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Running equipment| Running races| Running
May 2014

Are you geared

for all runners?

The many types of running races — city and rural trails, street running, night time running, adventure racing, pure running — is enough to cause confusion for an average Joe. RHIANAH FREDERICKS asked running gear suppliers and running event organisers what runners would require and features they should look out for in their gear.

There was a time when the running section of a store would be stocked with shoes — in neutral, stability and anti-pronation styles for road or trail — shirts and shorts. A peaked cap, running belt, water bottle and heart rate monitor might have been optional extras.

Those were the days when runners either raced on roads, or clearly defined trails, for a set number of hours during daylight.

Nowadays, there are so many different forms of running events that a customer could be shopping in all sections of the store when preparing for an event — from sport to outdoor, from running to winter wear, including a visit to the electronics department.

There are night runs, city trail runs, adventurous runs on impossible slopes, obstacle races, to name but a few — which all offer retailers new product options to recommend to their running customers.

There are tons of items to choose from when running or racing, but some of the basic items used by all runners include footwear, clothing and hydration. The rest of the kit — compulsory as well as nice to haves — will depend on the type of event your customer will be participating in.

For strength, power and endurance activities such as urban, outdoor and trail running, their gradient compression offer runners the ultimate clothing item, advises Paul Copson from Brand ID, local distributor of Skins, Mizuno and Nathan running brands.

For any race, regardless of the environment, suitable performance socks are essential says Morne Strydom from Adventure Inc, local distributors of various brands used by adventure runners. The Bridgedale X-Hale or Multisport socks, for example, combine merino or tough wool with performance fabrics that allow them to keep feet warm when needed and wick in moist conditions. For multi-day events he recommends their Bamboo Lo range.

In terms of headwear, Buff multi-functional headwear will be an item to recommend as these products are adjustable and can be converted from beanie, to face mask, to neckerchief, etc. for use in city, rural, off-road and multi-day races, in day or night races.

While stalwart events like the 5-10km runs, trail runs, marathons and ultra-marathons like the Two Oceans and Comrades, prove their popularity by the speed with which entries fill up, many brands are introducing new ways of looking at, and experiencing, running — and are developing products that fit the bill for their particular type of run.

Multi-day races

“I believe the staged races — anything from two to five days — is becoming increasingly popular,” says Tatum Prins of event company Mountain Runner. During these lengthy events runners face various challenges, ranging from feet issues, nutrition, pack weight, etc. but there is also a wonderful feel of camaraderie as runners socialise after a day’s run and share their war stories.

Various race lengths each have their own popularity, according to Stephan Muller from Kinetic Gear. “Our 25 km (2-4 hours) events draw 300 hundred athletes, our 120km overnight (12-24 hours) events about 150 athletes,” he says. Their longer races are more specialised and half their entries are international.

Multi-day races require more shoe, as the body tires and running form begins to falter, the shoes need to provide more cushioning and protection than is necessary for a faster and shorter event.

“Our Roclite 315 has a 9mm differential between heel and forefoot which is a bit more forgiving when the runner tires and starts running more on their heels,” says Donovan Van Gelder of Inov-8 distributor, Rebel Elite Fitness. It is also well protected in the upper to protect the foot and the shoe when the runner stubs his feet on rocks and other trail debris as he gets tired and possibly does not lift his feet as high as on the first day.

The New Balance 1210 series offers good cushioning and fit and rock stop technology that protects the runner’s feet over multi-day stages, as constant rocky surfaces begin to hurt the underfoot, adds John Andrew.

Clothing needs

Multi-day races means an overnight experience, usually in a colder environment. For these type of races Strydom suggests their Icebreaker range of leggings, long sleeves, socks, etc. made of merino wool, making them soft, breathable, odour resistant and temperature regulatory, among other things.

Lightweight, waterproof breathable jackets are a minimum safety requirement in these races and he would recommend something like the RonHill Tempest jacket, says Strydom. It is the lightest fully waterproof packable jacket RonHill has ever made. It features two pockets — one can be used for a map and keys, while the other is used for packing the jacket, which folds into the pocket.

A number of the New Balance garments feature their NBfresh technology, which is an odour management and antimicrobial system that helps keep garments fresh and reduce odours from bacteria that are released while sweating, says Barbara Cole. Comfort will be key during this type of race, “so you want apparel that reduces the chance of chafing — flat locked seams ensure greater comfort — and the fabric in our Impact and NBx range of apparel is super soft.”

