I’m sure you know one.
They trot along with a watch strapped to each wrist so they can track their heart rate, pace, elevation gain, exact GPS mileage and goodness knows what else. In addition, two bright headphone wires snake out from their ears, eliminating all outside sound so all they can hear is the latest “motivational” pop hit. Their giant phone is strapped to their upper arm, so it won’t collide with the 6 bottle hydration belt they’ve strapped to their waist, a gel pouch tucked in there somewhere.
And all this for a 6 mile run!
Marketing agencies would have you believe that the latest gear is essential for becoming a smarter, faster runner. A better runner. A better coach.
Why? A few reasons, among them the fact that on some occasions new or better gear can improve your running. For instance, an ultramarathoner who needs a shoe with enough traction to get them up a narrow mountain climb, or an elite runner who actually requires fuel an hour and a half into a run at sub 6 pace.
But another reason is because running is inherently a sport that doesn’t require a lot of stuff. When you acquire stuff for running, it’s usually unnecessary. Good running clothes, good shoes and a watch are the only real essentials.
Without you being convinced to buy more running gear than you need, a lot of businesses would no longer be around.
I’m not saying to stop buying all running gear- there’s a time and place for it. If you need new running clothes, check out Janji! Not only do they make clothes in unique colors and great fits, but they also donate one of their proceeds to clean water projects.
But ultimately, you don’t need that much to run. That’s part of why running is the everyman’s sport- unlike figure skating, which requires expensive skates and the cost of rink time, or baseball, requiring a bunch of special equipment, all you have to do to run is head out the door.
So, what do you NEED for a run?
Let’s bring it back down to the basics.
Again, you need good shoes. Clothes that don’t chafe (yes, chafe). Wear a watch so you know how long you’re running / you can calculate pace if you need to.
If you’re running for more than an hour, you might need some fuel or water. Is there a water fountain on the route you’re running? Then ditch the water and use that water fountain. You should only need a few swallows, as there’s no need to hydrate unless you’re thirsty. Did you know these days more people die of over-hydration in sport than dehydration?
You might want headphones, but only wear them a few times a week at most. I absolutely love running with music, but not on easy days (you’ll get excited and run too fast) and not when you’re doing a speed workout because you won’t be able to gauge your efforts. Music changes your perception of what you’re doing more than you might realize. I recommend only using music if you’re stuck on a treadmill or an elliptical and you’re not worried about what pace you’re running.
If you’re training for something intense and specific, you can use a heart rate monitor if that data is valuable to you and you know how to use it. Even then, you should only use it now and then until you learn how to intuitively figure out your heart rate/ effort level.
Just remember that ultimately, you didn’t start running because you wanted to plug yourself into a bunch of gadgetry and fancy new clothes. You started because you liked the motion of it, the results, the alone time, the success, whatever. But all that came from the work you did with your physical body, without all these accoutrements.
If you don’t love the sport. you won’t stay with it. If you love all the gadgets, that’s great, but remember that if you overuse accessories, you are separating yourself from the purity of the sport.
What do you truly need in order to run?
At the most primal level, your body. In motion, with good form, enjoying the moment. Working hard or taking it easy. Hitting splits or relaxing into the rhythm.
The run is not about the stats, the gear, the gels, the numbers.
That’s part of it if you’re competing, yes, or if you’re curious.
But you wouldn’t have gotten there if you didn’t love the sport in the first place.
The act of running, its eloquence, the purity and simplicity of it. This fully immersive way of connecting with your body and the world around you.
Next time you’re out there, leave the gear at home and just run. With your feet, your lungs, your legs and arms in beautifully orchestrated motion, pushing you forward and propelling you across the street, up the hill, towards a new PR or the next great adventure. Put one foot ahead of the other, again and again and again.
Don’t become an over-accessorized runner.
Just start running.