When I ran my first Blue Cross® Broad Street Run in 2008, I had so many questions about what I should wear, how I should layer, and where I would put all my essentials (keys, cell phone, etc.).
Looking back, I wish I had consulted with a more seasoned runner — someone who could’ve answered all my questions and reassured me that dressing for race day needn’t be so complicated.
I recently reached out to Liz Pagonis, marketing and outreach director at Philadelphia Runner and The Philly 10k and USATF and RRCA-certified coach at PR Coaching and Team PHILLY Race Training, to ask what the essentials are for first-time runners. Luckily, she simplified the gear question and confirmed what many seasoned runners will tell you: running requires very little gear or equipment, so no need to break the bank!
IBX: What’s the most important gear for beginner runners to have? If you had to narrow it down to the top three things a beginner runner needs, what would those things be?
Liz: Running is pretty low maintenance. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started. Head into a local run specialty shop like Philadelphia Runner to speak with the staff about gear. They can also answer your questions about training for the Blue Cross Broad Street Run, recommend local running groups or training programs, and go over other things to consider such as injury prevention, cross training, nutrition, hydration, and more.
Top 3 Things a Beginner Runner Needs
- Sneakers: The first thing you should do is get properly fitted for a pair of sneakers. Everyone’s feet and needs are different! Stop by your local running store to get properly fitted for running shoes that are right for you. Staff will watch you run/walk, measure your feet (most people are wearing the wrong size shoes!), and ask you questions in order to assess your needs and recommend the best options for your feet. It’s free, easy, and the best way to find a shoe that works for you.
- Socks: The number one rule for socks (and running apparel) is to avoid cotton. Choose socks that are made from synthetic materials as they dry quicker and wick moisture away, which helps prevent blisters, chafing, and skin irritation.
- Apparel: Invest in tech. Wearing synthetic/technical fabrics will help you stay dry and comfortable on the run. Once cotton fabric gets wet, it stays wet, which can leave your skin irritated and make the miles ahead uncomfortable. In the winter, synthetic materials will keep you warm and dry, and in warmer months, it will wick away your sweat to prevent chafing and other irritation. Try on a few styles and brands to see what feels the most comfortable, and then pick up a few tops and bottoms for each season (On top: tanks, tees, long sleeves, jackets. On bottom: shorts, capris, pants, tights).
IBX: I see all these fancy gadgets, gear, and accessories at running stores? Do I need any of these?
Liz: Proper fitting sneakers are a must for running. They truly can make a noticeable difference. I would also put running socks and technical apparel (including sports bras for the ladies) on the top of the priority list of things worth investing in. Other items to consider:
- Body glide: This essential prevents chafing.
- Carriers: Packs, vests, and backpacks are helpful to carry keys, credit cards, cell phone, nutrition, and other miscellaneous items you may need or want on the run.
- Compression socks and sleeves: Some people find them very helpful to wear while running or after to provide support and aid in recovery.
- Music: I know a lot of runners who love to run with music so they have invested in running headphones and arm bands or a different carrier for their phones.
- Watch: Recording your time is possible on an inexpensive watch, but if you are looking for more data, a GPS watch that tracks pace, distance, and heart rate will help you improve.
It doesn’t require a lot to start running and once you get more into it, you will learn more about what you need to be more comfortable while you’re logging miles.
IBX: Any special considerations for the ladies?
Liz: Ladies, do not underestimate the power of a good sports bra! It can be tricky to find the right one. Thankfully, you don’t need to waste your time on bad dates — make an appointment or stop by a run specialty shop to get properly fitted for a sports bra. There are bras designed for all activities and desired levels of support. The problem is that most women are wearing the incorrect bra size. Part of the issue is that a woman’s bra sizes can change for many different reasons, which means that you should be fitted every time you buy new bras (which should be at least once per year). Once you find something that works for you, you should follow the rule of three: one sports bra on, one in the wash, and one clean one lined up for your next run! Learn more about Philadelphia Runner’s sports bra fit process.
IBX: The Blue Cross Broad Street Run is May 6. What should I wear if it’s hot?
Liz: As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing (i.e. bad gear!). If it’s hot, wear loose and light-colored apparel that breathes and wicks away sweat. Many companies now make apparel using fabrics with sun protection too.
IBX: What if it’s unseasonably cold?
Liz: In the case of colder temperatures, the general rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. Your first mile will be cold but your body will warm up without overheating. Layering is key!
Liz: If it’s raining, check the temperature outside and dress accordingly. Wear a hat or visor and look into waterproof or water-resistant gear, especially a rain jacket and shoes.
IBX: Thanks for answering all of our questions Liz, and good luck to all of you running your first Blue Cross Broad Street Run this year!