Their NBx apparel range also has features such as welded seams, which reduce the chance of chafing even more, and body mapping on the fabric sees areas of high sweat having more breathable fabric coverage.

Socks that have moisture management qualities are preferable for these type of races, along with ones that don’t slip down in your shoes. A heel pouch in the sock or higher cuff is preferable, Cole adds.

Ideal lighting

For events where runners will be running through the night, items such as headlamps would be necessary. When recommending a headlamp, it is important to know the type of race it will be used in to ensure the runner selects a headlamp that is as powerful as it will need to be.

The more an athlete can see, the faster he can run, says Ryan Van Niekerk from Ram Mountaineering, local distributors of Black Diamond. The Black Diamond Icon headlamp is ideal for longer runs, even through the night, as it offers a long battery life, ensuring the runner will not be short of light mid-way through a race, because their batteries have died.

“The Led Lenser SEO range of headlamps is particularly suitable for multi-day adventure racing,” adds Georgina Connock from Awesome Tools, local distributor of Led Lenser. They are lightweight, comfortable, have excellent light performance and have washable headbands.

Their SEO5 is designed for the performance oriented. With a light output of up to 180 lumens and run time of up to 25 hours, it is ideal for longer racing, she says. For more environmentally friendly option, she recommends the rechargeable SEO7R.

Keeping hydrated and nourished

For multi-day racing Strydom would recommend the Osprey Rev 18 or 24, which are panel loading technical hydration packs that are ideal for trail running or endurance events.

Nathan continues to push innovation offering gender specific race hydration vests for athletes that need to carry more and run longer, says Copson. They offer body mapped designs that hug the torso and provides lightweight storage, a breathable and bounce free ride, as well as on the fly adjustability for a stable load and smooth ride.

The Ultimate Performance AiraForce 4 Nutrition Belt allows simple and easy access to four 300ml bottles that can hold essential fluids or nutrition gels that athletes need to keep hydrated whilst they train, says Adam Closenberg from Terra Brands, local distributor of Ultimate Performance. This belt is recommended for all race types.

Consuming up to 60g of carbohydrate per hour during a race is ideal to help maintain the body’s natural stores, which are used up during activity. These stores can be replaced in the form of liquids, gels or bars depending on a runner’s personal preference, says Copson. He recommends their Sis Go Isotonic Gels for this purpose, as they offer 20g carbohydrate, are easily digestible and are practical to carry.

Nice to have extras

Kit lists are provided by race organisers in an effort to promote safety and preparedness. Runners should be made aware that carrying mandatory kit is a must. Being well prepared could be key to safety, comfort and enjoying the race. This is especially true for more extreme environments, where one is racing for long periods of time in remote areas, explains Van Niekerk.

Gloves are not an item runners may think of as it will most likely not be on the required kit list, but if conditions are expected to include low temperatures, they may be an item to take, because they give extra protection from cold, says Van Niekerk. Their Black Diamond lightweight glove is made of a micro fleece material with a brushed inner that is wind resilient and makes it ideal for cold conditions.

Trekking poles: Many athletes may not think of trekking poles as a running tool either, but they can help on the trail up hills. For endurance and ultra-distance runners, the Ultra Distance Trekking Pole is lightweight, collapsible and made of carbon. Their Distance Trekking Pole, on the other hand, is made of aluminium. It is best to advise customers to buy two, says Van Niekerk, so that the runner’s weight will be evenly distributed, allowing him to move faster.

The most important detail that retailers should make runners aware of is being prepared for any situation, because if they are unprepared and caught unaware by a change in weather, it could result in a very miserable experience.

Another point Van Niekerk makes is that although lighter and smaller equipment may be more expensive, it could also mean that they are better equipped. If the athlete is an avid runner, products will never go to waste as they will always have a purpose.

Adventure racing

“Professionally run adventure racing events will always have a mandatory or compulsory kit that the runners have to run with. Then the organisers will have a kit check at either registration, or along the course, or both, and at the end as well,” says organiser event organiser Tatum Prins, who is also a member of the Merrell Adventure Addicts racing team.

Items on her have to have list for adventure racers include a waterproof jacket, baselayer, buff/beanie, cellphone, space blanket, whistle, first aid kit and emergency food, she says.

