There’s nothing like the nostalgia of pulling out an old race t-shirt. And the smell. Soon, it earns a permanent spot, tucked away in a drawer never to be worn again. With a new year ahead, it’s a perfect time to re-evaluate gear for the upcoming year. What needs to be replaced, and what investments should be made for the upcoming race season? What worked well? What didn’t? Of course there are races to sign up for, training plans to be made and adventures to be had, but set aside some time before you’re in full-training mode and check your gear.
While running shoes might be the only big ticket piece of equipment you routinely switch out every few months, think about all of the other items that take a beating during those long runs. Shorts and pants are a prime example of clothing that gets a fair share of wear and tear while protecting you from the elements. Fabrics like nylon, polyester and spandex, which make up a majority of shorts and running pants, deteriorate faster depending on how often they are worn and washed. If you’ve got a favorite pair of tights that you love, they’re being exposed to UV rays while you run, the agitation of the washing machine, chemicals in your detergent and harsh heat of the dryer. It’s a sad fact, but those favorite tights won’t last forever and you’ll be better off replacing both running pants and shorts every year or two.
But if you’re like me, you’ve been hanging onto those favorite pieces for a year (or seven) too long. The same goes for undergarments. Ladies, those sports bras receive a rigorous workout, and the polyester-based fabric will eventually lose elasticity. While taking extra care of your unmentionables might preserve their life a little longer, there’s something to be said for the number of miles that ultrarunners rack up each year. If you’re replacing your shoes more often, you should probably be replacing you sports bras too.
Hydration packs are another piece of gear that takes a beating. Equivalent to purchasing a new pair of shoes, a pack carrying your water and additional gear should fit correctly to reduce jostling, chafing and general annoyance. When you hardly know it’s there, or it feels like a big hug – you know you’ve got a winner. Fortunately, a leaky bladder can be replaced separately without spending your entire wad on a whole new pack.
While replacing essential gear after too many miles is a given, you can prolong the life of your favorite pieces by drying them after your run, washing them in cooler water, air-drying all of your non-cotton fabrics, and never using fabric softener. When it comes to running shoes, make sure to air-dry them after a wet run, and keep them out of the washer. We all know that shoes won’t last forever, but it sucks when we lose a good pair too soon. And if you just can’t give up that favorite pair of shorts, it’s OK. Just be on the lookout for a replacement.