20 May 2018

A beginner's running haul

For my first ever run, I went out in a standard bra, knitted t-shirt, denim shorts, and plimsolls from Primark. 

Deciding you want to try and run is a big deal for a lot of people. Running is hard. It’s a totally different way to use your body. You use parts of your body you didn’t even know existed, and your body and mind have to work together. Part of your body and mind working together is your mind making a lot of decisions about where to run, how to run, and what to wear and use as a runner, and that’s overwhelming. 

Believe it or not, my running debut combination did the job. I didn’t die. I didn’t blister to pieces. I wore t-shirts and denim shorts and plimsolls for the first few weeks of Couch to 5k and it did me no harm. Running is running no matter what you wear.


If you’re going to start running, like, continuously, then you kinda need some decent running gear. Sooner or later, whatever you can find in your wardrobe won’t cut it, as it’ll be cutting into your toes and tummy and armpits and soul instead. 

I didn’t have a bloody clue where to start when I decided to spend some money on this free exercise (lolllllllllll) and had no one to ask, so here I am. After working shit out by myself, I’m passing on my wisdom. Here’s some decent (and relatively cheap [mostly]) running shit that I would recommend to a beginner. 

DISCLAIMER: This stuff was all affordable on my budget, but obviously everyone’s budgets are different. What I might think is cheap might be your month’s food budget, or you might think it’s ridiculous not spending more for top quality. That’s fine. You do you. Also, I’m not an expert! All of the below is from my own personal experience. I’m also a serial sweater, so I’m coming at this as someone who needs very little clothing and wants no faff, even in winter. Oh, ALSO, obviously none of this shit is sponsored. I like what I like. Ok, now I’m done…

FIRST UP: Protecting your boobs and bum and battered feet

I promise I don’t just buy pink and purple stuff. 

The first sports bras I bought were from Primark. Do not repeat my mistake. They’re not worth it. If there’s one thing (aside from trainers) you should spend some money on, it’s decent bras. Please. Your boobs deserve better. 

Finding decent sports bras can be a pain in the tits, especially if you have big ones. I’m a 36C (I think) so I’m pretty average, but my mum has big boobs and has only found zipped sports bras from M&S a decent solution to her woes.

The two above are from Nike and Adidas outlet stores. I can’t remember how much they were now, but they were much cheaper than usual thanks to the cheeky outlet. I haven’t needed to buy other bras since. It was so worth it, they’re perfect. They’re tight enough, don’t go out of shape in the wash, and don’t chafe (haaaaaallelujah). Outlet stores/sales are your friend. Try before you buy. Jump up and down. Keep the boobs bound. 

I didn’t think running socks were entirely necessary, but these were presents during marathon training and they definitely helped with support and comfort. The pink pair are thicker and the purple are thinner, and the brands I have are Hilly and Balega.


On the top…

I hate wearing anything tight. Not purely for self-conscious reasons, but for comfort and sweat reasons too. I like things a bit baggy and long so you can’t see anything escaping up my chuff. 

All the tops I’ve bought are by Karrimor from Sports Direct. I wish I WAS sponsored by them, truly. I’ve had no problems with Karrimor. Decent quality at a decent price. That pink top was the top I was wearing when I fell over (have I mentioned I fell over?) and it didn’t tear or rip or damage the shoulder at all. I was pretty impressed. I actually get quite nervous wearing that bright pink top because I don’t think people will take me seriously if I wear pink. Which is so silly! 

I wear these tops even in the winter with no proper running jacket - I don’t own any long sleeved tops. I sweat. Seriously. I’m a sweater within seconds, in minus temperatures. I don’t do long sleeves. Also, black tops go with any bottoms… even thrilling jazzy ones, which I’ll get to later…

What I DO wear if it’s super cold or raining or snowing is this. It’s like a fluorescent bin bag. Admittedly, I grumbled spending like twenty quid on something so thin, but it’s really done the job for me. It keeps the rain and air off my skin and doesn’t make me feel trapped and panicked when I get hot. It’s also super easy to take off and scrunch into a ball for storage, or tie around your waist. Again, Karrimor. It also makes for crackin’ running photos. 

Over the past few years, it’s had to have been really hot for me to wear vest tops. I couldn’t find tops that were loose like my t-shirts, and more skin on show meant I was more self-conscious. Thankfully, I’ve found these tops and my body confidence is quite a bit better, so I’m ready to debut the shoulders, lads. 

The purple top actually has a sports bra… thing… built in, but I can’t imagine that being remotely useful unless you have small boobs, maybe? It's a little tighter than I'd like, but it's ok. The grey one is super thin and baggy and I love it.

In terms of sizing, most of my running tops (bar the grey vest) are a size 16. I’m usually a 12-14, but the material and fact I want gear that’s looser fitting has meant I go up a few sizes. I don’t really give a fuck about clothes sizing. I wear what’s comfortable and don’t pay attention to whether that’s a 12 or a 16.

On the bottom…

These cropped black leggings are from Primark. They’re the first pair of running leggings I ever bought and they’re still the ones I wear most. I know! Primark! They’re tight enough, don’t fall down, and haven't gone funny in the wash. I also bought grey long shorts (they go to my knee) but I couldn’t find them for the photo. I don’t like those so much as they’re a lighter colour and I’m eternally petrified of my bum/fanny sweat showing.