Some races may be a sprint (two to six hours), a 12-hour race (six to 12 hours), 24-hour race (lasting between 18-30 hours or longer), a multi-day race (36-48 hours) or an expedition race (three to 11 days) and can have teams instead of single participants.

“Most popular are the races that can be entered individually or in pairs as the logistics to get to the start are much easier,” says Adrian Saffy from Pure Adventures, organisers of the Led Lenser Wartrail Challenge. He also finds that athletes prefer events where they don’t have to take extended periods of leave therefore two or three day events attract them more easily.

Compulsory items for a team and single runner will not necessarily be the same — each participant may have to carry a backpack, waterproof jacket, whistle, etc., but as a team they may only require one compass, cellphone, first aid kit, etc.

“For the longer course adventure races we definitely recommend that participants carry their own hydration, but for the rest, just ensure that they are wearing comfortable and suitable clothing and shoes, and never, ever wear brand new shoes on race day,” says Michael Zoetmulder from Zports event management.

Backpacks with water carrying containers, whether bladder or bottles, are strongly recommended for events such as their Kinetic Full Moon Adventure, a 120 km mountain run in Mpumalanga, says Stephan Muller from Kinetic Gear.

Food, extra race clothing, waterproofing or dry bags (because adventure races include water activities), a water purification device, money, etc. are also items that are strongly recommended — and should participants lose any, they would need to be replaced.

Navigation aids are essential items in all adventure racing. For rural, off-road and multi-day races Strydom suggests map protection like the Sea to Summit Guide Map Case. This product is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and features a ziploc closure that makes it waterproof and dustproof. It can be folded numerous times and will not crack or discolour.

Obstacle and mud races

Obstacle racing is one of the most popular forms of alternative running, locally and internationally, says Gareth Harrington of Reebok “with crowds of up to 8 000 people attending the weekends in South Africa and in to the 10s of thousands attending the obstacle racing events in the US and Europe.”

Athletes seem to enjoy this as it provides them with a unique and varied challenge, testing their strength, agility, endurance as well as being a mental and physical test, he says. “The challenge of overcoming the obstacle and the course bring a togetherness and sense of community to these events, adding a social dimension which adds extra appeal to participants,” he adds.

Reebok sponsors the Spartan Series Worldwide, while Inov-8 recently partnered with the South African obstacle racing series, Warrior Race, as their official footwear sponsor.

Traction and durability are key elements that are ideal for running trail, or obstacle races, says Harrington. Obstacle racing shoes should be able to shed mud, drain water quickly and efficiently, protect the foot against sharp objects and rocks, and provide good traction in mud as well as on ropes and wall climbs.

For these types of races their Terrain footwear will be ideal, he says, as it “is a purpose built minimalist shoe specifically aimed at obstacle and mud racers. The 360 degrees of technology is designed to aid the athlete in achieving top performance while obstacle racing or on the trails.” It also repels mud and water that ultimately work toward keeping the shoe’s weight low, which will allow agile movement and good traction.

“Shoes for mud races should have a good mud clearing outsole with aggressive grip (lugs spaced wide apart) to not block up with mud and to maintain grip at all times,” says Dawid Visser from Jordan & Co., local distributor of Asics.

Clothing for these type of races, on the other hand, should be breathable and tight, but hold very little water. Visser advises that runners wear black kit, which will soil less easily.

Urban trail races

“Urban running requires a shoe with excellent stability for stop-start running, together with amazing cushioning,” advises Paul Copson of Brand ID, local distributor of Mizuno.

Their Wave technology combines the two key elements for great urban running shoes — cushioning and stability, he says, and their U4ic midsole compound offers 30% more cushioning than previous Mizuno midsoles.

The new Reebok Z-Series, inspired by Z–rated performance tyres, constructed for all round handling and control, are ideal for urban assault courses, says Gareth Harrington from Reebok. “The low profile midsole with sliced geometry allows it to be fast and precise, while specifically designed deep grooves in the forefoot spread on impact making the contact surface larger for superior control and traction.” A Nanoweb upper keeps the foot supported and centred. “The combination of light weight, speed and agility are perfect for an urban assault. Sports car handling for your feet.”

Night races

It is difficult to see runners in the dark, but reflective details help improve runner visibility. For this reason Dawid Visser of Asics recommends that runners not wear black kit for night runs.

