The only thing you need to run is a pair of running shoes. And some people even get by without those. This is regularly driven home to me by the guy in his GAA top/shorts and knackered shoes who laps me in parkRun.
But if you read this blog you’re probably a geek like me and of course I’m riddled with tech when I go for a lot of my runs. So this is my current ERC (Every Run Carry). I treat things like running bottles exactly the same way I treat my Garmin, they are both tech.
Running Shoes / Runners
I have three main pairs at the moment.
Altra Paradigm 1.5
The Paradigm has been my main pair of shoes (along with the 1.0) since June 2015. Zero drop with incredible cushioning and extremely wide toe-box. Your feet will be immaculate after 26.2 miles. But the heel design is completely useless. They don’t lock your heel at all and the inner material wears away after a few weeks. Also see my comment on the Skechers below. The weight of the Paradigms is really obvious to me now. But if you are of heavier build and want tons of sole between you and the road, there’s nothing better.
Altra Lone Peak 3.0
See my review here. A more recent update is that I did the MCI Ballina Marathon in them, as I expected much more trails. My feet were suffering by the end but they did surprisingly well for so much road. Overall they are great on rocky/gritty trails but far too slippy in Irish mud and bogs. I’m eyeing up both the Inov-8 Mudclaws and various Salomons for the mud.
Skechers GoRun 5
I immediately carved off at least 30 secs a mile with the GoRun 5 compared to the Paradigm. Even if it’s all psychological, they work! They are featherlight compared to the Altras. Whilst they aren’t zero drop and they have 10mm less padding, I adjusted to them instantly. The fact that they are cheap and available in any Skechers shop makes them even more attractive. I love them except for one thing - they are far too narrow. Both my little toes were shredded by them last week in the Brighton Marathon. But if you don’t have wide feet, these are fantastic.
Running Jacket, Tops, Pants and Socks
Most of my running tops come from the races I have completed. The 2016 Berlin Marathon one is by far my favourite and I actually got a second one, I like it so much. The worst was the 2016 Cork Marathon one which I recently described as a EuroSaver Barbed Wire Boobtube.
But my top tip for running gear is Lidl. I’ve worn through the crotches of two Lidl running shorts. I still use their tops and socks. I’ve never used their running shoes but they look fine.
I love the Decathlon Kalenji rainproof/windproof running jacket I got last December. I’ve gone up mountains in it and not a drop of water got through. I’m not sure if they still sell the exact one. It was approx €30 in their store in La Defense. However it’s not breathable so you will pour with sweat.
I’ve a bunch of different socks including Balega, Inov-8, 1000 Mile and Hillies. If Jamil Coury can do 3 loops of the Barkley Marathon in $2.50 Target socks, I don’t think you need to worry too much about them.
My main running shorts are Ron Hill and Mizuno. They give me the least chafing over marathon distances. Both lack decent pocket space for gels tho. I also now use Runderwear and of course Bodyglide or similar. I’ve had zero issues in that area since I switched to that combo.
I paid a silly amount of money for my Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire. And I haven’t regretted it for one second. At the time it was Garmin’s most expensive watch. I got it because of the crazy number of features, the multi-sport aspect, the ruggedness, the 7-day battery life and the fact that it looks ok as a normal watch (albeit very big). I just couldn’t deal with charging an Apple Watch every night. Over the past 16 months it has lived up to every expectation and the software keeps improving. It has Wifi built-in so even when it loses Bluetooth connection to my phone (a very common Galaxy S6 problem), it can still upload all data to the “cloud”. It has only screwed up on GPS badly once, at the Berlin Marathon. Oddly, it had some GPS issues today for the first time in 6 months. Not sure why.
The new Fenix 5 looks like a superb upgrade but I’ll be holding on to the 3 for quite a few years. The only two things it is missing are built-in heart rate monitor and the ability to deal with Smart Bluetooth sensors (I think it can only do Ant+).
In reality, the cheapest Garmin Forerunners are more than enough but if you have even the cheapest Android phone, that is perfectly capable of doing the job, using a range of third party apps (see below).
Heart Rate Monitor
I previously had a Lidl Bluetooth HRM chest strap but it didn’t work with the Fenix 3. I replaced it with the Garmin Ant+ HRM chest strap and it has worked flawlessly. It has been very interesting watching my steady-state running heart rate go down as my fitness goes up. I also love getting “Extreme Suffer Score” on Strava due to having my heart at 155bpm for hours on end.
