A Runner's Survival Kit

January 17th 2020

Part of the beauty of running is the simplicity of it. As a friend of mine once said, 'It's like walking, only faster.' While running demands much more of your body than walking, the act is quite similar in that all you're really doing is putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again. If you know how to walk, it's likely you know how to run (or can learn how to do it).

At a high level, all you really need to get started is a quality pair of running shoes. If you're frugal, you can theoretically get by with nothing more than this. But, if you want to run farther, faster, farther AND faster, or simply want to steer clear of aggravations/injuries, picking up a few items above and beyond 'just' a pair of quality running kicks is a good idea.

What I've outlined below is what I'd characterize as 'A Runner's Survival Kit'. While none of the items below (aside from shoes) are necessarily 'required', if you want to make running a 'lifestyle', I'd encourage you to at least consider some of the items below.

Pumped Up Kicks

There's no question that THE most important piece of equipment you can own is a quality pair of running shoes. Your running kicks provide you with cushioning, support, and stability for 300-500 miles, typically. The #1 question I get about running shoes is 'What's the best pair of running shoes?'

The answer to this question is, 'It depends.' It depends on how you're built, it depends on 'how' you run, it depends on what 'kind' of running you're doing (trail, road, track, etc). There is no one BEST shoe. There is just the best shoe for 'you'.

Every company (Nike, Adidas, Asics, etc) makes a variety of shoes that work well for just about every runner out there. Ultimately, it's a matter of finding a shoe that fits well, that feels good when you're running, and looks awesome. I'm just kidding about that last item...mostly.

If you want to know my favorites, I'll tell you. But, take my suggestions with a grain of salt. Just because theses shoes work well for ME, doesn't mean they will necessarily work for YOU. In no particular order, here are my 'current' top three pumped up (running) kicks.....

The Salomon Speedcross 4 will always have a special place in my heart. These workhorses have powered me through countless miles in the Marin Headlands. They carried me through my first 50K and first (and likely last) 50 miler. They're built to last. The Speedcross is adept at handling both technical and non-technical trails. The aggressive outsole design will keep you sure-footed even in the sloppiest of conditions. For trail kicks, they're pretty light at just about 10.5 ounces. To boot, these shoes look pretty hot! :)

The Hoka Clayton is a shoe I strapped on reluctantly at first. Years ago, I'd logged more than a few miles in the very FIRST pair of Hokas (that would be the Hoka One One's 'Bondi B') and didn't enjoy them. But, the Clayton's were a revelation. Far from being a bulky, clunky monstrosity like the Bondi B, the Claytons felt sleek, efficient, fast, AND super cushioned. They are shockingly light at just over 8 ounces. In short order, these shoes became my go to for any long distance road run and they served me well at more than a few track workouts and tempo runs.

The Adidas Ultraboost cast a spell on me immediately. It was love at first run. The boost midsole material is for real. I felt like there was a spring in my step no matter how far or long I ran. It's also got a snug, slipper-like fit. While I generally like rotating through 3-4 pairs of shoes in a given week of running, I find myself slipping on the Boosts a bit more frequently than the other kicks in my arsenal.

TLC (rollers, sticks, etc)

If you own a car, it's likely that you get regular oil changes, bring your car into the shop for general maintenance, and spend a few bucks periodically to make sure your car continues to run smoothly. As a runner, think of your body in the same way you would your car. The miles you log will inevitably lead to microtears in muscle fiber, tightness, fatigue, etc. Thus, you need to give your body some regular TLC (that's 'Tender Loving Care' for the uninitiated).

You can do this in a couple ways. The first is to get a regular sports massage every 2-4 weeks. Another way is to do some daily self-care with some kind of self-massage 'tool'.

There are countless self-massage tools available to you. But, my favorites are as follows....

Pro-Tec Foam Roller. I'm not going to lie to you. Using a foam roller can be 'uncomfortable'. But, trust me, it hurts so good! Following a run, EVERYTHING has a tendency to contract and tighten up. You've got micro-tears in muscle fiber, adhesions, and more. Spending some quality time with a foam roller can help increase blood flow, expedite recovery, and loosen up anything that might be tight. Get friendly with a foam roller and it will pay divideds.

The Travel Stick.  The foam roller is great, but you need a little real estate to use it properly. Additionally, the foam roller is not terribly portable. Enter the RPI Travel Stick. This guy is portable, versatile, and (nearly) as effective as a foam roller. I like having a stick handy in the trunk of my car at the end of a long run. Spending a few minutes rolling things out immediately following your run is a great way to expedite recovery.

