What makes a good run a really great run? Getting in the zone. We asked our Role Mothers (you may remember we intro'd them in this post and this post) to reveal the running essentials that help them get there, the most overlooked and underrated gear that help them hit the pavement, the trail, or the track and push through the miles. Check out their must-haves and start making your list.
Ashley, the beginner
I would have never guessed as a beginner runner that SOCKS would play such a crucial role, especially in classifying a “good” run! If someone had told me in my pre-running days that I would spend over $5 per PAIR of socks or even think that socks were crucial for success I would have said you have lost your marbles, but now, I have seen the light.
Pre-running, socks were either brightly colored or white, with the occasional pattern (I know, I live life dangerously). There were only one size, one height and not a whole lot of variety. Now, socks have become an obsession. I have a few go-to pairs that I treat like gold. They even get washed in a bag so that the dryer doesn’t eat one. My husband pokes fun at me when I choose to wear a pair of dirty socks a second day over picking a pair of non-running socks, but in life there are only certain mistakes you will continue to make and socks are no longer one of them for me. From moisture-wicking to tabs to prevent blisters, socks are HUGE in helping me feel great and push to go the extra mile(s).
Birthdays, holidays, exchanges… everyone laughs but the only thing on my list is a good pair of running socks. (We recommend Balega socks: The fit and blister-free comfort let you put your best foot forward on every run!)
Melissa, the marathoner
When I started running roughly 15 years ago, my must-have piece of running gear was having music in my ears. So when Apple released their first generation iPod in 2001, I spent hours “loading” all my CDs on it, and I was ready to hit the roads with my jams. Fast forward to 2003, when I traded in running with my iPod to running with my iPhone. And now, I simply cannot imagine hitting the pavement without my phone. Sure, there are many reasons to leave that annoying ball & chain to the outside world at home, and instead try to enjoy a more "Zen-like" run, but for me, having my phone with me when I run is vital for many reasons.
First, safety, for you and others. Ladies, please take as many precautions as you can while running alone, including having your phone with you. Your phone can help when you’re getting lost, and it has the ability to be “pinged” and find your location if you’re ever incapacitated. It can also be someone else’s lifeline. Runners are often the eyes and ears of their surrounding community, a sort of neighborhood watch program if you will. We see things daily that others may not ever notice, so when something doesn’t “look” right, I am always grateful I have my phone and can call for help just in case.
Secondly, I tend to do some of my best thinking (and writing,) have some of my most positive self-talk and a-ha moments, and experience some of my best personal epiphanies while running. So it’s not uncommon for me just stop in my tracks, open up my iPhone notes, and quickly jot down what’s stirring my head. It’s also fun to go back and read them! Third, running selfies and spectacular sunrises just begging to be photographed. That is all I need to say about that!
Finally, podcasts, music, and audio books. Some runs, especially anything over 10 miles, I just could never finish without a constant distraction blaring in my ears, whether it be tunes, literature, or the chatty voices of AMR's SBS, Dimity, and the other new podcast co-hosts. (I am loving Molly and Adrienne!) Luckily, there is an endless variety of comfortable athletic iPhone holders now on the market, so I never feel physically annoyed by having to carry it, or deal with it bouncing around in a pocket. Now, it just feels as normal and necessary as my running hat. (Also a MUST for me, as I am in the Sunshine State, where hats are practically mandatory!)
Tania, the sputterer
I wish when I started running, someone told me the importance of good running underwear! I learned really quick that cotton is rotten. Not only did my "regular" underwear move around and ride up, it would sometimes cause chafing, especially on a longer run. And I had panty lines. No bueno. Ladies, we need breathable fabrics!
Now I run in materials like nylon and spandex. I'm a fan of the boy short, and I definitely need seamless. However, underwear is not a one-style-fits-all, so I suggest trying different options to see what fabrics, fit, support, and cut work for you. Sometimes trial and error is best, but you may just hit the jackpot with your first try. And if you like to run commando like some of my friends, more power to you! May the underwear odds be ever in your favor.
