The 4 Essential Tools You Need to Succeed At Running

This Sunday, I will be running the Chicago Half Marathon – this will be my fourth in the past 11 months. In addition to training and mental preparation, I also use a variety of running gear.

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In honor of the race this weekend, this edition of Friday Focus will highlight some of the running gear I use to get through every race and training session.

Running Gear


Shoes are the number one piece of gear you should get right every time and you should not skimp on quality or fit. You may have to go through several pairs of shoes before you get it exactly right, but it is worth it.

If you are new to running, I recommend going to a running store like FleetFeet Sports, FutureTrack or Roadrunner Sports to help you select the right shoe. Each of these stores have qualified runners who will evaluate your gate (stride pattern), foot strike and contour (pronation/supination) and type of shoe (street/trail/low profile).

There is a real science to selecting the proper running shoe. If the shoe is to small or the width is not correct, it can throw off your biomechanics and cause hip or knee strain.

When I began running in fifth grade, I got my running shoes from a running store. They explained all of the features and helped me select the proper shoe.

For me, I can run in a variety of shoes because I have good running mechanics and have a neutral foot strike. If you pronate (roll to the inside of the foot) then you need a more stabilizing shoe with arch support. If you supinate (roll to the outside of the foot) then you need a shoe with a strong outer soul to protect your heel.


My Current Shoe Selection


Whether you are walking a few miles or running a marathon, hydration can make or break your experience. Dehydration, or worse, heat stroke is not a fun experience.

The effects of dehydration include disorientation, lightheadedness, muscle cramps and you could even pass out. I typically take sips of water every half mile or mile. The key to proper hydration is to start early – when you feel the effects of dehydration, it’s too late.

My Current Hydration Gear

  • Nathan Racing Vest – this hydration pack is geared towards longer distance running – 10K and above. It contains a 2 litre hydration bladder complete with tube distribution system. It is light and has straps across your chest. It has a couple of pockets for accessories (phone, food, etc.).
  • Nathan Quick Draw Plus Water Bottle – this bottle is great for short runs/walks. I typically use this bottle for an electrolyte mix to replenish the fluids I naturally lose.

Energy Foods

Replenishing water and electrolytes is crucial to your success, but equally important is putting calories back into your body. I usually take on food sooner after I feel the first rumblings of my stomach.

Over the course of your training, you will begin to understand when your body is ready for nutrition. I recommend experimenting with your nutrition during training to see how your body reacts to each type of energy food. You don’t want to get into a race and something react wrong with your body.

My Current Energy Supply

  • Probar Energy Chews – these little chews (gummies) are great for replenishing energy over an extended period of time. I will usually run with these in my hand for several miles. They provide a quick jolt of energy and they are organic. I love the berry chews!
  • Clif Bars – I use these bars before a workout or race to get some early calories in me. These are also a great snack in the middle of the day at work and a much healthier alternative than a cookie. My favorite is the White Chocolate Macadamian Nut.
  • Clif Shot or GU Gels – I use these gels sparingly. They provide a quick jolt of energy instantously. You squeeze the gel in your mouth and wash it down with water. My favorite flavor is Vanilla.

Misc Gear

Here is my catch all category for running gear. These are in no particular order.

  • Sunglasses – I love Oakley sunglasses. I have used them for years. They provide great eye protection, and they can come in prescription and non-presciption types. They hug your face and head nicely and don’t slip off your face when you are sweating. The key is to find a pair of sunglasses that works for you. For me, it's Oakley. For you, it might be something different.
  • Hat – I recommend wearing a cap to protect your face and head from the elements. It will also keep cooling from escaping your body through your head. A cap will do, but a cap specifically-designed for running or hiking is the best. You can get them with an extra flap in the back to protect your neck also – it’s whatever you are most comfortable with.
  • Garmin 920XT Watch – I love gadgets and I love data. Data mixed with your understanding of your body will help you make the right decisions for your training. This watch (with heart rate monitor) measures elevation change, speed, mile pace, foot strike, heart rate, cadence, ground contact time and more. I have used other watches over time including the Apple Watch and a Garmin Forerunner 510.
  • Clothes – I recommend wearing shorts and shirts that offer some type of wicking material to help sweat escape and not increase chaffing. The wrong material can make a half marathon seem like an eternity. I recommend products by North Face, Patagonia, Nike and Adidas. These offer the best protection including compression shorts.
  • Sunscreen – this is a must if you do a lot of running outdoors. This is the single best protection against skin cancer today. It only takes a few minutes to protect yourself.

Final Thoughts

Running is a great way to exercise and today’s races whether on the street or trail are a great way to celebrate your success. I prefer to run on a trail as much as possible to limit the impact to my joints (especially while I am losing weight).

You don’t need all these things to be successful, but they do help. To start, make sure you have the right running shoes. This is the single most important piece of gear you need to get started.

Here’s to your success and have a great Friday!

[reminder]What’s your favorite pair of running, walking or hiking shoes?[/reminder]

I help facilities manager and planner create spaces that are backed by research, engage employees of all generations, and drive business objectives. I am also the founder of Dave's Book Club – a once per month reading experience designed to help professionals grow their influence.

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