These shorts are new! I have a pair tight black Karrimor shorts, but I really wanted to buy a part of standard baggier shorts. I did buy a pair once but the CHAFING. GOOD GOD. They also tried to dive up my vagina constantly so I gave up. These ones have an under-layer of tight leggings so I’m hoping I’ll be chafe-free. We shall soon find out. 

I also had a pair of long Karrimor leggings for the winter, but they were busted in my fall and cut to pieces in A&E, so. RIP. 

Ok, so, these aren’t cheap. They are in no way a legit part of my beginner’s running haul. BUT LOOK. THEY’RE SO JAZZY. I saw so many people on Instagram wearing Tikiboo leggings, but they were always just so unaffordable for me. BUT LOOK, I HAVE SOME! With the help of a Christmas gift card and a Tikiboo sale, I bought these two pairs and am in love. I’ll need a whole new drawer just for Tikiboos in the near future. 

Running doesn’t have to mean boring plain clothes. If you can splash out, by some snazzy stripes and feel like a badass. 

On your feet…

The first pair of trainers I bought were from Sports Direct in the sale. They were £20. They made it through Couch to 5k, my first handful of parkruns, and my first half marathon. But when I ended up in A&E with intense foot pain the day after the half, I knew it was time to get some decent trainers for my poor feet, especially as I was about to train for a marathon. 

For Christmas 2016, I got some vouchers for Runners Need, a place where your gait can be analysed. Basically, they watch you running on a treadmill for a bit and with some fancy technology, work out what kind of trainers you need for your feet shape and running style. It’s all free. The analysis, not the shoes. Obviously. Sorry.

This is the pair I was blessed with. They’re Sauconys and they were a cushioned bed of heaven for my feet. They were so light and bouncy, and I’ve had no pain in my feet since! However, I’m due a new pair. They’re getting a bit battered and have a number of holes, so I know I need to suck it up and spend the money again for the sake of the feet that take me miles and miles. This pair ended up costing me about £80, and that’s with the voucher and sale price taken into account. It’s not cheap. But decent, solid, measured running shoes are the thing to spend the money on.

I also need to buy a pair of trail shoes for off-road running, especially for the winter, but this pair didn’t do too badly on different terrains so it’s not absolutely necessary to get two different pairs when you're starting out.

Everything else… 

I don’t like faff, but this is all my other running crap that I’ve super useful. 

Karrimor gloves for the winter - they’re thin and you can use your phone with them and I can take them off within minutes of warming up and they fit snugly away.

Karrimor water bottle for long runs.

Karrimor running belt. It doesn’t fall down, I can hardly feel I’m wearing it, and it’s so tiny but packs a lot in! I can fit my phone, tissues, earphones, and keys in. And Bloks. 

Bloks are thick cubes of jelly - I get the mountain berry flavour - and I use them on long runs, so anything over 10k. I’ll eat one about every 45mins and it tops my energy up perfectly. I have IBS and am dangerously prone to runner’s tummy, so the standard gels runners tend to use on long runs are useless to me. In one hole and out the other.

BUY A LUBE STICK. If I’m doing runs longer than 10mi, I’ll lather myself in this lube. It’s like a Pritt Stick, but more Vaseline-y. I rub it where my sports bra lies under my boobs and around my armpit, in-between my toes, around my knicker line, and on my hips where my waistband is. It’s a lifesaver. Chafing is the worst.

I’ve bought those trendy plastic hairbands that are all twisty? Idk what they’re called, but they’re meant to be better for your hair than normal hairbands. My hair is so long and thick that any run over 5k means matted hair and sobs in the shower. It’s a nightmare to brush out. But these hairbands have made it a bit easier. My hair doesn’t get so tangled. 

The things at the top are magnets for race numbers. I haven't actually used them yet but Ryan has and they work a treat. They’re super strong and mean you don’t have to prick holes in your tops. Obviously these are an extra purchase and not entirely necessary for a beginner or anyone who doesn’t want to race, but they’re so handy if you do. 

Headbands for ya sweaty head. Honestly, I’m still trying to find headbands that don’t make me look like a twat. But these two came in a pack of six or something, were really cheap, don’t fall off my head, and keep the salty sweat out my eyes. They’ll do for now. 

My baby, my Garmin Forerunner 235. This was E X P E N S I V E and was a present from multiple people for my birthday. This is also, obviously, not a necessity for a runner. I coped without a watch. Using the Strava app directly is fine, if a bit of a faff, and you don’t even need to use Strava! I just love stats and maps and stalking other runners. But I do adore my watch. It’s easy to use and syncs to Strava easily. If you do splash out, buy a bloody screen protector. It’ll save the heartache when you fall over and crack it. Sigh.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, the absolutely dreaded nightmare foam roller. It’ll ruin your life. It’ll puncture your soul. But it works. Make sure you get a knobbly one. Google some exercises and use it religiously before and after long runs (she says, not remembering the last time she used hers…).

Right, that’s it. That’s my haul. Running can be cheap but it can also be expensive. It’s up to you how much money you spend. But if you have no idea where to even start, and don’t know what you’ll need and won’t need, this bunch of crap that’s taken over my life is what I’d personally recommend. HOPE IT HELPS HAPPY RUNNING BYE.

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