The chest straps are apparently more accurate than the the wrist one built into watches but obviously the latter are handier and involve one less piece of kit.
I’ve used em all. And like most people I have settled on Strava. Not because it is necessarily technically the best but it has the most number of integrations to things like Garmin devices and it has the biggest community.
I can’t really criticise it. It does everything I need and they keep improving it. I’d love if you could add photos from the web-app and some of the navigation is awkward. But that’s it. The Garmin integration is great.
Don’t bother unless you are stats obsessed. I got the Milestone Pod as it’s fantastic value. I really only got it for properly tracking treadmill runs. It gives a ton of info about stride length, foot strike, cadence, ground contact, rate of impact etc. I’m just not sure I’m going to change how I run as a result. I also think it’s 100% wrong about me heel striking. Possibly due to my weight? It uses Bluetooth Smart and works with Strava too.
For the past 6 years I’ve used an Omron BF510 scales with fat analysis etc. I manually transcribed the data to a Google Docs spreadsheet. I finally upgraded this year but decided to keep it cheap. The Yunmai M1301 scales is absolutely brilliant. It gives all the same fat data as the Omron but without needing to hold hand sensors. It uses Bluetooth Smart to talk to a mobile App and uploads the data to their cloud. Unfortunately there is no web-app to access or download your data - you are stuck with the mobile App. I wrote a Node.js app to deal with this (saves to Google Sheets) if you are interested.
Obviously you could pay double for a Withings or Garmin or similar.
I spent years trying every type of headphone. The ones that have worked best are these SMS Audio Sports headphones. No amount of sweat seems to bother them. The inline controls only work fully with iPhone. On Galaxy S6 you only have play/pause and skip. Like most recent headphones it has a right-angled jack. Which is a total pain if you have your phone in a sports armband. I’ve had to buy a Fospower inline extension to make it easier to insert/remove.
I recently had another go at Bluetooth headphones. I gave up on the Motorola SD10 HD due to head pain. I’m very tempted by the Jaybird X2 but I decided to get cheap Anker IE20 to see if I’d like that style of behind-the-neck cable. And the answer is no. I hate having the cable move around on my neck and pull at my ears. I also only got 2.5 hours from them which is 3 hours short for one of my marathons. So I’m sticking with the SMS.
Armband and Other Bands
Belkin are the only ones that have worked well for me with various Android phones. But I have a Galaxy S8+ on the way and I think it may be too big for my arm. So I’ll be trying to use it with this FlipBelt.
Nutrition & Hydration
Torq gels were recommended to me several years ago by a friend. I still love them. They actually taste nice, unlike most which are disgusting. However they are pricey from the UK. Last summer I bought a ton of different ones when in San Francisco. I’m now a big fan of some of GU’s gels. Particularly the ones with caffeine in them. Caramel is a real fave. Their chews are also extremely good.
I normally just use water for hydration and whatever is offered during races. The warm tea in Berlin was a highlight and the Lucozade Sport in Dublin worked very well too. Recently I used some electrolyte powder in my water bottle on a training run and it was fine. Just not sure I need it.
I really like this water Ultimate Performance water bottle. It has an adjustable elastic strap and a waterproof pouch for your car keys and emergency €20.
I got a €10 pack and bladder from a Chinese site last year but it chafed like hell. The 15yo used the bladder in his backpack on some scouting hikes instead.
When I was in the massive Decathlon store in Paris last December, I got the Kalenji Trail Running Bag. I used it on a couple of hikes in Ballyhoura recently and I loved it. I didn’t try the bladder, I just used it as an ultra-lightweight pack with easy access to pockets for compass, maps, bivvy bag, GoPro-knockoff and water bottles. I’ve also just bought some Ron Hill Soft Flasks to go in the chest pockets.
Glasses and Contact Lenses
“Disposable” shades from Lidl, dx.com or banggood.com are all I ever wear. All are less than €10 and usually last a year or two. So it’s no problem if they break, get scratched or get lost. I’m sure €200 designer shades are great but I’m not wasting my money on that.
As for contact lenses, Acuvue Trueye do the job for me. The only time I really wear lenses is when I run. FeelGoodContacts in the UK are the best value I’ve found.
Go Pro Knock-Offs
I’ve already reviewed the Elephone Explorer Pro. Poor battery life alone means I can’t recommend it. If I was serious I’d get the Go Pro Hero 5 Black. But I’m not, so I’ll probably get the Yi II for less than half the price soon and retire the Elephone to dashcam duties.