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Lani Teshima, editor

Gear Up

What to wear to be fashionably comfortable marathoner

Thursday, July 21, 2005
by Lani Teshima, staff editor

Running (and walking) for exercise takes very little equipment. The only item you really need to invest in is a good pair of shoes, and I shared some tips on how to pick up a good pair in my April installment of this series. In addition to shoes, there are various things you can wear and carry with you, both during the marathon and during your training.

Sweats, or sweatless?

When you envision someone who's out of shape and huffing around the gym, what do you see? Someone wearing a headband, gray sweat pants and a long-sleeve sweatshirt? What do you think of when think of an elite superathlete? Someone in a thin singlet top with what amounts to a brief pair of Speedos for running shorts?


Brazilian runner Adriano Bastos jumps for joy Jan. 9, 2005, as he crosses the finish line of today's Walt Disney World Marathon in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Bastos, age 26, was crowned the overall champion of the 26.2-mile trek through Disney's theme parks and resorts for the second time, having placed first in the 2003 event. Bastos, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, completed the 2005 race in 2:19:16. Photo © Disney.

As an ordinary person, you probably fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. So let's take a look at some of the clothes you can wear.

Preventing excess cling

Although cotton T-shirts are comfortable for lounging around, they are not your best choice for working out in, especially if you are heading out for a run or vigorous walk. As you sweat, your perspiration collects in the fabric, weighing your shirt down and clinging to you. Instead, opt for synthetic fabric tops that breathe and wick moisture from your skin. The most popular fabric is called CoolMax, and it feels very soft and light as a feather. Tops made with CoolMax are labeled as such if you purchase them online, and they also have hang tags identifying the fabric as well. These days, it's pretty easy to find CoolMax tops in your sporting goods store.

Since CoolMax dries so quickly, you can easily get by with just a few tops in your workout wardrobe; just give it a quick wash in the sink when you get home and hang it up for a few hours and they will be dry. If you're in a real rush, lay it flat on a bath towel, then roll the towel and wring it to get most of the moisture out of your top.

If your budget won't allow for CoolMax shirts, you might consider lightening the weight of your cotton T-shirt—this is especially good if you are a woman and regular T-shirts hang too low around your hips. Take your grungy T-shirts and shorten the hems on them so they stop around your hips. This will allow more freedom of movement as well as breathability around your waist. If the neck area feels too tight, consider either slitting the crew neck a few inches down the front, or removing the neck band altogether.

As you start entering shorter fun runs and walks, you will start accumulating finisher's T-shirts. These make great workout shirts, and many of them now use synthetic wicking material (Disney did this for the first time this past January).

One word of caution to women: Beware that white CoolMax shirts, once you start sweating, start becoming somewhat transparent. If you have a choice, go with a darker color.

Applying sunscreen

If you plan to run in the middle of the day, make sure you apply some strong sunscreen before you head out the door, even in places that are covered by your CoolMax top. The SPF factor is not particularly high, especially if the shirt is white. This also applies if you plan on heading out with just your jog bra or a tank top as well.

Jog bras

Let me touch briefly on jog bras. If you are small-chested, the standard compression-style, pullover jog bra made of stretchy fabric will probably work fine for you if you want a separate workout bra. But if you are anything more than a full B cup, you should make an effort to get a good jog bra that “lifts and separates,” and maybe provides extra hooks, padded shoulder straps, or even underwire. In fact, for ample women, jog bras may end up costing more than running shoes because the good jog bras can often run you more than $40. Plan on spending some time when you shop for jog bras, because you will need to try them on, and bounce around in the dressing room. Swing your arms, and make sure it doesn't irritate or rub you the wrong way. You might even consider wearing your running shoes when you go jog bra shopping so it's easier to do this. The idea is to find a jog bra that keeps things in place without making you feel like you can't breathe.

Unfortunately, most bargain-priced jog bras give you no indication of how much support they provide. Even the more expensive ones might say they are supportive for active sports, but they may not work for you.

If you have trouble finding good jog bras in your area, might I recommend Title 9 Sports (link)? This women-owned sporting goods store based in Berkeley, California, not only sells the widest assortment of jog bras, but has a very easy-to-understand rating system using barbell icons in their catalog that tells you how much support each bra provides.

Shorts

Most running shorts are made of Supplex nylon. It's soft, light and fast-drying. These shorts usually have a CoolMax liner to help wick away moisture from your skin. Others might prefer Lycra nylon shorts -- similar to Spandex biking shorts. These, too, are fine. Just try to avoid heavy fabrics, along with shorts that are so loose that they may chafe your inner thighs as the miles stack up. Above all, find something that makes you feel cool and comfortable.

Basically, there are two types of shorts that people run in: The traditional running shorts made of lightweight Supplex nylon, and the more modest, longer compression bike shorts. If you aren't thin, you might feel too conscientious wearing some of the running shorts with notches on the sides. Some people like to wear the bike shorts as their base layer, then a pair of running shorts over them.

Mostly, if your thighs rub against each other, you get what I get—“chub rub” (hey, I'm not embarrassed to say I get chub rub!)—or what most people refer to as chafing. Chafing may not hurt quite so much during your run, but as soon as you hit the showers, ouch! To prevent chub rub, consider wearing compression shorts made of Lycra. Your other option is to use something like Body Glide, which looks just like deodorant but rub some on and it prevents chub rub.

Windy or cool weather

Once the weather starts turning cool, you can either restrict your running to the gym (I am guilty of this; actually, I do most of my running in the gym because it fits into my busy schedule), or add a little more to your wardrobe. If it's just windy and cool, consider getting a very lightweight windbreaker. If you want to run in the rain, however, GoreTex is your friend. GoreTex jackets are not cheap, but this high-tech fabric actually lets your sweat evaporate while keeping the rain drops out, leading to a much more pleasant experience.

