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What do you need to run in?

London Marathon
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Richard Irvine-Brown is a BBC Sport journalist in training for the London Marathon. He also keeps an interactive training diary on BBC 606.

Hi again, all.

Thanks for all the suggestions for people who inspire you. I'm trying to get a few words with some elite runners and ultra-marathoners, keep an eye out.

After a few months complaining about blisters, snot, and sore nipples, Tom Fordyce finally did the charitable thing for the office and put me in contact with a man who really knows his kit.

Andy Barber competes regionally and nationally at cross-country and runs 75-115 miles a week, over 10 sessions. He also reviews trainers and kit and runs shoeguide.co.uk (I tried their shoe wizard gizmo and it recommended the same pair as I'm currently running in after having my footstrike analysed back in March).

In such a position, Andy gets to run in the latest stuff: "It's great but I've got a dozen pairs!”

So what makes a good pair?

"Look for what you need and what your bio-mechanics are.

"Developers will have a runner in mind when they design a shoe. The Brooks Beast is for a heavier guy and comes with a lot of support. Whereas the Nike Zoom Elite has cushioning for a lighter runner, and support is emphasised in the middle and the forefoot.

"There's been a shift in the philosophy of making shoes. When you compare what was advanced 15 years ago to now it seems quite primitive!

“Now we have segmented soles, de-coupled heels, and a host of new technologies to reduce the excessive rolling of the foot for over-pronators.”

So have more runners meant better trainers or vice versa?

"Primarily people have seen the need to keep fit. Look at what athletes like Ron Hill did in the '60s - it was hardcore. Nowadays he like other runners are more recreational and the product has changed. Protective shoes for recreational runners are very important. Racing shoes are now very niche - competitive athletes probably have to mail order their racing shoes."

As a competitive athlete how does that make you feel?

"No-one has to prove their membership to run. You can wear lousy tennis shoes and beach shorts and go for a run but will you enjoy it? The technology in running clothes is phenomenal now. You're getting 3D weaves, sonic bonding and silver thread - it's anti-bacterial and dissipates heat! If you feel better, you'll have a better run."

What about socks?

"Go for a single layer with panels and gripping bands. Dual-layers are there to prevent blisters but getting shoes that fit and lacing them up properly will do that."

Cycling shorts and leggings - any use or fashion disaster?

"I wear compression clothing for recovery. Some specific products, not any old lycra, will aid proprioception, making you more aware of what you're doing and your movement to increase both technique and efficiency. It’s similar to ankle support bandages making you aware of your ankle and stopping you going over.

"Applying pressure to muscle stimulates circulation, opens capillaries, and your muscles get oxygen. I wear them to bed. It's a nice alternative to an ice bath."

I've noticed a lot more athletes wearing gloves. They're big softies, no?

"No, they're useful. Make sure they have an absorbent forefinger panel for all the sweat and snot!"

So how does wicking work?

"The idea is to let the sweat be drawn through the material and evaporate, not cling to your body. It allows you to cool down, and sweat is extra weight. It's uncomfortable and clings to you, reducing your freedom of movement."

What about other kit?

"Sports glasses sell well and I'm a big fan. I get hayfever so they help, but the main thing is UV protection. Tension spreads quickly, if you're squinting it can have a knock-on effect in your neck, your shoulders, down to your legs.

"Some people like to run with gels and water, some with waist packs and all kinds of water bottles. Some of it is trend, some of it is need.

"Make sure bottles aren't bouncing around and that you have easy access to them. Take lots of small ones, rather than one big one.You have to get used to drinking what's given to you on the run you're aiming for. If you're running the London Marathon get used to drinking sachets of Lucozade."

What do you look for in a pair of trainers? What other kit do you swear by or swear off?

