Weird And Wonderful

There are some pieces of running kit you simply wouldn’t dream of doing without. Shoes specifically designed for your particular foot type, technical T-shirts that keep you dry on even the hottest days, or a stopwatch that also tells you how hard your heart is beating on a training run.

Chances are though, you didn’t realise that you couldn’t do without them until you tried them. Who would have known just how dry a Gore-Tex jacket would keep you until you had used it in a sudden downpour? Or that energy drinks would help you reach the end of a marathon without hitting the wall until after you’d run the distance supping just water.

We’ve gathered 8 products that you might ignore were you to see them in a running store or on the internet. All of them, though, are genuinely useful to runners. We’re not saying they’ll become as indispensable as your Nike Air Pegasus, but you never know.

To help you survive a 125 degree inferno…
Okay, even with global warming we don’t have too many Saharan days in the UK, but that isn’t to say that the RailRiders Sahara Cap (£27.95) couldn’t be put to good use. Unclip the detachable outer skirt and you have a wonderful lightweight, breathable, quick-drying running cap with mesh side panels. When you are relaxing in the sun with a cold glass or two after chalking up another PB, you can snap the skirt back on again to keep the nasty sun off the side and back of your neck. And should you ever find yourself standing at the start line of the Marathon des Sables or the Badwater 135, you would be a fool not to have one resting on your balding pate.
Contact: Buncup 01753 689160; www.buncup.com

To provide home comforts…
How do I put this delicately? There comes a time in almost every runner’s career when they’re caught embarrassingly short while out in the wild. Some have the forethought to tuck some tissue paper into their shorts before leaving the house, but if you’ve ever had to find a patch of wet grass or prickly dry leaves, then you might like the Ortlieb T-Pack (£20). It holds a full toilet roll, keeps it completely dry and can be attached to a belt. Should nature call, you hang the T-Pack from a branch, the roll hangs out and, well, I’m sure you can work out the rest.
Contact: Ortlieb 015396 25493; www.ortlieb.com

To help Lincolnshire’s hill runners…
Hillwork is a staple of many a runner’s schedule. It builds strength, stamina and speed. But not everyone has the perfect incline just outside the back door. If that’s you, you can still benefit from some ‘resistance’ work – all you need is a track or field, and a parachute. Strap a Power Chute (£65-£75) around your waist and start running. Just like a parachute that pops out behind a drag-racer, the Power Chute catches air and slows you down. And just like running uphill, to run faster you have to work much harder. The three different sized parachutes offer three different levels of resistance. The chute is even more fun, and provides a particularly tough workout on a windy day.
Contact: Bodycare 01926 816155; www.bodycare.co.uk

To give you support…
Judging by the number of responses that appear whenever someone mentions it on the www.runnersworld.co.uk forum, running underwear is quite a talking point. When it comes to sports bras, female runners know they’re vital, but what about, say, briefs? Many runners, men and women alike, simply rely on the inner-lining found in most modern shorts, but if you want more support, security, or just want your shorts to last longer, then sport specific underwear is well worth investing in. And Odlo’s Termic range (£18-£28) is a good choice. Soft, technical fabrics wick away sweat to keep you dry and this allied to smooth, seamless construction guards against painful chafing.
Contact: ASI 01250 873 863; www.odlo.com

To make sure you’re seen and not hurt…
None of us would drive down a dark country lane without turning the car headlights on, so it’s amazing how many runners are happy to head out at night in dark clothes. Sure, dark colours make you look slimmer, but if drivers can’t see you coming they’re also potentially fatal. There are of course plenty of ways to make yourself more visible and teaming up bright clothing with an LED head torch is one of the best. The Black Diamond Moonlight (£25) has four ultra-bright lamps which oncoming motorists can’t fail to spot. Three AAA batteries provide more than 70 hours of light. It’s exceptionally comfortable to wear and provides more than enough illumination to help you spot potholes and telegraph poles.
Contact: First Ascent 01629 580 484

To stop your shoes smelling…
Running has a tendency to make things smelly, but while everyone chucks their sweaty T-shirts and shorts straight into the washing machine, most of us pay less attention to our shoes. Of course, washing them after every run isn’t a practical solution, but sticking a Sneaker Ball (£4 per pair) in each shoe, while doing nothing for the caked on mud, will at least stop them from stinking out the house. These clever little balls also kill the bacteria that cause athlete’s foot. While the scent isn’t exactly Chanel No.5, the strong washing powder odour is far preferable to old cheese.
Contact: Lockwoods 01926 339388 or Runners Need 020 7485 7869; www.runnersneed.co.uk

To kit you out for any adventure…
This has to be the strangest running shirt we’ve seen, but then it’s probably the most versatile too. Whether you are out on a spring training run in Portugal, or considering dinner at one of London’s finer restaurants, the RailRiders EcoMesh shirt (£39.95) would not look out of place. The shirt is designed to be hard-wearing and not to let you down under the most demanding athletic conditions, which is why it has become de rigueur in the adventure-racing world. The quick-drying supplex nylon body material offers excellent sun protection and doesn’t chaff even when damp. But it’s unlikely to stay damp for long because the easy-opening neck and huge open mesh side panels feed air around the shirt and make it feel like you’re running in a weightless, portable air conditioner. The look takes some getting used to but you won’t find another shirt that fills so many needs.
Contact: Buncup 01753 689160; www.buncup.com

To stop you wasting all that hard work…
Aqua Joggers (£30) aren’t new, but they are of real benefit if you’ve got an impact injury that can’t be run on – chronic shin splints or Achilles tendinitis for instance. Put on one of these devices and you can float in an upright position in the pool while ‘running’ in the water. That means you can maintain your aerobic fitness and work all the muscles you use when you’re running without subjecting them to the painful pounding and further damage that running causes. Expect a few curious glances, and of course, keep out of the swimmers’ lane.
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