As it gets chillier, consider keeping your extremities warm: Wear mittens or gloves, and a knit cap to keep the heat from leaving the top of your head. These, with the use of a second layer of running shirt and/or a windbreaker and a pair of Supplex nylon tights, can often help you run outdoors well into the fall.

Once it gets really cold, you do have some options, including polypro and even microfleece... but based on what I hear from MousePlanet staff Mike Scopa (who lives in New Hampshire), a lot of folks just head for the gym when it gets truly cold.

Cap/visor

Consider wearing a cap or visor when you run outside during the day. Shading your eyes can help keep you from getting too tired (and you won't have to squint so much), and double-duty by keeping a lot of sweat off your face. On warmer days, consider wearing a cap designed for running; they are often made of mesh panels or have various vents to cool your head.

Socks

Yes, you can even buy running socks. Should you get some? That depends on what you already wear, but when you go shoe shopping, make sure to take into account the type of socks you wear, since sock thickness can affect the size of the shoes you buy.

In general, avoid all-cotton socks for the same reason you want to avoid cotton T-shirts. You can buy running socks made of Coolmax, as well as an acrylic blend that gives extra support and stretch. In addition, you can purchase “sock liners,” which are very thin. And if you are prone to blisters, you can wear two pairs of sock liners or get a pair of “blister-free” socks, which are double-layered socks (the idea being that if you have a separate layer rubbing against the shoes from the layer touching your feet, your skin will not get over-rubbed.

Usually, runners stick to ankle-length socks. If you're used to knee-highs, save them for your basketball games.

Sunglasses

Some people wear sunglasses when they run. In addition to caps and visors, this is another good solution for keeping the sun out of the eyes. Consider purchasing wraparound sunglasses; they are designed for sweating, so they tend not to start falling down your nose when you are working out. If you are concerned about losing your sunglasses (or if you are wondering what to do when you want to run without them on), consider a pair of neoprene sunglass straps like the type made by Croakies. They use no metal that can rust, and you can cinch them up tightly so they provide a strap-down effect across the back of your head.

Finally, if you are going to bother wearing sunglasses for your runs, get serious and find a pair that is very dark and provides UV protection, or find a pair that is polarized. Some people even wear the large fishermen's sunglasses; they are cheaper than fashionable sports sunglasses and are almost always polarized.

Disney running gear now available

We are still six months away from the 2006 marathon event, but Disney has begun selling its “Run Disney” logowear at Disney Direct (link). There, you can take your pick from a number of shirt styles for both men and women, including short sleeves, long sleeves, singlets, tank tops, and running shorts. And extra credit goes to Disney for selling colors besides just plain white (which they have done in the past). Although the shirts are not made of CoolMax, they use a wicking fabric called Micropoly. They all have small stitching in the front with the Run Disney logo. They look good enough to wear as part of your regular wardrobe, but you can work out in them, too.

If you need to wear a Disney item, now you can be both fashionable and comfortable in your runs; go ahead and put that all-cotton Mickey Mouse Club T-shirt back in your dresser.


Marathon-related news bits

Register soon!

Are you still putting off registering? Because Disney split out the two events into two separate days, neither the marathon nor half-marathon have sold out... yet. If you are considering entering, you really don't want to put it off much longer (register here). For one thing, you need to make the commitment mentally so that you can start training.

A Disneyland marathon?

Jim Hill reports at his site, Jim Hill Media, that the Walt Disney Company has registered a number of telling Web site domains, including DisneylandMarathon.com, HappiestRace.com, and HappiestRaceOnEarth.com. Jim also mentions that Disney registered another domain, DisneylandHalfMarathon.com, last month.

MousePlanet has been reporting these past months about how Disneyland President Matt Ouimet is interested in importing successful projects from Walt Disney World, so it's not very surprising that they might give this a try.

According to Jim, the word is that an announcement might be made this fall for a fall 2006 event.

Although a Disneyland marathon would naturally attract a crowd, I have a couple of concerns. First, I sincerely hope that Disney hires real race organizers, because most of the participants will enter it because they want to run a marathon, not because they are signing up with the idea that it's another special event tied closely to merchandising. The folks who organize the Walt Disney World Marathon have done a pretty good job; maybe some of them will transfer to California to lead in the planning so that this doesn't turn into another excuse for a limited edition pin release.

My second concern is that the marathon scene is already really crowded in Southern California, with the Orange County Marathon held in January, the San Diego Marathon and Half-Marathon in Carlsbad held in January, the huge City of Los Angeles (L.A.) Marathon is held in mid-March, , and the tremendously popular Rock 'n Roll Marathon held in June in San Diego, and the beginner-friendly Long Beach marathon is held in mid-October. Disney will have to find some way to lure local runners to enter their race, because a lot of people will still choose to run in Walt Disney World instead.

My third concern is that depending on when they schedule the marathon, they may end up competing against themselves. The Walt Disney World Marathon is held in early January. For the ordinary jogger, entering two marathons only a couple of months away means putting too much stress on the body. This may very well force runners to have to choose one or the other.

Finally, unlike the WDW Marathon where the entire course is on Disney property, the Disneyland Resort is not large enough but to provide a couple of miles at the most. One of the biggest draws of the WDW event is that it's all held on property, so how will Disneyland attract participants?

Who knows, it may turn out to be an exceptional event. I will keep my mind open until I get more information. And hey, if it means we can get a large contingent of West Coast MousePlanet readers to lace up their shoes and enter, all the better.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lani here.


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