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Gearing up for Boston

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  March 11, 2013 07:57 AM

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100allysonmanchester.jpg Allyson Manchester is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
I am strongly inclined toward minimalism. I reside in a clean, uncluttered bedroom; I teach my students to write in concise prose; I listen to stripped versions of Michael Jackson songs. My minimalist nature is also, in part, what led me to running.

I grew up alongside a sister who loved to play ice hockey. As a kid, I watched as she strapped on her equipment, laced up her skates, practiced for an hour or so at the local ice rink, undressed, and then lugged the sweaty pads back to our living room to “air out.” I did not want any part of ice hockey. To me, the whole affair seemed too time-consuming, too expensive, and too complex (and let’s be real: I was too gangly).

Unlike ice hockey, running is awesomely simple. I chose it — and stuck with it — because of its minimalism. I love the power to begin my workout as soon as I put on my sneakers and step outside. There has never been a need for a gym membership, a Zamboni, or an overstuffed duffle bag.

greek runners.jpg... Or so I thought. Competitive running has certainly evolved since its earliest days in ancient Greece, when Olympic warriors ran with nothing more than chiseled facial hair and a strong sense of resolve. Now, there are entire stores filled with overwhelming amounts of running clothing and gear! Foam rollers, glucose packets, and compression socks? It all seems a bit “much.”

Since ramping up my mileage for the Boston Marathon, however, I have become fascinated (perhaps even obsessed) with running gear. I always look for gear that will improve my training and stay true to my minimalist personality. It’s a delicate and important balance to strike.

Check out a few of my current favorites:

sport beans.jpg1. Jelly Belly Sport Beans: These multicolored magic beans are straight out of a fairy tale. According to my well-researched friend Kristen, who has run multiple marathons, 2-plus hour runs require additional fuel — she says the goal is 25-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Fuels come in many forms: Gatorade, GU gels, and gummy chews are the most popular. As someone who fears bizarre food textures, I knew that banana-flavored paste would not exactly glide down my throat. Sport Beans are a delicious alternative to other fuels, and still provide the same hair-raising punch of electrolytes and calories. My one recommendation: make sure to consume Sport Beans with water—they are incredibly sweet and will make you extra thirsty.

Polar RCX3.jpg2. Polar RCX3 watch: I have had the same faithful running watch for many years — I never considered using a more complex model. Thankfully, for an old dog, this new trick wasn’t too difficult! The lightweight watch comes with a comfortable (almost weightless!) heart rate belt that sync up with each other pretty easily. I took the Polar on its maiden voyage on Wednesday for a 45-minute (5.5 mile) run through the rolling hills of my neighborhood. I am still studying and getting used to all of the features of the watch, so for now I’m focusing on heart rate data. According to the watch, my average heart rate was 161, with a maximum of 177.

sandwich t&f.jpg3. Various florescent items: I have two requirements for running clothing (that just so happen to rhyme): lightness and brightness. I don’t like to feel restricted on the road, so I look for lightweight materials that wick sweat easily. I also love bright colors. I first fell in love with brights when my high school track team ordered these fierce green t-shirts.

In addition to having a palpable mood-lifting effect, bright colors increase visibility—this is especially important in the city. According to Runner’s World, bright colors help drivers to spot you from 150 yards away, compared to a mere 30-40 feet while wearing dark clothing. The “highlight” of my neon running wardrobe is my pink do-rag.

running gear.jpg
headgear.jpg4. Water belt: Of all the running gear on this list, I am most ashamed to admit that I have acquired a water belt. My roommate and I always used to make fun of geeky water belt-wearers when we saw them jogging in place at traffic lights. It only took one painfully dehydrated long run, however, for me to realize that I needed to start rocking the water belt as well. I plan to run beltless on race day and use the water stations, but this gadget is an absolute must-have for solo training runs. I even picked up some “Body Glide” lubricant to cut down on chafing.

With all of this running gear, sometimes I feel like I am about to launch into outer space! I do not think I have walked around with so many apparatuses since my traumatic headgear-wearing days in the 6th grade (check out this unsightly picture of me singing in youth choir). At the end of the day, however, these items have added to my safety, endurance, hydration, and overall excitement about running.

Have you tested any cool running gear lately?

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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