Latest 10 comments

Read members' comments or add your own

posted Feb 7, 2008

d_p - exactly so, running is cheap, doesn't require teams, a pitch, referees, etc. Hopefully, anybody can have a go at it.
Have you got any favourite tech shirts? I've got two short-sleeves, and they are a class above even the wicking tops I have.
I don't like caps, though, they leave a nasty sweat ring round my head (more so than beanies).

ff - do the heavy duty ballet slippers fare against blisters? Do they protect the ankle and ball? (I'm asking honestly, I've never run in light-weights.) I'd always presumed they wouldn't offer the cushion a foot and ankle would need over 40 miles a week.
I'm the opposite about warmth - I hate being hot while running, no more than a t-shirt and five-inch shorts. But then I freely admit I could be weird.
Since talking to Andy I bought a pair of towel-lined gloves, they're great! Really help clear my face of sweat and gunk. After only a fortnight I don't like running without them. (And thin gloves will always look dapper.)

biskit - never found anti-blister socks to be much help, (606 user) KansasYank recommended anti-blister rub-on stick - it really does help, better than vaseline, I even use it on my nipples now.
I'm still getting used to compression material on my legs. I've worn it in a gym and, yes, they leave little to the imagination. Running while blushing is odd.
Probably, unfortunately, not interviewing Mr Karnazes (trying to keep this London and/or Marathon distance focused). I'm having a few chats with an amateur ultra-runner, may go for a few training runs with him, will let you know. He's no less inspirational.

Thanks again, all, have a good run!

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posted Feb 7, 2008

I agree you don't need to spend a lot of money on kit to run (I know some triathletes who rack up massive bills!) but some of the techy stuff out there does make life more comfortable. I'm in the big softie brigade - I'd rather save all my pain tolerance for the effects of exercise and not waste it on the annoyance/discomfort of being too cold/too hot/having my skin rubbed off.

I like some of the Nike dryfit stuff and Gore is great for cold weather. I did used to have tracksuit bottoms and cheapy cotton long sleeved t-shirts for cold weather but they were drafty, chaffed, restricted movement and were heavy and clingy when wet. Beside the Gore stuff looks cool smiley

Gloves - absolutely. Was used to the tips of my fingers freezing on early morning winter runs even with gloves but got fed up when started getting some sort of frost-bite effect which left fingers sore for weeks so wear more warm clothes now. Can always take layers off. If on long run and need to stop for some reason I'd rather have too much gear than too little.

In summer the less the better - I've been asked if I was planning on swiming when running on our local canal path a few times!

Lightweight shoes - I use them for everything. I tend to run in them until holes start appearing but it doesn't seem to lead to injury. To my knowledge the shoes designed to control overpronation etc. only work if you're heelstriking. Once you're more forefoot/midfoot striking they're a bit pointless. I don't like heel cushioning because it almost forces you to heel-strike even when that is not your natural style and thus makes itself necessary by its very presence.

Choose your shoes based on how you run (bodyweight, gait, anatomy, distance and surfaces run). If your style makes you injury prone maybe get some advice and work on changing it rather than treating the symptoms.

ff would have you running barefoot Richard. He's got lots of running knowledge but do bear in mind that he is a lightweight, fast runner, and his name will tell you that he doesn't have time for heel cushioning!

I'm not sure what you mean about protecting the ankle? Surely no running shoes do that - unless you're running in your hiking boots?? Strengthen your ankles with some exercise such as one leg squats with your eyes closed, or using wobble boards, and build up some off-road running instead.

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posted Feb 7, 2008

Hi Richard
I got selected in the King Henry Relay team for the Wednesday just gone and ran! We came 4th out of 36 schools but unfortunately lost our title sadface
I ran on leg 3/6 and more than held my own i took 1 person and was 3rd fastest in a team that included 2 sixth formers and 2 year 11's

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posted Feb 8, 2008

fun_runner - you sum up the shoe conundrum very well - i.e the shoes need to be right for the runner, but the shoes will themselves influence the way you run.

It's true that i'm relatively lightweight, but if i was training to give my son a marathon piggyback ride i would certainly still use light shoes and stay off my heels - legs absorb shock so much more easily and efficiently than foam rubber, and a stable foot on the ground is essential for avoiding injuries.

As for blisters - i would argue that good technique helps - if your feet are landing gently they won't slip around inside your shoes and generate heat. It's just a theory though - my lack of blisters may be the same as my need to wrap up warm - my extremities don't seem to heat up very well when i run.

