now, it's ridiculous. I didn't get what the big deal was, but then I tried them, and they really do help me recover faster. I usually only wear compression socks on my long runs.
The brands I've tried so far are PRO Compression, Injinji and CompresSport. I like them all, but I usually go with the CompresSport (black with orange accents) for my super long runs. And I'll usually rock the hot pink CompresSport calf sleeves underneath my jeans the day after. By the end of the day, no more achy legs. I haven't actually gotten the chance to try out those Texas flag socks yet, but they're Texas flag socks, so I trust them.
If it's not too cold out, and my run's going to be around six miles or less, I'll go with some of the shorter socks you see in the image to the right. Again, I really like Injinji socks, but the Balega ones I've tried are really good, too. They're just a lot more comfortable and breathable than the store brand "athletic" socks I used to run in (made of 100 percent cotton, of course).
Shoes5 of 8
I won't go into too much detail here, but if you've read about my gait analysis, then you know I discovered that choosing the right shoe really can make a big difference when running longer distances.
NOTE: The shoes pictured aren't my actual shoes, but a women's version of the same model.
Belts6 of 8
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I started using a Bracketron TruRunner gear belt to hold my phone, which works great and is perfectly comfortable. The problem is that when I started going on hour-plus runs, I needed to be able to bring some water and energy chews or gels so I can resuscitate myself when all my organs start to fail.
There's not enough room in the TruRunner for my phone and snacks (this belt ain't big enough for the both of us!), so I started using an Ultimate Direction Access 20 running belt. The pocket is big enough for my phone and a couple of gels, plus it has a holster for a water bottle.
I like to wear the belt to the side so I feel like a Wild West sheriff every time I need a drink (DRAW!). Running with a water bottle on your hip takes a little getting used to, but I stopped noticing it over time. It's not the coolest look in the world, as it's basically a bright green fanny pack, but I'd rather look like a dork than keel over while I'm out on a run.
Put It All Together...7 of 8
What's your favorite piece of running gear? Any top secret brands or products I should know about? Let me know in the comments below or tweet @active using #TheRookieRunner.
And watch out for the next Rookie Runner on nutrition and supplements. Will my goal of running a half marathon impact my Thanksgiving meal choices? (SPOILER ALERT: Nope. Pumpkin pie all day.) See you on the next run!