Brooks’ Nightlife collection offers high visibility for runners when night racing. “The nightlife collection features bright colour contrasts and 3M reflective details, says Michelle Chowles. For night races Brooks recommends their Rev LS II, LSD Lite Jacket and Infiniti Tight II, as the longsleeve is very lightweight, moisture wicking and also features built-in UV-protection. The tights are ideal for cool and cold temperatures as it gives full-coverage warmth, has behind the knee mesh, and anatomical seam and zipper placement that gives overall comfort.

Their Infiniti beanie is a running cap ideal for cooler days or hours as it features 3M Scotchlite reflectors and has breathable fleece around the ears and forehead to keep the runners head warm while preventing cooling, says Chowles.

All New Balance running apparel have reflective details in the form of prints, logos, zips and piping. “These are all strategically placed so that a runner can be seen from any angle in low light conditions,” says Barbara Cole.

Most of New Balance’s top end shoes (NBx) have reflectivity as a feature and are therefore recommended for night running. Their 1010 series shoe is recommended for rural races in the night as it has a lower profile and helps with proprioception. “With poor visibility you want your foot to be as stable as possible so as not to twist your ankle over any uneven surfaces,” says John Andrew.

For night time races in city, rural or off-road environments, Morne Strydom of Adventure Inc recommends the RonHill Vision Snapband to make the runner more visible.

The Nathan Safety Light Series help runners to extend their day into night runs, with smart, compact, easily-configurable, high visibility clip on and strap on lighting, says Copson. They offer the Light Benders, Light Spur that uniquely attaches to the runner’s shoe and a strobe light with 100+ hours of illumination. Their strobe and constant light are also available in gender specific colours for more outdoor fun, adds Copson.

Rural trail running

Off road running is growing in popularity, says Tatum Prins from Mountain Runner Events. In a rural environment the terrain may be less predictable than tar, paving, or cement and therefore suppliers suggest footwear that can accommodate the wearer in these situations.

Runners should remember that not all shoes are designed for the same purpose and should be used for their specific purpose, advises Asics’ Dawid Visser. Trail shoes have more aggressive grip for off–road use, which will wear through quicker on the road, as a different rubber compound are used in trail shoes compared to road, he explains. “The upper materials in trail shoes are also harder wearing than in road shoes, as you should not have rocks, branches, etc. wearing against the materials in road shoe.”

Harder-packed rocky terrain would require smaller studs that are closely spaced on the outsole whereas terrain that is looser and possibly muddy would need larger and wider spaced studs, says Donovan Van Gelder of Inov-8 distributor Rebel Elite Fitness. This type of terrain will require footwear that offers a bit more emphasis on grip than footwear used for city trails.

For this type of race the important feature will be traction and therefore runners would need a more trail-like shoe, says John Andrew of New Balance. The footwear choice will depend on the distance of the race, but cushioning will always be important if the race is long. For a longer race he would recommend their 1210 that is lightweight and has a low to the ground profile. If the race is shorter and terrain is uneven, their 1010 series would be more suited.

When running on trails or in off-road environments runners will aim for comfort, stability and protection. The Brooks Cascadia 9 can handle high mileage as well as racing, while comfort and protection are hallmarks of the adaptable DNA BioMoGo cushioning used in these shoes, says Michelle Chowles of local distributor SBr Agencies. It has a lugged outsole for traction and a ballistic rock shield that protects the foot on off-road terrain where runners can encounter sharp rocks, glass, etc. Their PureGrit2, on the other hand, is a well cushioned, lightweight, trail shoe that has a multi-directional lug pattern that gives better grip to ensure a stable ride on rough trails, she says.

Mizuno trail running footwear offers X-Lug, or multi directional, grip, without adding unnecessary weight, with improved upper fit and forefoot cross straps. This ensures that a runner’s foot is held stable and supported, offering the ultimate dynamic responsive off-road, rural and trail running ride, says Mark Copson of local distributor Brand ID.

Ideal clothing

Running is a sweat-inducing activity and this may not be the most ideal for a night time race where one might get cold as a result. For this reason, clothing that is lightweight, has wicking features and is waterproof is ideal, say suppliers.

“Hi-Tec base layers are an essential for adventure racing, especially rural area night time races, where wicking sweat and regulating body temperature is important against the chill,” says Joanne Esterhuizen. She would also pack extra pairs of socks such as the Hi-Tec Adventure short and long socks.

Features such as envelope and zip pockets become important on clothing items, especially on bottoms, when running in a rural or off-road environment, adds Barbara Cole of New Balance. Runners should use form fitting garments that will reduce the risk of snagging against trees and rocks while tights and capris are always a good option for trails.