The Orb Deep Tissue Massage Ball Sometimes, you've got to dig DEEP to get to the root cause of a problem. Similarly, you may find yourself ailing from a particularly deep, complex 'knot' that needs some targeted TLC. The foam roller and/or stick works great for general tightness and adhesions, but if you've got something 'specific' that's deep, you need something like a massage ball to get at it.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.

I'm not going to get into what you should eat/drink before or after your runs. If you want some direction around pre/post run fueling and hydration, check out our Nutrition & Hydration Guidelines.

But, I am going to share some of my favorite fuel and hydration items you should consider using DURING your run. FYI, you want to aim to consume something every 45-60 mins. Similarly, you want to aim to consume some fluids (water AND electrolytes) every 15-20 mins.

Below are some of my favorite items....

GU Energy Gels. I was introduced to GU Energy Gels EONS ago when I was training for my first marathon. They worked like a charm back then and they still work well for me today. There are basic flavors like vanilla and chocolate, but they have some exotic flavors as well like Salted Watermelon, Caramel Macchiato, and Mint Chocolate. Some of these flavors have caffeine for an extra boost. Some don't. Just as is the case with your running shoes, you've gotta find the flavor and formula that works best for YOU.

GU Energy Chews. If you simply can't handle the taste and/or consistency of GU Energy Gels, all is not lost. There are other options. One of my favorite alternatives are Clif Bloks. I've always been a family of gummies of pretty much any kind. That's effectively what Clif Bloks are. They're little gummy 'bloks' you can chew during your run. Once again, you're looking at a multitude of flavors including Black Cherry, Salted Watermelon, Ginger Ale, and Margarita. To be clear, the Margarita flavor does NOT include tequila! Be advised, Bloks are not quite as portable or easy to carry as GU Energy Gels.

NUUN. When you're running (regardless of weather), you're losing fluids. To be clear, you're not 'just' losing water. You're also losing electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium). Knocking back water every 15-20 mins. during your run is great, but if you're running for more than an hour or so, you need a bit more. Grab a water bottle, throw a NUUN in, and you're set. Each tab dissolves quickly and contains 360MG of Sodium (the primary electrolyte lost in sweat), 100MG of Potassium, and 25MG of Magneisum.

Dress the part.

While you 'can' run inside a climate controlled gym on a treadmill, you're not 'really' a runner until you've logged a few miles outside. Additionally, virtually NO race is cancelled due to inclement weather. With this in mind, it's a good idea to have a few items in your closet to deal with whatever mother nature throws your way.

Here are a few items I dig...

Men's Ultimate Tee-Tiger Camo. I'm fortunate enough to live in San Francisco where the weather is pretty tolerable even on the worst day. Having at least one quality short sleeve shirt that wicks away sweat/moisture is essential. I'm also a sucker for pretty much anything with 'camo' print.

inov-8 Ultrashell Half Zip. For those days when the weather gods don't smile on you, it pays to have a solid jacket that can weather the storm. The Inov-8's jacket will help you manage rain, wind, and just about any inclememt weather that comes your way. While this isn't the cheapest jacket on the market, it will keep you dry in a torrential deluge as it's FULLY WATERPROOF.

Adidas Men's Run Shorts. Sure you can get by with an old pair of gym shorts, but if you're serious about your running and you plan on running more than 45-60 minutes, it's a good idea to have a quality pair of running shorts (or two) in your arsenal. These shorts wick away moisture, have a key pocket, and are built to last. They also have a reflective logo for extra visibility during your night runs.

Stance Fusion R2D2 Crew. This sock is a winner for a variety of reasons. For starters, the sock actually adapts to your body temperature and helps wick away heat/moisture. They also provide arch support and targeted leg compression. Lastly, I LOVE R2D2!

There is just one (well...a few) more thing(s).

Body Glide. If it hasn't happened to you yet, it will. I'm talking about CHAFING. I was blessed with big, strong, powerful quads. They've powered me to numerous finish lines and PR's. BUT, they have a tendency to rub together which can result in some NASTY chafing. Body Glide is great for inner arm chafing, inner thigh chafing, or any other chafing you might encounter.

Headsweats Bigfoot Trucker. There are few things I love more than going out and logging a few miles (or hours) on the trails in the Marin Headlands. Frequently, these trails are bombarded with plenty of high quality Vitamin D (aka-sunshine). For conditions like this, it's great to have a quality cap to keep the sun out of your face. I am also a fan of Bigfoot(AKA-Sasquatch). The name of my race production company was inspired by Sasquatch, so this hat is a no brainer! 

To be clear, you can survive without all of the items above. But, if you want to thrive at the sport, having at least 'some' of the items above in your running survival kit is a wise idea.