When you first start running you think any old outfit and a pair of “comfy” sneakers from your local athletic chain will do the trick. Then the chafing and blisters set in. You quickly realize that running might entail a bit more than putting one foot in front of the other. John is breaking all of this down for you today with a look at apparel (especially for you guys!), accessories and also some unneeded items.
Running attire. Whenever those words creep into my vocabulary, I immediately know my wallet will shrink. I remember my first “real” run, three years ago, the Brea 8k. There I was, donned in basketball shorts and the obligatory white cotton tee emblazoned with the event logo and a $30 pair of sneakers. Looking back, I might as well have held up a sign that said “I’m a rank amateur and have no idea what I’m doing”. And I would have been right. By the end of the race, I was hot, uncomfortable, and my feet hurt. I learned very quickly that effective running requires effective attire. There are some “must have” items, some “like to have” items, and some “oh, heavens no” items. My caveat here is that I’m referring mostly to men’s attire. Reviewing women’s attire would have been a little creepy. Not to mention, the fit wouldn’t be quite right. But I digress… Let’s dive into our closets and see what’s what:
Running Shirt – Toss the generic cotton tee. They’re heavy, absorb sweat, and don’t breathe well. Invest in a quality tech fabric shirt. Sure, they’ll set you back anywhere from $25 to $60, but they’re worth every penny. They’re lightweight, breathe very well, wick moisture away, and keep you cool. Thankfully, a lot of race organizers are dropping their give-away cotton tees in favor of a tech fabric shirt option. Although cheaper in quality, they still do the job better than a cotton tee, and are great for extra gym attire.
Running Shorts – Say goodbye to generic athletic shorts, and get a bona fide pair of running shorts. They’re lightweight, don’t require undergarments (yep, I really went there. I could “box” around that, but instead I’ll be “brief”), fit better, breathe better, feel better, and, well, when it comes to, um, the family jewels, they treat you better (hey, this is a family friendly column, isn’t it?).
Running Shoes – The worst thing a runner can do is wear cheap shoes. If you don’t spend money anywhere else, spend your money here. Here in the OC, there are several fitness retailers that offer biometric measuring of your feet as part of their service. Quality running shoes will set you back $100 or more. But your shoes will be lighter, last longer, and you’ll feel like you’re running on air. Top those off with a pair of running socks, and your feet will thank you for the investment.
LIKE TO HAVE
Headgear – This is strictly a matter of preference. Some love them, some hate them. If you’re like me, you’ll need something to keep the sweat off the brow. Although I’m not a fan of cotton in running attire, I found that a simple cotton baseball cap worked well. I recently upgraded to a dri-weave baseball cap with the Disney “D” logo, and it’s served me even better.
Sunglasses – This is where form must follow function. Your pair of aviators or wayfarers just won’t cut it, regardless of the expensive logo on the side. You’ll need a lightweight, contoured pair of sunglasses designed for running. There’s not much worse than a pair of sunglasses sliding down your nose or fogging up during your run. Thankfully, they won’t cost an arm or a leg. My local shop has styles ranging from $30 to $110. I managed to find mine at a runDisney expo for a mere $20.
Music Device Armband – Everyone needs a place to put their iPhone, right? This is where prices and styles are as diverse as the day is long. Colors, band types, configuration, and materials are all over the place. For me, I kept it simple. I purchased an inexpensive armband off eBay for $6, and it’s suited me well for over a year.
Earphones – This is where it gets personal. I’m a big fan of the new Apple Earpods, but after 2 miles, they start falling out. For about $10, I found a product called the Eadbudi, which consists of over-the-ear clips that attach to your existing ear buds. This is a better alternative to having to ditch your favorite ear buds. But if you decide to do so, I recommend splurging with pair of Bluetooth headphones. No more wire between your head and your arm. Although they can range anywhere from $40 to $100, doing some homework and online searching will often net you a pair for less. Mine only set me back about $35, and the audio quality is superior. Be sure to consider features and battery life when making your decision. Nothing is more irritating that running 10k and having your headphones shut off at mile 4.
Waist belts – This is where I get particular. At a recent runDisney expo, I was searching high and low for just the right waist item to carry a few essentials. I stumbled upon the FlipBelt, and was hooked. The FlipBelt is a tubular waistband that is perfect for holding items such as your car keys, wallet, and cell phone. Unlike other waist packs, the FlipBelt contours to your attire. Its spandex-lycra fabric wicks moisture and fits snugly. Best of all, the FlipBelt is machine washable so you can just toss it in the washer with your workout attire. They run slightly small, though. I normally wear a medium, but I purchased a large. The reps at the FlipBelt booth were very accommodating, and encouraged you to try the different sizes and colors on. Reasonably priced, it only set me back about $30, and it by far the most versatile accessory I’ve purchased.
OH HEAVENS NO
Full-size & noise canceling headphones – I’ve seen these on runners and they’re just a bad idea, because they block sound around you. A runner needs to be able to hear his runners around him, as well as listen for the uncommon but necessary on-course announcements. I’ve seen more than one near-collision because a runner did not hear someone coming up alongside.
Backpack – I’ve seen a few of these, and I’ve never understood the appeal. First, you’re carrying weight, and weight is the enemy of the runner. Second, they cover a runner’s back, interfering with the body’s thermoregulation. If anyone can explain the reasoning behind the backpacks, as we say at Disney, I’m all ears.
Water bottles – Maybe it’s not a huge deal on a 5k, but if you’re running a 10k or more, ditch the water bottles. Water is heavy. a 16oz container of water weighs over a pound, which can require you to use up to 80 additional calories per mile. Great while you’re trying to lose weight, but a bad idea when trying to endure a half marathon. Just rely on the on-course water stations. They’ll be plenty.
Outerwear jackets – A lot of runs start early in the morning, when temperatures are still nippy. It’s natural to want to put on an extra layer to keep warm. But the moment your cross that starting line, your body will do fine keeping warm on its own. When I ran the Knott’s Coaster Run, it was cold and raining. I was miserable, until about mile 2. By then, I was warm and comfortable, even though it was barely 60 degrees out. Less is more. Any additional layer makes it easier for your body to overheat. During my last 10k, I counted no less than 6 jackets abandoned on the side of the course in various spots. Be sure to leave your outwear behind.
Being a huge Disney fan, I’m a great lover of the Red Car Trolleys at Disney California Adventure. The Red Car motto is Comfort-Speed-Safety. This should be the motto when choosing running attire. Quality attire will be comfortable, will contribute to your running speed, and won’t compromise your on-course safety. Enjoy shopping, and I’ll see you on the next course!
John grew up in the Orange County area of California, always living in the shadow of the Disneyland Resort. Known as the consummate storyteller to his friends, he has had an admiration of Disney since childhood, and is most interested in the Company’s history and heritage. His favorite memory to date is setting foot in Walt’s apartment over the Main Street Firehouse. John lives by what he calls the three F’s: faith, fun, and fitness. Being healthy isn’t about adding years to your life; it’s about adding life to your years. Nothing sums that up more than making Disney races a goal in every fitness plan.