“Layering of garments is also a good idea as weather conditions could change quickly. A lightweight shell jacket is a great garment to carry with you on trails, and we have a number of jackets that are both wind and water resistant, quick drying and lightweight”.

Clothing used for trail running should be made from a thicker weave material with snag resistant materials being used in strategic places, says Visser. Wind and waterproof materials may also be used in trail clothing to protect the runner from the weather elements.

Hydration choices

For this type of race Esterhuizen recommends a Hi-Tec Checkpoint Hydration pack with a 2L bladder, removable waist belt, reflective elements and a cargo capacity of 3L.

To keep an athlete’s thirst at bay, Morne Strydom of Adventure Inc recommends a simple bottle style hydration such as the Osprey Rev Solo or lightweight hydration pack like their Osprey Rev 1.5. The Rev solo is a lumbar style water bottle for long distances whereas the Rev 1.5 is a minimalist hydration pack that is ideal for short duration trail running.

Cole recommends the New Balance water bottle waist pack that is lightweight, has two zip storage pockets to hold a phone or nutrition, a 600ml water bottle and an adjustable waistband that sits comfortably around the waist. Elastic insets in the band reduce bouncing.

City street running

Most runners live in cities, where they also train and participate in the many 5km, 10km, half and full marathon running events.

Shoes made of lightweight materials that are quick drying and breathable are advisable for city running, says Donovan Van Gelder from Rebel Elite Fitness, local distributors of Inov-8. The footwear should also provide stability without obstructing the foot’s natural movement and keep it low to the ground, which will give stability that will allow the runner to quickly change direction if need be. In their range, the Tri-X-Treme fits all of those criteria, he says.

Running in the city, pounding tar roads, urban paving and cement sidewalks needs a shoe with the ability to absorb the varied forces dished out during the course of a city run, adds Gareth Harrington of Reebok. For these types of surfaces he recommends their One Series running shoe, as it offers protection and cushioning, while still being light weight. Shoes that have foam in high impact areas can help absorb impact, while mesh uppers will allow breathability to keep the foot cool when running in the day time.

Hi-Tec men’s R156’s would do well for a race in a city environment in daytime and during the evening, as it is designed with a reflective trim and lightweight EVA midsole creates cushioning and stability,” says Joanne Esterhuizen.

For running in the city in a daytime race, any one of the running shoes in the Brooks Core Range or PureProject Collection would suit, says Michelle Chowles from local distributor SBR Agencies. Their smart cushioning system automatically adjusts to a runner’s weight, gait and speed, while the non-Newtonian liquid DNA reacts to the amount of force placed on the foot and disperses pressure providing resiliency as needed. The PureProject collection is also advisable for night running as all shoes in the collection feature reflective details.

A runner can also wear the footwear he trains in for shorter city runs, says John Andrew from New Balance, but if your customer has the budget, a pair of racers would be ideal, as they will give the runner a much lighter feel on the day, which may motivate him to go faster on race days, especially when his personal best time is important. For this type of race he would recommend their NB 1400 series.

Running clothing

Clothing for a daytime city or rural race should feature fabric that is soft, light and breathable, adds Chowles. Brooks’ Rev SS II Running Shirt will offer runners these features, while their Sherpa Running Short will give the wearer shape and coverage along with functionality.

Garments with moisture wicking properties, as well as fabrics that feel comfortable are ideal, says Barbara Cole from New Balance.

In their range they have a number of offerings that feature moisture wicking technology, such as NBdry (a fast drying fabric) and NBice (a sweat activated cooling technology, which offers two-way air circulation). They also offer singlets, tanks, tees, etc. that each have some sort of moisture management technology. Their garments are available in seasonal colours and feature technical details to suit various needs.


Runners could lose up to 1-2 litres of sweat per hour during exercise and if the fluid is not gradually replaced, they will dehydrate, says Copson. Their new Sports Nutrition Brand — Science in Sport (SIS) — offers an electrolyte drink, Go Hydro, that will help replace those electrolytes lost via perspiration, which will improve the quality of a run as well as how the runner feels afterwards. The SiS Rego Rapid Recovery is a high quality, fast digesting, protein with a fast digesting carbohydrate, Copson would recommend in order to initiate the recovery of broken down muscle proteins and high carbohydrate usage after an urban or any run.

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