On the day that I went for my first run ever — a short run that lasted no more than a quarter mile at that — I put on a pair of sneakers (unquestionably inappropriate sneakers for running), tossed my hair up in a loose pony tail, and headed out the door of the purple barn-like house I was living in at the time — probably in a pair of old leggings and a long sleeve shirt with an M-block applique, or something like that. College is really productive.
(Note: It is not.)
It was my junior year at the University of Michigan, and I was at a stage in my life where I needed something — anything — to escape. Unlike many others who find themselves in the darkest recesses of a seemingly impossible place, I was fortunate enough to turn to something productive and decidedly good for you. I turned to running.
Of course, at the time, running was far from a fashion statement. I could have been out there, navigating the streets of Ann Arbor, from the river to the Arb, in nothing more than a two-piece bikini, and I’d have been happy (albeit slightly cold) to simply be somewhere else besides the confines of my mind. While the brain tends to physically tag along on even the longest of excursions, at least for me, on a psychological level, I learned quickly how to leave my brain behind at the front door. Maybe that’s why, for the past nearly 7 years, running has been such an incredible escape — both concrete and indefinable all at once.
(I could have stood for a bit of advice as a novice. My first runs were a straight shot down this mountain to the river and a straight shot back up.)
What I didn’t know at the time, and what I didn’t figure out until I began training for my first race during the summer of 2011, was that running — and running well — is all about the details. Preferably glittery details.
Over the course of, say, 13 months (but who’s counting?), I’ve picked up a few small — yet crucial — items that have enhanced the quality of my runs. If any of the 6 items below winds up improving your experiences at all, then I’ll feel as though I’ve done my job. (Actually, this isn’t my job at all; and it certainly doesn’t pay the bills.)
Still, I feel like sharing. So here it goes.
1. Headphones that actually stay in.
What’s worse than running with headphones that fall out of your ears with every step you take? Nothing. The answer is absolutely nothing. On that note, I hate earbuds — but only because earbuds have an equal hatred for me. Or the shape of my ears, at least.
After months of frustrated running, sometimes jogging with just a single earbud in because, for whatever reason, the right side was more prone to falling out than the left, I gave up and purchased a pair of old-school 80’s-tastic headphones — you know, the circular ones that go over the ears and round the back of the head? They were ugly, but they sure stayed put.
Today, I run with these Sony Stereo Headphones. They’re smaller and less nerdy than the previous ones, and they stay on great. The smaller stereo portion makes them a bit more stylish, like earbuds, but the headband keeps them right where they should be — in my ears.
2. Socks that aren’t tie dyed and thin.
To be honest, I’d probably still be running in thin tie dye socks had it not been for the Manhattan Half Marathon, otherwise known as that time a blizzard hit New York City for my two-hour race during an otherwise extremely mild and precipitation-less winter. With the threat of a storm, I was forced to pick up a pair of waterproof socks from Paragon Sports the night before the event. I was aghast at the $14 price tag, but purchased them anyway knowing that non-waterproof socks would more than likely result in blisters and 13.1 miles of misery (as if snow in your eyes wasn’t enough).
(The best part of this photo isn’t Noah or I; it’s his mom in the background, cheering us on despite the weather. What a champ.)
Turns out that there may actually be something to these runner-friendly footies. While, on a short weekday morning run, I may still toss on my old holey rainbows (because socks that cost $14 are so not startup friendly), for longer, weekend runs and races, I turn to the pricier pairs.
During the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, I wore Nike cushioned socks that so conveniently displayed which foot to wear which on.
(Sadly, I’ve still managed to put these on backward before. More than once.)
3. Headbands that actually stay on your head.
Since January, I’ve fallen hard for 2 headbands, after 6 years of fumbling with the sub-par ones I had been sporting before. The first are these amazing (and blog appropriate, if I do say so myself) glittery headbands from Sparkly Soul. Glitter aside, the velvety interior keeps the headbands right where they should be, making them perfectly fashionable and functional for my weekday morning runs.
4. Headbands that double as a forehead mop.
For a girl who spends 93 percent of the day shivering in the office, when running, I sweat a lot. And not only from my back and elbow creases, but from my head too. And it burns my eyes. A lot.
Beyond the burn, I also wear contacts — ones that, if they were to hypothetically fall out of my eyes mid-race, I’d essentially be blind and have no idea when to smile at pictures, which would obviously be a travesty. What this means it that, for longer runs, I need serious sweat-absorbing cerebral protection. This nifty Lululemon headband stuck with me for the duration of the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, leaving me with slicked back hair and a sweat-free gaze.
(Matching headbands are all the rage.)
5. Handheld reusable water bottle.
I know this isn’t healthy — especially for someone who loves to work out — but I hate water. When you hate water, you tend to “forget” to drink it, which leaves you pretty dehydrated come every morning run.
Enter the mini reusable handheld water bottle for those extra raisin-like days. They’re comfier to hold than regular water bottles, better for the environment, and are typically equipped with a pocket for keys and a 20-spot. Bonus: they come in neon colors.
6. The perfect pair — of sneakers, that is.
Do sneakers count as accessories? Heels, boots and flip flops do, so I guess they kind of are an accessory in running too. Anyway, this has probably been the biggest asset — and detriment at times — to my daily morning runs.
After wearing the same pair of Asics for 6 years, I began to get shin splints. I had wanted to finish the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in my old pair since, as any runner can tell you, it’s basically a sin to switch up sneakers with only a handful of weeks to go until race day. Cardinal Rule No. 1: Don’t modify anything about whatever it is that you’re already doing. See? I’m a freaking pro.
But with recurring leg pain that wouldn’t seem to pass, wearing my Asics seemed to only be exacerbating my injury. I needed a change, and I needed one fast.
That’s when I went to Jack Rabbit Sports, where the nice running shoe experts proceeded to tell me that the stabilization shoes I had been wearing were overcompensating for something that no longer existed. I needed something with less stabilization in order to prevent this excessive force from affecting the outside of my right foot. (If that actually made sense to you, then you get a gold star.)
Anyway, to make a long story short, I not only traded in my Asics Kayanos for a pair of Brooks Ghosts with less than a month to go before my race, but due to the imminence of those 13.1 miles, I had to ramp up my training more quickly than I’d have liked after being injured. During only my third jaunt with those new Ghosts, I had to go 7 miles — and my knees were aware of that fact every step of the way.
Fortunately, I grew into the Ghosts by the day of the race, and I’ve since learned a really valuable lesson: Sneakers can make all the difference. As can headbands, headphones, water bottles, socks and whatever other little pieces of running goodness you use to get to the finish line — or the bagel store. Same difference.
- So, what are your favorite running accessories? What little somethings have changed your running for the better, faster, stronger and wiser?