Gearing Up for a Lifetime of Trail (or Ultra!) Running Fun
For those of us who enjoy running, one silver lining of this year's COVID-19 pandemic has been the expansion of our community (you cyclists have noticed it as well). When gyms were closed, a lot of people realized they could get their exercise pretty easily, and very affordably, by just lacing up a pair of shoes and heading out the door – for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or more. Running, jogging, walking, a combination, whatever.
Eventually a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available and the world will return to "normal" (whatever that looks like), but we expect that quite a lot of people will continue to enjoy the running that was introduced to them during the pandemic, and that they will be interested in pushing themselves further. Racing, for example, or moving past 5Ks and 10Ks to run marathons and even ultras.
If you're in the "new to running" or "new to trail running" category, your running-experienced friends are a great source of information and advice, but in case you've come to our sport on your own, and don't know a group of people who regularly run loops in MacRitchie Reservoir Park, or along the coast in East Coast Park or Pasir Ris, we thought we'd write something about running gear. Because that's what we do – try to connect runners (and cyclists and swimmers and triathletes and OCR racers) to the gear that will best support their training and racing objectives.
To start with, you really don't need ANY gear to be a runner. Ethiopian marathon legend Abebe Bikila proved that when he won the Olympic marathon in 1960 in Rome ... barefoot. [In 1964 Bikila won again in Tokyo, this time wearing shoes, but very likely he only wore them because Puma paid him quite a lot of money.]
That said, most of us don't train in rural Ethiopia on dirt roads and paths. We want and need SOME protection for our feet. In choosing running shoes, there are many factors to consider: stability, cushioning, weight, flexibility, grip and of course fit (especially width). Oh, and looks. :)
Fit is by far the most important of those factors, and there really is no substitute for trying on shoes in person. Ideally with someone who is knowledgeable about shoes and how they fit runners in various conditions. [That's what we're here for!] Fun fact: several years ago a Nike study found that 60% of people are wearing the wrong sized shoe. Don't let that be you!
You have socks, you say? Sure, and they may be just fine, but as is true in many other areas of life, technology has improved the sock experience. Specialty high-performance socks today fit snugly, dry quickly and help prevent blisters. Try some, see what you think. A few pairs of good socks are an inexpensive upgrade to those floppy, holey cotton tennis socks you've been wearing since high school.
For sure in Singapore the clothing question is easier than in many other places. Shorts and a t-shirt (optional, for men) are pretty much all you need. That said, again, technology has improved since the days of cotton gym shorts and t-shirts. Running apparel now comes in lightweight, fast-drying, supportive fabrics that look and feel terrific. And some shorts and tops have storage pockets that can carry keys, phone, nutrition. Something to check out at some point.
Can we talk about lube? Sure, we can, your mother's in the other room. If you run (or cycle, or do just about anything that involves sweating and wearing clothes and/or shoes, you're almost certainly going to run up against chafing at some point. Where? All sorts of places, mentionable and unmentionable. Weirdly, some people are more chafe-prone; some people seem to get a free pass. If you chafe (especially likely on humid or rainy days), you don't need to suffer in silence. There are all sorts of lubrication products, and we stock a number of them. Which one do you need? That probably depends on where you chafe. Some lubes are thicker, like a paste; some more liquid. Ask us.
If you're running only 30-60 minutes a day, you don't need to carry any nutrition. If you're going farther, you need to think about nutrition AND hydration. There are many, many solutions. Powders that can be mixed into water, gels and bars. Sports nutrition (and the nutrition products that help you recover quickly from hard workouts) is a huge and important subject, and if you're serious about your sport, you should learn something about it, and experiment to discover what works best for you. We've written about this before. We've also written about nutrition that helps you recover from tough efforts. Also worth reading if you're new to the subject. And as with everything else, come in to the shop and ask us questions. That's what we're here for.
If you're going far, you need to think about how you're going to stay hydrated. In Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia it's very easy to get dehydrated, especially if you're doing sport and sweating buckets. There are many ways to carry water/liquid sports nutrition, and we know a lot about the subject. You can think about something like the Naked Running Band, which is a simple, capacious, durable and affordable storage belt that fits around your waist, or you can go with a hydration vest with a capacity from 2 liters to 25 liters (including other gear). Or for shorter efforts, you can go with a handheld bottle.
It's true Abebe Bikila didn't wear sunglasses when he won the Olympic marathon in Rome, but that was (probably) because the race was held at night. For the same reason, he didn't need sunscreen. You may want those things. We have them. You may also want a hat or a visor. We have those also. If you decide you want to run/hike long distances over mountains, you may want to investigate trekking poles. We have those also. And so on.
So, yes, while running is a simple and inexpensive sport to get into, it IS possible to scratch your retail itch! We recommend making an effort to find the right gear for you (which is not necessarily the same gear your friend has – this is especially true of running shoes). Check out our website, or better, come into the shop to have a look around. And don't be afraid to ask us questions. We're wearing masks but behind them we're smiling.