This spring, I’m building mileage for some really long events in the summer including the Trans Rockies Run in August, so I’m constantly thinking about what to wear and what to bring during my long slow distance (LSD) runs. I have a mental checklist that I use, starting at the top with headgear and ending on the bottom with my feet. I also have to take into consideration what kind of long run I’ll be doing. Remember, long distance is my baby, so this might seem crazy to 5K enthusiasts. For me, there are three different lengths: the short long run (7-9 miles), the medium long run (10-15), and the long long run (16-20). I haven’t yet reached the super-long run (20 plus) in training (although I have run up to 100K) but I’m looking forward to learning something new as I enter that territory!
The apparel you wear becomes more and more important as you up your distance. Why? Depending on how long you are running on a particular day, the right gear could mean the difference between a difficult-but-still-amazing long run and an I’m-chafed-blistered-and-super-annoyed long run. For example, you might be able to survive compression shorts that are too short and don’t protect against your thighs rubbing for a three-miler, but on a ten-miler, it’s a completely different story. On a twenty miler, it might be a complete disaster. Just imagine…
It’s better to be prepared with the right apparel so that you’ll have long runs that aren’t only memorable because of serious wardrobe malfunctions. Here are some things to consider:
- Caps/Hats: Are you a trucker cap runner? Visor person? These are important pieces of gear to take into account, especially on a longer run with more sun exposure. If it’s really sunny out, I always wear a cap and shades. (Overkill? Maybe…) Even if it’s not very bright out, I like to wear some sort of cap to help stop the nasty sweat from dripping into my eyes.
- Buff: A buff and shades will serve the same purpose, but will not protect your face as much from UV rays. Buffs however, can serve many purposes during long runs—towel, sweatband, cooling cloth, mask…I say, bring one with you!
- Jackets: Temps during the beginning, middle, and end of the long run will determine the thickness of and number of layers you’ll have on you during your run. For example, if you start your run in chilly temps and end up doing the majority of your run in warmer weather, you’ll need to take into consideration how much you’re willing to carry for the duration. I like to carry a light, water-resistant shell in my hydration pack for wind protection and an extra layer for warmth if necessary. My favorite is the Patagonia Houdini Jacket. If you’re comfortable with tying a heavier jacket around your waist, you can always start out with a thicker jacket and whip it off mid-run.
- Mid Layers: Spring weather can be tricky. It can be super chilly in the morning, pretty warm in the afternoon, and freezing at night. Mid layers are really important during a long run. Adding them to your layers might mean the difference between staying warm or freezing during your long run. Thin, technical half and quarter zips are great for layering up over a long sleeve or tank. You can also use a normal long-sleeved tech shirt as a mid layer.
- Base Layers: These can be tanks or short sleeves, or whatever you decide is comfortable on your long run. In the spring, I inevitably wear a thin tank under my mid layer, so that I can strip and feel the sun on my arms and back. If it’s raining and warm, I either continue running in the rain or throw on my rainshell.
- Capris: I personally prefer to wear capris, capris with attached skirts, and 7- or 8-inch compression shorts for my springtime long runs. On the longest ones, to avoid any chafing whatsoever, I tend to stick with calf-length capris.
- Shorts: If shorts are comfortable on you for hours and don’t ride up or droop down, wear those. However, if any of the apparel on your legs becomes uncomfortable on a three or four mile run, you may want to reconsider your choice. Who wants to constantly yank up or pull down shorts on a run of any length? No one. Try different brands and choose wisely!
- Skirts: Skirts are the new black. Lots of ladies are wearing skirts on the run today, in all areas of fitness. The great thing is that many of then come with compression shorts under so you can do your long run comfortably while having the added fashion flair of a skirt on the outside without compromising comfort.
Shoes and Socks
- Road Shoes: If you’re running long road miles, you will probably need to run in shoes appropriate for the road, although I like to wear a shoe that is flexible and will take me seamlessly from road to trail and back. Road shoes tend to have less tread, since most asphalt is flat. Make sure to find a shoe that is comfortable and will remain so for the mileage you’re planning on doing. A shoe that’s great for a three-miler isn’t necessarily the one you want for a ten- or fifteen-miler. You might want more or less cushion, stability, or firmess of the shoe’s upper.
- Trail Shoes: Depending on the type of trail you’re doing your long run on , you’ll need to make sure the aggressiveness of the tread on the shoe is appropriate for the technical level of the trail. For smooth or paved trails you might not even need trail shoes. For trails with some roots and rocks, you may want to invest in a shoe that has more aggressive treads and enough cushioning to get your feet through long mileage.
- Nothing: If running barefoot floats your boat, go for it! Consider the type of trail or road you’ll be on and allow yourself some flexibility with shoe choice. Also, make sure you have actually run without shoes before attempting a long run. Check out Barebottom Shoes if you’re really into exploring running in the almost-foot-nude.
- Socks: These are of utmost importance. Your socks can make, brake, or break your run. Cotton is an absolute no-no. Find some technical socks that will not cause chafing, or slip down and bunch up in your shoes. You may find that compression socks of any length are more your style, or that you enjoy a more padded sock, like Swiftwick Maxus or Feetures Max Cushion. I personally prefer more cushion on runs longer than 15 miles and less or no cushion on anything shorter.
What are your must have clothes for long runs?