I like looking at olden-days running events because people wore fairly normal outfits.
No compression stockings, muscle tape, “sweat wicking” fabrics, hydration packs, $200 shoes that come with evidence-based research papers, or other such shenanigans.
I’m not bitching. I don’t really have anything against the technical niceties available to today’s athlete. I’m just saying that it is relaxing to consider the olden days. It is nice to remember that owning special gear isn’t the guarantee of success with something. Doing said thing is a better guarantee of success.
As a cyclist, I fell in love with having the precise right bit of gear to suit every occasion, and I had no qualms about spending $$$ to get tech-y stuff.
But part of me always wondered how much of this “appreciation” for the pretty stuff was merely trying to look the part, to “pass” as a True Cycling Person™ . My heroes were always people like Dervla Murphy, who were on their old, metal bicycles kicking ass before all the conveniences existed (on her first solo bicycle tour Dervla was fending off wolves with her pistol and drinking neat rum to stay warm! My kind of lady.)
Despite my investments in pieces of fanciness, the items that made the biggest difference in my game were usually utilitarian things. Like my very durable thrift-store mittens (cold fingers are literally a ride-killer for me), and my cycling cape, which was cheap but is highly visible and keeps me dry. NOT LIKE my cycling underpants*, which did nothing, and cost nearly $25 for one pair!
*Yes, I bought some before my first bike tour in 2010
Naturally, proper equipment is important. Back in October I started running in gross neon-orange Keens with flat rubber soles. Once I decided I really enjoyed running, I went shoe shopping, and bought some New Balance things that the clerk said were decent. I think continuing to run in those gross orange Keens would have hurt me, eventually. Proper shoes are important.
Sometimes you find that one ridiculous tech item that actually really helps your game. I have to admit, I’ve got my eye on some fancy compression stockings. But for many perceived issues, often a cheapo or DIY substitution will work. For my long runs I lube my toes and chafe points with Vaseline (one-the-dot of mile 6, friction becomes a problem). I’ve eyeballed more expensive, “technical” lubrication products that maybe won’t make it look like I wiped my hands on myself after eating greasy popcorn. I use a rolling pin on my legs when I’m stiff, but I admit a sports masseuse would be nice. I’d definitely feel like a runner if I had a masseuse.
Sometimes buying for your hobbies is fun; it makes you feel legitimate. On weekends when shopping for some litte doo-dad at MEC** (when we still lived in a city that had a MEC) I’d marvel at all the other people shopping and I’d be forced to wonder how many of them were truly outdoorsy folk (like the dirty people in the posters all over the store), compared to how many were in some stage of outfitting-themselves-to-be-more-outdoorsy. Would that sleeping bag, that camping stove, that heart rate/biofeedback/Mayan calender watch ever get fair use? MEC is a pretty exciting place, you realize how much there is to do and how much you can buy to do it with – or in (“this lightweight linen/wool wrap-around is perfect for showing off toned shoulders by the campfire after a day spent rock climbing – $129.00″)!
**Mountain Equipment Co-op – the unofficial outfitter of all Vancouverites
Perhaps I am just feeling neurotic because my shoes are wearing out and my sports bra is about to rip and I have to go shopping again. Shopping makes me morose. It also makes me feel poor. As a student, I don’t have money for all the things that exist that could surely make me a better person.