Pam, the grandmother
As a AMR grandma with Lupus and fibromyalgia, there are a lot of things I need to have a good run. I need comfy supportive shoes, clothes that don't chafe, proper nutrition, and my medications. Luckily I'm not on any real heavy duty meds, but they do cause me to have a pretty chronic dry mouth. So the most essential thing I need on my runs is hydration and my hard candies, usually peppermint or my new favorite, clove.
The hydration is pretty much a no brainer: Nuun, of course. But the hard candies are a newer addition that I discovered during half-marathon training last year. I had popped one in my mouth while driving to the park for a training run. (I keep a stash in my car for when I pick up the grandsons from school.) I realized that I didn't have the almost painful dry mouth that usually starts just minutes after I start running. Now before every run I make sure and pop a Nuun tablet in my bottle, a hard candy in my mouth, and stash a few candies in the pocket of my hand-held hydration pack and I'm good to go!
Nicole, the regular runner
If we’re talking about running essentials, then I must bring up the one thing that—besides running shoes—has (surprisingly) taken on a big role in my morning miles routine. It’s my running pouch thingy. Clearly that’s not its technical name, but it’s what I’ve settled on in my years-long effort to avoid calling it by its allegedly more common name. You know…starts with an F, ends with a K.
It’s fanny pack, people. Slow your roll.
This nomenclature issue recently came to a head when my dear friend Karen who, after I posted this picture on Instagram of the old thingy meeting the new one, came right out with the bitter truth. "That right there is a fanny pack," she wrote in a comment. "False!" I wanted to say, as I clutched my imaginary pearls. "This is my special running pouch, madam, where I keep very important things that are all integral parts of my running system." I’m talking:
--My house key, necessary because I’d be locked out otherwise
--My iPhone, crucial for listening to podcasts and those mile/pace prompts from the dulcet-voiced woman living inside (yes.)
--My trusty running app my headphones, all the better to hear the above pods and mile markers
Without my pouch I’d be—what?—carrying these things in my hands? Wedged in the back of my running tights? Exactly. Now you see what I already know: this is one super vital, kanga-like accessory. And given its importance, I think it might finally be time to let its rightful name settle on my mind like morning dew.
So…allow me to introduce you to one of the VIPs on my team. Friends, meet (dramatic pause) My Fanny Pack. It’s real, and it is spectacular. (And, for the record: The new term is "waistpack," and we're transitioning Nicole over to this nifty one from our friends at FuelBelt.)
Sarah, the Triathlete
For those of you who were in the AMR Stride Through the Holidays Facebook group (miss you guys!), you may remember me posting a picture of my “crazy pants”—a pair of boldly striped blue-and-green running tights I wore to a particularly tough 5:45 am track workout. The post launched a flurry of enthusiasm among the group with Mother Runners all around the country stepping out of their basic black running gear and into tights covered in snazzy stripes, neon colors, zig-zags, polka dots, even majestic unicorns and photos of Hans Solo and Chewy (I’m looking at you, Jennifer Margnelli). My running group even planned a "crazy pants" day at our weekly track session (see below). Seems like you ladies love the crazy pants (or "fancy" pants as they later become known in the group). And so do I.
In fact, patterned tights (And capris. And shorts.) have become a staple in my workout wardrobe. And they’re definitely essential when I’m facing a menacing workout. Mile repeats? Treadmill tempo? A long run? Nothing me in my crazy pants can’t handle. I’m fiercer, bolder, and a more confident runner when I’ve got them on. Plus, they’re simply fun to wear. As soon as I slip them on, I'm in a better, more motivated mood, ready to tackle whatever’s heading my way. So if you’re running wardrobe is monochromatic, go ahead and infuse a little pop of crazy in it. It may be just the kick you need to get you out the door. (Speaking of patterned pants, check out the spring version of our favorite capris: Saucony Bullet. SBS saw them at a tradeshow last summer, and has been jonesing for them ever since!)