Newbie runner's toolbox

I am not an elite runner. I do not know it all. And I'm pretty much a newbie to this sport running my first real race in 2005 with the Madison half marathon. I was not a track or cross country runner in high school---quite the opposite, actually. I was a basketball and volleyball jock who would rather line up for sprints and stairs and punch herself in the face before running a mile. Then came college when I was no longer exercising for 3+ hours each day with high school sports and I was deathly afraid of the freshman fifteen. So I started running about 2 or 3 miles at a time just to burn some calories, but I ended up addicted to being a runner.

Running is such a mind game. It's methodical, simple, and accessible. The feeling of accomplishment you feel after a great run should be bottled up and sold for ridiculous amounts of money. Whether you are training to run/walk a mile, doing the Couch to 5k program, running in your first half marathon, or even a full 26.2 you've probably been overwhelmed by the running world out there. I mean, there are so many things to learn, so many questions to ask, and so many hard-core runners out there that scare the crap out of us newbies [at least, in my opinion]. So when Hanna asked if I would write a post about running---must have gear, clothes, equipment, etc---I decided to take her up on it in hopes that it will help somebody out there. I apologize for the length of this post already, but I just adore talking about this stuff [you can't tell, can you?]


Absolutely the most important piece of equipment for a runner is her shoes. Now ladies, this is not a place to skimp on quality just to save some money and since this is coming from a self-professed tightwad, you should know that it's a big deal to me. I hunt for sales as much as the next person and usually spending $100-$150 on a single item would make me blackout. But your shoes not only protect your feet but they are the basis for proper body alignment and will definitely make or break you as a runner. As soon as someone tells me "My _____ hurts when I run" I immediately ask about their shoes: are they old, worn down, or ill-fitting? If so, it's time to get professionally fitted for the perfect pair of kicks. I don't go by the 500 mile rule, or the 6 month rule, but I just listen to my legs and they will tell me when it's time to make the next purchase.

I am a big fan of shoe stores that watch you run on a treadmill to observe your foot mechanics in their shoes. They should measure each foot, watch you walk in different styles of shoes, and also watch you run in them before letting you walk out the door with a new pair. They will see if you over pronate, stay fairly neutral, or possibly over supinate and then prescribe you the correct shoe accordingly. We like Fleet Feet for this purpose but I know there are other stores out there that will do the same for you.

Right now I'm wearing the Saucony ProGrid Guide shoes:

But in the past I've been an Asics freak and ran my marathon in the GT-2140s:

And have purchased many-a-Cumulus and Nimbus styles:

After you have the proper running shoe, next you should splurge on some non-cotton clothing. For my socks I am obsessed with the Smart Wool brand and believe their $13 price tag to be worth it.

You'll need to put all your fears aside and wear tight pants/capris/shorts/skorts if you want to avoid chafing. I was completely skeptical about this commitment to serious running back in my rotten cotton days. Remember this post? This is when I turned the corner and embraced the idea of dri-Fit attire. And I must say that I'm a Nike girl with more of their items than any other brand. I'm seriously considering getting yet another Nike Skort. Iloveitsomuch.


Ah, my little Garmin. I have a serious dependency on this puppy and cannot imagine running outside without it. You know how a treadmill gives you specific information about your run, like your pace, total time, total distance, and calories burned? That is exactly what a Garmin tells you but without the confines of a hamster wheel. I know, why didn't I think of that?

Here's the lowdown on Mr.G: it's a GPS system you wear as a wrist watch. It's freaking huge---as in Flava Flav's clock around his neck, but only it's on your arm. I suppose if you are a big spender you can get a smaller more pricey version but let's get real---you get used to wearing such a monster on your wrist when it's completely pimp.
We bought the Garmin Forerunner 205 which cost us about 200 bones. The biggest perk about a Garmin is that you can glance down while running and check your current pace. For instance, at the beginning of a run I tend to get excited and run too fast, like, "Oh crap, I'm running an 8:00 mile and need to slow my roll right now if I want to last." And sometimes I feel like I'm trucking right along but I'll check with Mr. G and he'll tell me otherwise.

The other thing I love about my Garmin is it tells me my exact distance and how many calories I've burned along the way. There are many other functions you can trigger on a Garmin---like seeing a visual of your traveled pathway, average speed throughout the run, time of day---and you can upload your stats to a computer to keep a log of your runs.

I consider the Garmin to be a luxury and not a necessity but I can assure you that if you spend a decent amount of time running outdoors you will not regret your decision to buy Mr. G. Nate and I often fight over ours since we only have one but we're learning to share like adults should do, I suppose.


One of the most intense debates in the running world is whether or not to run with music. I know the prospect of running without an MP3 player to those of you who can't leave home without it might seem awful. The problem is that most half and full marathons forbid the use of music because they believe it can distract the runner, and potentially lead to an accident if you can't hear a car coming your way. That's not to say that some marathoners don't sneak in their headphones, which I say is their own choice, but technically it IS against the rules and I'm not exactly a rebel:)

I ran my half and also my full without music. For my training runs I only used music when I was running alone and running more than 10 miles simply to stave off boredom. I promise you that if you go sans music your mind will find things to think about and honestly, it can be totally therapeutic. It's just you, the road, and your thoughts----but I will admit that sometimes you just don't need to solve the world's problems during a run.

