Although I’ve been running competitively for quite a while, it’s still not my day job. Since I’m an amateur, I hesitate to offer advice to other runners. If asked, I’m happy to share my experiences. Since mine are unique to me, however, I don’t presume they will have great relevance to you.
But you can feel the “but” coming here, can’t you? As in, yeah, I don’t give advice, BUT, here’s something I think you should do. Or shouldn’t do. And indeed, I am going to tell you about something I did. The point is, I’m telling you about it so you DON’T do it.
Here’s the thing. I’m sure you have heard and read only about a hundred times the following runner commandment: “Don’t try any completely new gear on race day.” Don’t wear shoes you bought at the expo or the free shirt you got in your race packet during the race. In fact, don’t even wear something that you know works for shorter runs in a longer race or marathon. Those speedy shoes that helped you to your 10K PR may lack the support you need for the longer haul. Tacking 20 miles onto a piece of equipment is asking a lot of it.
I got that. I’ve run over 150 marathons in the last 12 years, and lots of shorter races. I don’t wear new stuff in a marathon. Nope, but I still am wildly capable of doing really stupid things. My confession has to do with the flip side of this advice.
Being a somewhat frugal person, I tend to use gear for as long as it’s got a little life in it. And that is where I have run into
difficulties pain. One classic example involved a favored pair of Injinji socks. These are super socks. They’re the ones with the toes. I discovered them when I was crewing for another runner in an ultra. At one drop bag station, I looked around and just about every one of the ultra runners was changing socks and/or shoes….and almost all of them were in Injinjis.
At the time, I was finding my toes especially prone to blisters. I’d get up way before the race to coat my hot spots with New Skin and wait for it to dry. Everyone assured me these would be a superior alternative, so I gave ’em a try. They worked! Tra la la, I was so happy, I could sleep longer before races now that I just had to slip on socks.
Fast forward to the Inaugural Ft. Myers Marathon in 2013. I live in Ft. Myers, so no packing was required. I just got up on race morning and dressed as I usually did for long runs, save for the Maniac shirt usually worn in races. The marathon was challenging on several levels. It was hot for November in Florida. The course was new so there were some glitches.
Nothing too surprising until just around mile 10, my beloved Injinjis decided it was time to retire. The elastic band around the left ankle slowly, then more rapidly, began to give way. The sock sagged well below my heel. Not to be outdone, partner right sock joined in just before the halfway mark. (Since Injinjis are definitely right and left designated, the pair had always been a pair, so exactly the same age, wear, etc.)
Now I am not going to be guilty of the faux pas of many runners I pointed out last month, i.e, posting pics of their feet on the net. I’m sure you can imagine the effect of bunched up socks on the feet. Not only did the wrinkly part cause chafing, but both heels, unused to sockless running, became red, raw screaming craters of hurt.
I finished, but just barely. SO when you are packing or getting dressed for your next race, don’t wear anything new. At the same time, be sure the old tried and true clothes still have some vitality and oomph left. After all, there are lots of ways to be frugal without sacrificing your race performance.