Swim: 0 m/112,725 m
Bike: 0/1,247.9 miles
Run: 10.9/555.9 miles
You often hear about how running is such a simple endeavor because of the lack of equipment required. And while I generally prescribe to this theory – I don’t use a fancy GPS device, heart-rate monitor, mp3 player or other electronic gadgets – there are a couple items that I’ve come to rely on to get me through my longest and hardest runs. It’s amazing what a difference they’ve made for me this year, even if most of the benefit exists only in my head.
Sunglasses: In more than six years of running before the start of 2011, I never wore sunglasses on a run. In fact, I’ve never been much of a sunglass person – I was even kind of a late adopter when it came to wearing them while driving a car. I scoffed at people who wore them on runs – “Oh, aren’t they so cool.” But a funny thing happened when my triathlon training got into full swing. I started wearing them on runs. And loved it.
It all started as a result of my biking – glasses are good not only to keep the sun out of your eyes but also the wind and bugs as you reach higher speeds. I would wear them all the time on the bike. Later, when I started incorporating brick workouts, I would just leave the glasses on when I ditched the bike and helmet. It was a whole new world – I had never realized how much I was squinting, altering the position of my head or even running blind when the sun was in front of me.
Wearing glasses has changed all that – the sun doesn’t bother me and my face is more relaxed. It sounds ridiculously simple in hindsight, and I look back to all those early morning runs and races when I cursed the sun that seemed to burn my very retinas and make forward vision an impossibility. No more. I now wear sunglasses on just about every run, unless I’m assured that any cloud cover will last through the session. And now maybe glassless runners scoff at me for being too cool (doubtful), but I’m far more focused on the benefit to my running than any boost in my already minimal coolness.
Shoes: OK, this is a given – shoes are the one piece of equipment that most runners outside of the hardcore barefoot clan can agree on. But I am in love with my specific shoes – the Saucony Kinvara 2 – and treat them with the highest reverence. If I’m starting a run from somewhere other than my driveway – the gym, for instance – I often take my Kinvaras in a backpack and put them on once I reach the location, where I gingerly unsheath them like deadly weapons about to be unleashed on the treadmill. I don’t like wearing them when I’m not actively running – it would be like driving your Ferrari to the grocery store. They’re meant for action.
Ever since my very first run in my new Kinvaras about three months ago, I’ve been faster. Many people will say that the shoes don’t make you faster, and maybe that’s true. But I’ve felt faster, and perhaps that feeling has made me push harder to live up to the potential promised by those bright yellow shoes. They’re much lighter than any previous shoe I’ve worn, and the reduced heel padding and height facilitates proper form. And their fit is so comfortable I can hardly tell I’m wearing them. Perhaps those qualities are a small part of a series of factors that produce faster runs.
In any case, I’m utterly attached to them, and just this week I bought my second pair. I have about 240 miles on the first pair and will start to phase in the new ones over the coming weeks, and likely wear them in my half-marathon next month.
As much as I love my Kinvaras, I realize that they’re not the shoe for everyone. Each runner has to find what works for him or her. But when you do find something that makes a workout more tolerable (sunglasses) or even reignites a passion for running (the perfect shoes), embrace it!