My iPod shuffle is my lover boy for times like these and I dig a mixture of tunes for my runs. I know a lot of runners are always looking for new songs so I figured I'd share my newest 'March 2009' playlist for your entertainment. I hope you can click to enlarge it. And I hope you like techno and rap music.


Another hot topic in the running world is what to eat and drink during training, and especially during race day. I feel like this is a personal decision and is only realized after much trial and error. For instance, I naively thought that fried cheese curds and Diet Coke would be 'energy food' for a 15 mile training run and discovered I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I've also tried many-a-gels and can't quite choke it down because of the texture. There's just something about the texture---all slimy, gooey, and thick----that is the opposite of refreshing when I'm all hot, sweaty, and parched. The only gels I can stomach are the Strawberry Banana PowerGel and a lot of the fruity flavors from CarbBoom. I prefer the ones with caffeine, obvi.

I relied heavily on Sport Beans for my marathon because their texture was more acceptable to my salivating mouth. But you probably don't even NEED to worry about nutrition during a run unless you are running more than a half marathon----at least, that's what I found for myself. But no matter what you will require lots of water and/or Gatorade during your runs to stay fully hydrated.

In fact, drinking a butt load of water about two days before a long run will be a lifesaver for your body. And of course, you will want to drink even more afterwards to replenish your fluids and decrease your muscle soreness.

I find that sticking to carbohydrates before a run does me well, but cheese, alcohol, meats, and sugar does not help me run. I guess that seems like a no-brainer but trust me---I REALLY wanted pizza to be my pre-run meal and it just wasn't happening. But a bagel with peanut butter and honey, plus water and coffee is my tried and true 'morning run' meal and coincidentally it's also my everyday breakfast meal, too. What can I say, I'm boring like that.

So what questions did I miss in this post? Am I totally off on some of these ideas? Any other thoughts or questions are appreciated. I hope this helps other newbies like myself.

Oh, and I'm still on the fence about another full. I'm starting to get the itch again, you guys. Anyone with me?

{and I finally changed my header and blog colors if you care to observe. I let my inner pink diva shine through for this one.}


  1. Thank you!!! Love it :) I say go for the full! That's of course because I want someone to commiserate with me while I'm training for the Chicago marathon. (Chicago's close to you, isn't it? hint...hint)

  2. OMG, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! I already got fitted for shoes, picked up some awesome attire, and the great socks. Next on my list is the garmin. I set a goal for myself. Once I can run 30 minutes (I know, I'm a wimp) non-stop, I'm picking that bad boy up.

    I'm planning on running a half marathon NEXT Spring when we got to Disney World. I thought it would be an awesome experience for my first time out there. Keep the tips coming!

  3. Awesome post! All I need is the Garmin and uh...nutrition and I'm set!

    I second the running skirts and non-cotton socks. I heart all of mine!

    I say go for the 2nd marathon. If you get discouraged just think of how awesome and accomplished you felt after the last one.

    Cute header!

  4. I think you did the subject very well lady! You have more than enough experience to write on the subject. :P

    Go for the 2nd full. I'm still set on running my first this fall!

  5. What an informative post! I recently got back into running so this was very helpful.

    And i'm loving the playlist... I have more than half of those songs on mine too!

  6. Great post!

    Oh, but you just have to tempt me with the garmin, don't you? Iwantthe305sobadly! I looooove those SW socks. I own more pairs of those than anything else right now, I think.

  7. Whoa whoa whoa whoa. You can't listen to music during most half and full marathons?!?! Oh my gosh, I would die. DIE! Sometimes I do run without any music. But I almost always hit a point when I'm sorta lagging and getting tired, so I pop the earphones in, blast Korn's "Coming Undone" in my ears, and suddenly, I've got energy again.

    I can't imagine surviving a run without my tunes.

  8. Thank you thank you thank you! This was really helpful!!!

  9. how fitting that the day I post on my blog asking for newbie runner advice you post this.

    Thank you so much!!

  10. THANK YOU for this post! I really needed this!

    I'm putting it on twitter!


  11. Thank you so much for doing this post...I'm a former runner, but quit when my life imploded on me (long story!). In fact, the last time I ran, the new sweat wicking fabrics were much too expensive for my student budget, so I stuck to cotton, HEAD TO TOE. I've been trying to get back into the swing of things with running, but was faced with a mountain of gear that no longer works (or, longer FITS), and I had no idea where to start or what I needed, and was worried that I'd just be oversold if I walked into a running store and went "Okay, what do I need?". (how whas that for a run-on sentence!)

    So, thank you so much for this post, I LOVE IT!

  12. Love the new pink blog layout!

  13. WOW! What a post! You have outdone yourself, my dear. I almost, a l m o s t, want to begin running after reading this post. And exactly how many times have you updated your layout? I've had the same stinking layout since, well, forever. Please stop making the rest of us look bad. ;)


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