Since the time I took up running as a hobby in 2014, I have learned many of the nuances of becoming a better runner. From the day I started, when I ran/walked 8km in around 1 hour 46 min, till the day I completed a half marathon in less than 2 hours, it has been a journey full of discoveries and lessons. Apart from the physical aspect of the improvements, there are a lot of material improvements, that went hand in hand along with my every race. In this post, I want to list out the various brands that I have used or am still using that have improved my performance.
This is the most important part of running. Depending upon whether you are flat footed, or with a low arch, or whether you over-pronate or under-pronate, you would have to do the research on your running style and find the right pair of shoes accordingly. In my case, I used to overpronate a lot, owing to low arches in my feet. I needed shoes that provided stability. After a lot of research, and availability of options, I opted for Nike’s Lunarglide. Its a brilliant piece of work by Nike, very lightweight and ample cushioning for the feet. You can check it out on their site. I used this brand for over a year.
Before, Asics was not so widely available. But when Asics started expanding in India, I found great alternatives to Lunarglide: the Asics Gel Kayano 24 and the Asics GT 2000 5. Although website rankings put Asics Gel Kayano 24 above the GT 2000 5, my personal choice has been the latter. I like the GT 2000. Now, given that Asics is much heavier than Nike, the sole gives much more stability. I finished my first marathon wearing the GT 2000 5. I finished the race without much damage to my feet, a couple of blisters and some soreness, that’s it. The shoes are amazing.
That being said, Nike still has its advantages in short distances. I love the Nike free 5.0 version of its shoes. Although it doesn’t really suit my pronation, but its very light and I just feel I move really fast in those shoes. My fastest 5k was a little over 20 min, and I feel a large part of this was due to the light shoes and the fact that I could feel the ground through those thin soles and propel myself strongly as if I am not wearing any shoes at all. So, bottomline, for me, short distances, Nike works well, long distances, Asics all the way.
Here’s a reference for one of the websites I use to read about the shoes I use.
This has been another critical part of my running for the past 3-4 years. I used to run with my iPhone and an app named Runtastic. The app was great, and I wasn’t looking for anything else, really. But in walked my wife with gifts one fine day. She bought me a Garmin vivo smart HR watch. At first, I looked at it as an accessory, a good to have item. But soon I started loving its features. It was way ahead of its time back then. It had GPS, could be connected to my phone via bluetooth, I could control music with my watch, and even pick calls or decline them.
Apart from running, it had features to track a huge range of activities, right from running/walking/cycling, to swimming, golfing, and even indoor exercises. It tracks heartbeats, calories and maintained records of all activities. But anyway, coming back to running, for me, it helped me track my running and helped me train better, clock my laps, go faster and longer based on my previous records.
It comes a bit pricey, but I think Garmin has been a part of athletes’ tool kit for long and with zany upgrades to its watches, and running becoming so popular, this is a brand to watch out for and worth owning for every runner.
For those who have run marathons, energy gels are life-savers. The first marathon I tried running was with a few bananas, a snickers bars. I was naive. I broke down and hit the wall around the 29th kilometer. That ended in a failure, but left me smarter. The next marathon I prepared for I was better equipped. After reading multiple reviews, I settled on GU gels to power my run.
GU gels contain essential carbohydrates, amino acids and salts to replenish the body and fuel the run. They come in various flavors, chocolate is my favourite. But the most effective one I feel is Salted caramel flavor. It has the highest % of sodium and I use that in all my long distance runs.
Now, GU gels are not so widely available in India (unfortunately). So, sometimes, I go for an alternative, that goes by the name Fast and UP. Its an Indian brand and does the job of refueling. The taste is something that I can’t really praise, but with a few sips of water, its becomes quite bearable.
One of the factors which led to my failure to complete my marathon in 2016 was water. Lagos marathon is not a very well managed marathon, unfortunately, and often times runners don’t get water at the water desks. By the 14th kilometer, I was already beginning to dehydrate. Taking this as a lesson, I always carry a water vest, even if it slows me down a bit.
Usually the only criteria for choosing a water vest, is its weight and the friction its parts could generate. I made the mistake of buying some watervest from a well known brand online on amazon. It was heavy and it fit my body very awkwardly. Such that when I ran, it gave jerky movements and I was way out of my depth trying to carry it.
After that, I chanced upon a visit to a decathlon store, where I found this amazingly light 1L water vest, under the brand name Kalenji. It was a perfect fit for my body and just clung onto me like I was born with it. I have been using that brand ever since. So, my advice to my readers would be that watervests, you need to really physically look at it and try it before buying.
Other than that, the running gears that marketers come up with are still quite a few but I would not say critical. Nevertheless, let me list out things I use that possibly could help you.
- Sports cap with an open head to protect the face against the sun
- Cooling sleeves to protect hands
- Running glasses by Oakley to protect the eyes (this really helps cooling the head down, coz running in the sun really gets to you if you continue doing this for hours. I use this pair given in the link (although mine are black)
- Finally, compression socks for calves. It helps against shin splints and also helps faster recoveries.
All of these items have been used by me throughout these 4 years of running. Not all of them are necessary to make you a better runner, but provided you have the money to spare, they will help you get better results, better recovery rates and more satisfaction from each run.
Hope this post is helpful to some!