Admit it. You like to get new stuff. There's something slightly magical about a new pair of shoes or a new hi-tech shirt that has USP 50 built-in, or maybe a new-fangled watch that does everything but tell time.
Admit it. You like to get new stuff. There’s something slightly magical about a new pair of shoes or a new hi-tech shirt that has USP 50 built-in, or maybe a new-fangled watch that does everything but tell time. Runner’s gear is the coolest stuff, right?
One of my favorite running stories to tell has nothing to do with me, other than as the observer. When I first moved to Delaware, I lived north of Wilmington and worked in suburban Philly. Suburban Philly traffic during “drive time” is ugly, so I routinely left my apartment at 6 a.m. or so.
Shortly after Jan. 1 (and I forget the year), I noticed her. Every morning about 6:10-6:15, heading up the hill on Silverside Road, in the dark, wearing heavy gray sweatpants and a sweatshirt, she was out trudging along. Oh, this HAS to be a new year’s resolution-type. And my first thought was “please get something reflective!” She was slow and shuffled and … she was out there doing it.
As the weeks went by, I started to notice that her pace had quickened and her gait was more stable and she looked healthier. She was out there DOING IT! One spring morning, my departure time to work was closer to 8 a.m. than 6 a.m., but my route was the same. As I drove up Silverside Road, there she was, wearing the brightest-colored spandex tights, and new shoes and a pretty cool looking jacket and … she was out there doing it in daylight! It was quite clear that this New Year’s resolution had evolved from gray sweats and sneakers to comfortable tech-wear and a good pair of training shoes.
I’d like to think that my morning resolute runner was running for more than the gear, but quite frankly, she was out running and if the gear was the motivation, more power to her. I found myself reveling at her determination and sticktuitiveness (a word I invented in this very column about six years ago) and her new running gear!
The makers of running gear know a weakness when they see it. Marketing 101 says “find the need and fill it.” And it’s apparent that running gear is really more than good training shoes. Heck, in today’s running landscape, the average runner will have road training shoes and trail training shoes and speed work training shoes and, if the spirit so moves them, racing shoes. Fill that need, you makers of all things 7 ounces or less.
The days of old gray sweat pants and tops have been relegated to the smelly gyms of wrestlers and boxers (that’s not a knock – merely an observation). From the days of Tigers and the early days of Nike in the 1960s and 70s, we now have dozens of manufacturers who hyper-focus on every need a runner might have. One manufacturer has a line of clothing for every 15-degree spread in temperature. Really.
Good gear ain’t nothing but mall-walking clothes if you don’t have good foot wear. Today’s options are almost dizzying. And not just with the number of companies selling the stuff. Within each company, there are sometimes dozens of offerings. Foot gear! Most running magazines have semi-annual shoe guides that help lay out the most popular and newest options. Oh, and the flashy colors and designs. I’ve been accused more than once of going for the ugliest thing available. I admit to it.
The typical runner today also gears it up with a myriad of gadgets such as the newest running watch that syncs with GPS to track your run, holds about a billion song playlist for your entertainment, will answer phone calls and texts, track your heart rate and even time your run… I think. From camelbacks to fanny packs and from straps onto which you can pin your race bib (so you don’t leave pin holes in your $80 hi-tech singlet) to ice vests for those warmer days, there’s cool gear for everyone.
I recall a road trip to a race a few years ago, with a somewhat newbie runner. We started talking about the evolution of running gear.
“I remember when women wore men’s running shorts.”
“I recall only one flavor of Gatorade.”
“I remember using a watch with a second hand to time intervals.”
Yeah, runner’s stuff is the coolest stuff. But if you’re not wearing the coolest, newest running gear, that’s pretty cool, too.
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.