Gear up for a run

Be prepared for runs at no matter the distance
Gear up for a run
Photo by Timothy Hughes

For some, running long distances is disciplined training. Others run just for the adventure of moving over trails and roads, propelled by nothing but their own two feet. “Self-supported long running” is any run that requires runners to manage their own gear, fuel and hydration needs. When runs push double-digit miles or involve dramatic weather or terrain, a runner needs to prepare for the journey. In a race, volunteers hand out cups of water and snacks and do safety checks, but on self-supported runs, the runner goes it alone. Some runners like to use these adventures as opportunities to run with a group, while others take a lone-wolf approach.

Being prepared for a self-supported adventure takes forethought and planning. Once you have your gear and supplies, there is no limit to how far you can go.

Hydration Systems

Staying hydrated is key to enjoying your run and taking care of your body. There are four basic ways to carry fluid. A handheld water bottle is what it sounds like: a bottle that’s attached to your hand. This is the simplest option and great for when you don’t need much liquid or have frequent opportunities to refill. A waist belt allows runners to carry fluid on their hips, keeping their hands and upper bodies free. Chest-mounted bottle systems are secured to the runner’s torso on a vest. This allows the runner to be hands-free but still able to access their fluid by reaching into pockets on his or her vest. A reservoir that slides into a pack carries the largest volume of fluid. A hose at the base of the reservoir allows runners to drink while in motion. Advances in design and technology have made hydration systems more comfortable and give long-distance runners the freedom to explore outside their radius of support.

H20 TO GO: The Ultimate Direction reservoir fits into wearable hydration packs and vests with an easy-fill and easy-clean design. ($29-$33) The Ultimate Direction bottle has an angled top so you don’t have to tip your head all the way back to take a sip. ($2.47)

Running Packs

These go hand-in-hand with hydration systems and include waist belts, vests and running packs. A belt is a smart option for shorter efforts. Vests can carry fluid but are otherwise fairly simple, other than featuring a few pockets on the front. A running pack is the most substantial option for carrying fluid, gear, clothing, food and technology. A pack has full pockets in the back, reservoir capacity and usually has bottle compartments on the front. Running packs hold in body heat, which comes in handy when running in cold conditions.

PACK IT UP: The Ultimate Direction Race Vesta Hydration Vest is a long distance runner’s best friend for staying hydrated. This adjustable vest has light-weight material and multiple storage pouches. ($114)

Apparel and Shoes

As with street clothes, the sky’s the limit when it comes to running apparel choices. If possible, it’s wise to invest in a few high-quality items instead of several inexpensive pieces. Comfortable and durable clothes not only make your running experience more enjoyable, they also help prevent chafing and blisters, and protect you from the elements. Shoes are the most important pieces of running gear. You need shoes that are right for your body, and you should aim to replace them every 300 or so miles. Local running stores have trained sales staff who can help you select your shoes. For shorts, tights, tops and outerwear, you may need to try on several brands before you find a fit and material that are right for you. Everyone likes to look good, but in running, function always comes before style.

LOOK THE PART: Goodr sunglasses block UV rays, reduce glare and have grip coating so they’ll stay on your face while running. ($20-$25) W’s Janji Mangu Mangu floral bra and matching race shorts from the Uganda collection are sweat-wicking and quick-drying. Five percent of sales of each piece helps fund clean water projects in various countries. (Bra: $44, Shorts: $50) Salomon S/Lab Sense 6 trail running shoes are Jonnah Mellenthin Perkin’s shoes of choice. ($180) Wigwam running socks have fibers that repel bacteria and reduce hotspots and blisters. ($10-$20) Patagonia’s Duckbill trucker hat has an open mesh back to release heat and foam material so it can fold and rebound to its original shape. ($35) Tie up a cotton bandana to capture sweat. ($1.88-$3.99 for a two pack at Farm & Fleet) Buff Original headbands keep hair and sweat off your face. ($15)


In the age of technology, some pretty amazing tools are available to runners. A GPS watch can keep track of metrics you can analyze before, during and after your run. Data like pace, cadence, heart rate, vertical gain and loss, altitude, time, caloric output and temperature can be measured, and you’ll also have access to the watch’s mapping and messaging features. GPS devices can sync with social media platforms and personal analysis databases. These gadgets can help you understand your body, but they can’t do the running for you. When in doubt, buy a basic model and focus on running. Most smartphones also have features that can do the same work through fitness applications, so that is an easy place to start. (See page 68 for a few smartphone running apps.)

KEEP TRACK: The Suunto Ambit3 Peak Sapphire GPS watch has a smart phone connection and long battery life. ($349.30-$419.30)


One of the biggest barriers to running farther is energy intake. It can be difficult for runners to stomach hundreds of calories while in motion. The key is to ease into your mobile food consumption. Portioned out running fuel comes in several forms, and such options are generally around 100-150 calories. Bars, mini-waffles, gels and gummies make up some of the fun food that runners get to eat. Some runners like to fuel with food like dried fruit, sandwiches, potato chips and cookies. Sports drinks help provide electrolytes, energy and fluid. If you don’t give your body the fuel it needs, you will never know your potential.

Being prepared for running long is the key to maximizing your effort. Getting a kit requires a lot of thought and preparation, but it will help you achieve your endurance goals. With adequate tools we can stretch our runs to the outer reaches of human possibility.

NATURAL BOOST: Honey Stinger’s energy gels, waffles and energy chews are all organic and come in small, lightweight packaging to keep you fueled during your run. (Box of 24 organic energy gels: $36; box of 16 waffles: $22.24; box of 12 energy chews: $28.68)

A Runner’s Checklist

Hydration system
Running pack
Outerwear for rain or cool weather
GPS watch
Running food
Electrolyte drink
Running top and shorts/tights