Tech kit - i like the fact its easy to wash and dry, and i think feeling good about how you look can make the difference between keeping up with training and giving up, so it's money well spent. Sadly most of my tech stuff is baggy and full of holes and looks awful sadface

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posted Feb 8, 2008

yep, I agree - landing on your heel and taking a large part of your natural suspension system out of the equation just feels wrong to me too.

Blisters - don't get them much either so had never thought about it. Didn't realise they could be heat related. That might explain why my worst blisters ever where in hot Berlin marathon - I was blaming wet feet from running through every single firehose shower for want of any logical reason.

Since you have a birthday coming up seems good excuse to sort the kit out ff. Or show up to one of the Team Bath 5k series - I got a £20 run-shop voucher for a shockingly slow time on Sunday!

I always look at the 'activewear' section in bargain shop TK Max when I'm in a town that has one too - mostly aerobics type stuff but keep finding the occasional dead cheap techy running gear item buried amongst the trackie bottoms and trendy glittery tops!

How is the London training going?

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posted Feb 8, 2008

Training going well actually - not at all structured, but i am really enjoying it. No fatigue or niggles and even the harder runs are fun - 4 x 10mins at threshold last night felt really good. I am still a bit tubby (hey, if you can claim to be shockingly slow, then i can claim to be overweight) but i am starting to beleive i will be fit enough to have a comfortable day out in April.

New kit - I have bought a couple of things in discount bins, but sort of feel i need to get back to voucher-winning form to justify getting new stuff. Maybe the Terminator in Pewsey will help - there is a juicy team prize up for grabs (£50 per runner)!

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posted Feb 8, 2008

Fun_runner - Yes, I am a heelstriker. I'm currently in a jogging crisis (see this week's article) and may well try a few forced ballstrike-only sessions to get back on track. My ankles have always been the thing that 'goes' in my body and so I can't imagine a trainer that doesn't have lots of heel cushioning. Which I (probably falsely) expect to help my ankle.

Sam Robbo - that's great going! Sounds like you have great sporting potential! Keep it up and let us all know on 606!

ff (and everyone else) - all sounds good, I don't know how you guys keep yourselves so positive. You'll have to gimme some good chat when the next article drops. I am, in every way, the jogging Ee-aw this week.

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posted Feb 9, 2008

Richard - there are often tough/bleak patches in marathon training. It is such a long term project. When I feel rubbish (like I have on my long runs so far) I just try and remind myself that I don't need to feel good/be fast now, I need to get there by April 13th. If running along at slug speed for 2+ hours is going to get my body adapting for endurance then I've just got to do it. It is like a jigsaw - all the pieces don't come together until late in the day, and then it feels brilliant. You've just got to keep the faith.

When you say your ankle 'goes' what do you mean? You go over on it while running or something else?

If you are going to try and change your running style mid-marathon training might be a difficult time to do it. If you change how your foot strikes the ground there will be changes in the stresses on various muscles/bones/tendons etc. up the system. You need to give these time to adapt to new loads. If you are running 40 miles a week and then suddenly change your style and run 40 miles differently it is a hell of a leap for your body to make. Maybe do a little bit at a time so that nothing snaps? ff may be able to advise - I think I recall he deliberately changed his style at one point a few years ago.

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posted Feb 13, 2008

Shoes - Get tested and get the most suitable ones.

Gloves - when it's freezing are a must - even when the rest of you seems hot your hands are still blue.

Good T-Shirts - I've turned into a nike fan boy and have about 5 different ones. Favourite is a long sleeved flouresent yellow one in winter. In Summer it will change. Generally I like a little zip at front and a v-neck.

Socks - good socks feel more comfortable and are drier at the end of the run - weather it improves you as a runner is very much debatable. I use Thorlo's or Brooks.

Not one for head / full on leg and body protection.

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posted Feb 14, 2008

Your shoes are your main piece of kit.

The gloves thing is funny. Did the man really recommend gloves for sweat and snot?

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