Running is a pretty simple sport, but despite this, many runners absolutely love all things gear.
We want the latest and greatest when it comes to new apparel, new shoes, the top-of-the-line GPS-enabled watches, sunglasses that will protect our eyes and deflect the sun’s rays, nutritional supplements that will get our muscles to work harder and longer – basically anything that can help give us a legal competitive edge we want.
As running has gotten more popular over the past few years, people are also beginning to realize that they can combine running into their everyday lives in very practical and logical ways. The best example: the run-mute, or the commute via running.
Some people have realized that they can save a lot of time, if not also gas money, by run-commuting to work each day (one way or both ways). There are definitely logistics involved in run-muting every day or even a few days of the week, but fortunately, there are a variety of running belts and running-friendly backpacks on the market that help manage the process.
Similarly, with running’s increasing popularity, many people are training to run endurance events, such as half marathons and marathons, for the first time ever. It doesn’t take long before folks realize that their cute little running shorts – the ones that have a single pocket that barely holds a house or car key – is seriously flawed in its ability to help them carry their essentials. Unsurprisingly then, the market for running-friendly belts and backpacks has grown tremendously.
Finally, for all those people who have been running for a long time now, many of them are beginning to experiment with going longer and farther than ever before by venturing into the realm of ultramarathons, a race defined as being longer in length than a standard 26.2 mile or 42 kilometer marathon.
If you’re a new runner and are on the fence about purchasing a running-friendly belt or backpack, definitely consider it. I’ve been running for over a decade now, having run nearly 30 marathons and a trail 50k ultramarathon, so I am as good a runner as any to encourage you to add a running belt or running backpack to your running closet. Here’s why…
1. Running shorts are usually lacking in pockets.
Most running shorts I’ve seen are minimal in design, which means that it’s an issue of fashion over function, unfortunately. I can guarantee you that if you’re training for an endurance event like a half marathon, marathon, or ultra, that you’ll want to carry more than your key in your pocket. A running backpack or running belt can save the day.
2. Holding things in your hands for minutes (if not hours) on end is uncomfortable and annoying.
You may think that you’re only going out for a short run and that you’ll be okay to carry your belongings with you, but let me assure you: it gets old fast. Your hands sweat, making whatever you’re holding slippery; your hands might even cramp up a bit and your arms tire from being in a clenched position; if you’re wearing gloves, it might not even be feasible to hold stuff in the first place; and more than anything, who wants to run schlepping stuff around?! Again: a running backpack or running belt can take the annoyance out of the picture.
3. You’ll find something out there that you like.
The running backpack and belt market is fairly saturated right now, so don’t write-off this accessory because you tried one once and didn’t like it. Look at reviews online, talk to your friends, and go to running stores to try things on for size. It’s kind of like running shoes; there’s something out there for everyone. It all just boils down to finding something that fits your body correctly and finding something that will satisfy your running needs.
4. It helps tremendously during training for endurance events.
If you’re training for an endurance event, you’ll be running for many hours each week, and sometimes it’s not always feasible to make your car or your home your aid station, necessitating that you create a route that brings you back to either spot repeatedly so you can get your fluids/energy chews/whatever. Instead, if you’re wearing a running belt or backpack on your training runs, you are literally bringing your aid station with you, and you’ll have the luxury of stopping to heed your nutritional needs wherever and whenever.
5. It can help you build mental strength.
This may seem far-fetched, but hear me out. I’ve heard people complain that they don’t like wearing running belts or running backpacks because they “annoy” them for some reason. Even if you’re not going to wear a running belt or backpack in your race – some people do, and some people don’t – think of the opportunities you could give yourself by learning to deal with the “annoyance” on your runs, especially if the “annoyance” is there to help you (see #4 about being a mobile aid station). Endurance training is all about mental callousing and conditioning, so I’d encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity that you get to become more mentally adept.
6. If you’re running an ultra, you’ll become BFF with your accessory.
In ultras, typically aid stations are positioned many miles apart from each other, all but necessitating that runners carry their own fluids and food to help sustain them between stations. It obviously would behoove you to try out your accessory before your race day because you’ll learn how to adjust it to fit you appropriately, and you’ll also quickly figure out how much you can comfortably carry in it.
7. It can help you become a regular run-muter.
If you’re interested in running to work from home each day, or vice-versa, having a running backpack or belt will help you tremendously. You probably won’t be able to work all day in your sweaty running clothes – nor would you probably want to, I’m assuming – so you’d have to make sure that you had work-friendly clothes ready for you at work.
In addition, if you have after-work obligations like college or volunteer commitments, your running accessory will still allow you to carry some essentials with you after work, like your wallet and phone.
8. The accessory comes in handy in non-running circumstances.
For as much use as you’ll get out of your running accessory on your running exploits, I bet you’ll be surprised to see how else and where else you can use it in every day life, too. Spending time outside with your kids, vacationing at amusement parks, or even running errands (and not wanting to carry a purse or large bag) are all great examples of ways that you can use your designed-for-running accessory in everyday life.
9. It’ll help you meet other runners.
Not everyone who wears running shoes runs – some people just like to wear them because they’re comfortable – but I doubt that many people would go out of their way to buy a running-brand-specific backpack or belt. If you see someone wearing one on the street, presumably while running, that can be an easy way for you to break the ice and possibly find a new partner in the process!
10. Bottom line: it can make running more enjoyable.
I’m of the mindset that if there’s something out there that will make running more enjoyable, then people should use it. For some people, that’s listening to music; for others, it’s only running on the treadmill so they can watch trashy TV. If having a pack or belt makes running even the slightest bit more enjoyable or logistically easier for you, then by all means, go for it!
This was a guest article by Dan Chabert.
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on Runner Click and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.