Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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Winter Running Gear – Base, Middle & Outer Layers

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
Henry David Thoreau

HTO The Urban Beach - Thursday, January 6, 2011

A tip to get better prepared to run in the cold is to don your running gear ten minutes or so before you head out so that warm air pockets develop between the layers of your running gear.  Those air pockets are one of the reasons why dressing in layers is the warmer way to go.  Unless you overdress, a bit of chilliness for the first 4-5 minutes is inevitable when the temperature falls below -5C.

A favourite running jacket is the Cannondale Morphis jacket I’m wearing in this photo from my morning run to the lake.  It is made of waterproof Gore-Tex and because of its limited breathability is a warmer choice than most running jackets, in the dead of winter.  It is in fact a cycling jacket.  I bought this jacket in Boston prior to the 2008 Boston marathon.  Boston was hit by a severe nor’easter in the days leading up to the marathon and there was serious and unprecedented talk of canceling the marathon.  Thus the marathon chatter was devoted exclusively to what to wear.

I was a very happy camper when I found the perfect solution to the threat of torrential rains in the form of this jacket with its removable sleeves, secured by easy-to-detach zippers and magnetic closures.  And the only size left was my my hard-to-find XS.

Cannondale Morphis Gore-Tex Cycling Jacket

On race day, the sun peeped through the clouds not long after the race start and we experienced the tiniest sprinkling of rain.  Conditions could be described as “not bad”.  I wasn’t long into the race before I removed the sleeves and tied them around my waist and felt comfortable the rest of the way.

Boston Marathon 2008, jacket sleeves tied around my waist & NB lightweight trainers

Before buying this jacket, I had never owned a running vest.  Since I already owned a few very serviceable and good looking New Balance jackets, I was relieved to get a lot of wear out of this emergency purchase afterward, the vest in particular.  The jacket features a two-way zipper, two side pockets, a back pocket and a small breast pocket.  The only drawback is the Gore-Tex material is not very flesh-friendly so it is best worn as a vest, or when the weather is cold enough for a long sleeve-shirt underneath.   I think it was $129 at the Harvard Square location of  Eastern Mountain Sports.

The other outer-layer piece is the New Balance yoga-style pants which at $59 cost much less than most yoga-specific warm-up pants.  I also find the fit more flattering than the upscale brands I’ve tried on

As for the base layer, my favourite sports bra is also by far, the cheapest sports bra I’ve seen, priced at $16.99.  It is a Champion brand item available at Target.  I also purchased mid-weight Champion tights at Target a few years ago for $17.99.

Kombi Merino Wool and Polyester Blend Base Layer

My long-sleeve base layer is a Kombi merino wool and polyester blend top of double thickness.  I think it is regularly $35 but I bought it on sale for $19.99 at a Sportchek type store.  I recently purchased a similar top for my husband at Target for $17.99 and it has become his preferred top for really cold days.

Finally, an additional upper, mid-layer piece for the coldest of days is a thermal hoodie from MEC.  The hood on this jacket is a highly functional, multi-tasking piece.  It looks good enough (without the hood on) to wear about town.  I wore this on New Years Eve with a mauve silk-like top underneath and festive scarf.   I usually wear this on plane trips as it is as comfortable as a pajama top.

Thermal Hoodie from MEC with Seriously Constructed Hood

The one thing I have not discussed is the most important of all, my shoes, the New Balance 759’s which I wore for my marathon. I love my New Balance lightweight trainers! But, that and my running shoe endorsement tale is a story for another day.

Stay warm!

New Balance 759's

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Run two miles in my shoes

The other week, I ran with a neighbour who had recently purchased a couple of pairs of running shoes.  She was not altogether pleased with early signs of wear and tear on the mesh toe box.  Turns out that we both have the same size foot so with two miles to go, I suggested that she take a test run in my shoes.  I have been wearing New Balance running shoes exclusively since 1995, ever since winning a pair at the Spring-Run Off 8K in High Park.

New Balance 758's

I had purchased only one pair of New Balance shoes prior to that and due to poor advice from a salesperson, ended up with a too-big pair of New Balance shoes back in the early 80’s.  Unfortunately, this bad fitting, deterred me from the brand, and highlights the importance of buying your shoes at a place with a reputation for knowledgeable staff, such as New Balance stores.

New Balance is known to long-time runners as being at the footwear-forefront of the first running boom of the 70′s and 80′s.  The Boston based company started out in 1906 as the New Balance Arch Support (NBAS) company and evolved into the New Balance Athletic Shoe (NBAS) company

Like many long-lived companies, the philosophy has been to avoid expensive advertising in favour of research and design excellence.  In spite of competition from larger athletic shoe companies  it has exceptional brand recognition for state-of-the-art shoe design and competitive pricing.  It sponsors world-class runners and local champions (a story for another day) with an emphasis on the community involvement of these athletes.  The price tag for New Balance shoes  is far less than companies who market their products by seeking endorsements of the Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan’s of the world.

The pair my neighbour test-ran were the NB760’s and she asked me to quote her, “good shoes, good shoes” as she ran along, and again, “good shoes, good shoes”.  She also commented that my shoes felt more cushioned than her new shoes in spite of the fact that my shoes were at the end of their life.  I also use the NB special insoles that you can buy for about $30, and last for a couple of years.  The other New Balance shoe I wear is the NB950.  This shoe is a bit lighter and streamlined so I wear this for my faster paced workouts.

As for my experience of wearing another brand, truthfully, I was surprised in my dissappointment.  Go New Balance!

“Yet if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?”  Germaine Greer

New Balance 950