Gear.  What is gear?  Gear is the all the stuff, like shoes, shorts, pants, sports bras, shirts, jackets, gloves, socks, water containers and the like, that make running a little easier.  Everything I have read about running encourages people who want to run to invest in a good pair of running shoes suited to their particular foot shape and gait.  Runner’s World, my current magazine addiction, (which by the way, sends me surveys asking if I have noticed particular ads, which I never do, so they drop me from the survey two questions in every time, as if all they care about is the ads!  Come on, the articles are fabulous!!!), has quarterly features on the newest high-tech running shoes.  Woman’s Health, Prevention,  and Health Magazine all also say just make sure you get the right shoes. That’s all you need. I have learned to do that, to find the right shoes, and also how to cut the insole material just the right way so I can fit my partial orthotics in there.  But I need more.

Gear.   I try not to buy too much.  It’s expensive, and takes up room in the closet.  I am still working hard to draw the line between spending the money on an extra pair of winter running pants and using too much water by doing an extra load of laundry that is half-full so that my favorite pants will be clean and dry for the third consecutive run day of the week.  I have been known to go around our house begging my husband and teenagers for anything that might be even a little bit dirty so I can do a full wash load.  I agonize over this.  Clean- gear guilt.  But what I wear really does matter.

I am no fashion show when I run.  Even if I start out clean, after 15 minutes I am a mess.  Even if I have on the cute little top from Athleta that wicks away moisture.  Even if I have on the naked-feeling shorts.  Even if it’s freezing outside and my face is numb.   I am forever drenched in sweat from top to bottom.  My hair is plastered to my head.  My back is cutting out its own little river.  Of course, with aerobic exercise, this is the goal.  The chemical reaction that takes place in an aerobic exercise session produces, in the end, ATP,  CO2 and H2O.  I am definitely making that happen.

That being said, the athletic wear out there- heat gear, cold gear, compression gear- is amazing.  If the manufacturer says am item wicks moisture, it does.  If they promise warmth in a thin garment, it’s there.  Clothes don’t ride up, slip down (much), or stink if they’re antimicrobial.  There are even clothes out there with built-in sun block!  It’s true that anything I have been drenching with sweat will wring out when I take it off, but while I’m wearing it, it feels dry.  If an item promises compression, I get it.  My muscles are squeezed so tightly they barely know they’re speeding along at 7 mph.  Okay.  7 mph on a good day.

My favorite running shorts have built in briefs.  I love the thin, soft material.  I tell everyone I feel like I’m running without any bottoms on at all.  (I imagine the neighbors are glad that’s just my own illusion.)  And there’s one sports bra that holds the girls down without squishing them to nothing.  I own two pair of winter running pants I bought at a discount store.  They are the same.  They are black, thin and lightweight, with a windproof exterior and a micro fleece lining.  Last winter, I wore them outside on runs when the temperature hovered in the teens and I never felt the cold. I call them the miracle pants, as I have never before been that warm during the winter season, either inside or out.  I have a favorite shirt, too.  It’s a long sleeved, silky, powder blue H. Toad jersey I picked up at my church rummage sale for $1.  Best dollar I ever spent.  It’s one of those comfy, sleeves- a -little- too- long -so- perfect- to- pull- down- over- cold- fingers- until -I warm- up shirts that are very hard to find.   I try to avoid carrying anything unless it’s over 80 degrees out.  Holding a water bottle irritates me.  All that sloshing makes me lose my focus.

I keep my gear in its own special area in the closet, sorted by bras, tops, and bottoms.  I send seasonally inappropriate items to the back.  I hoard the favorite things just in case there’s a day I might not feel like running.  Then, I can dig around for that jersey, or those naked shorts.  I put them on, and suddenly am raring to go.

As for the shoes, I believe the theory that they should be replaced before they show wear.  Most running articles I have read recommend new running shoes every 300 – 500 miles.  I tend to lean toward the 300 mile marker, because it takes me a while to find a new pair I like.  Shoes should not ever have to be broken in.  They should feel good right from the start.  I keep the old ones, as they are great for gardening and walks downtown.  Once I did let my shoes carry on too long.  I panicked when I noticed I could see my sock through the sole.  Not wanting to miss a run, I bolted to the mall that same day and paid a little more than I would have online.  As my friend’s three year old says, it’s hard to keep up with everything.

Oh.  One last thing.  The socks.  I am particular about the socks.  SmartWool makes arch support running socks which really do give extra arch support.  But my favorite by far are the SmartWool mid-weight hiking socks.  They gently hold my foot inside my shoe.  They are cushion-y, not at all hot, and wash beautifully.  I have more than two pair of those, much to my relief!

Although I do like my gear, the truth is it all contributes to the run.  Today I ran 5.3 warm, dry miles.  The sun was out, I remembered my lip balm, and listened to old-school rap.  I ran fast at the start, backed off in the middle, and finished strong.  My goal for tomorrow is 6.3 miles- if I have a pair clean pants in the closet.

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