Ready to Race for Life – the right running clothes for your first race

Sponsored charity running is now very big news in the UK, with the Race for Life events being held all over the country, as well as big single events such as the London Marathon and the Great North Run. These events need dedication and preparation, and the right running clothes and shoes will do a great deal to make the experience enjoyable – which is after all, the idea!

The most important items in your wardrobe of running clothes are of course the shoes, and this is the one area where false economy not only affects performance but can cause actual damage. As well as discomfort at the time, incorrect footwear can do longer-term damage which only shows up weeks, months or years later and can cause real pain and restrictions to activities. Price is not necessarily a reflection of quality, so some intelligent shopping around is needed.

Specialist brands such as K-Swiss sell a wide range of shoes (in entertaining colours!) targeted at different styles of runner and different types of terrain. They even sell the street shoes and warm boots for comfortable and stylish feet after the run. If you fancy something different, Vibram Five Fingers and Vivo Barefoot offer ultralight barefoot footwear with minimal interference with a natural running action, designed to promote natural motion and posture, and which they describe as ‘the next best thing to running barefoot’.

So with the correct footwear sorted for running, clothes for the rest of the body are the next item on the shopping list. Clothing needs to be comfortable and to have good ‘wicking’ properties to transport sweat away from the skin, preventing chilling. These properties start from underwear; cotton bras or briefs will retain moisture and get unpleasantly clammy, so look at brands such as Under Armour for suitable underwear for both sexes. Ladies should of course wear a proper supportive sports bra, those ligaments only stretch one way.

If you are road running in evening or morning, make sure that you are visible; reflective and high-visibility clothing such as that in the Ronhill range will make sure that other road users spot you.

You may not yet have come across the ‘compression’ concept, which helps to promote circulation and thus improve performance – it is important to note that manufacturers make it clear that the compression level is nowhere near that of medical support stockings, which is not appropriate for healthy people. Running clothes from Skins are available with compression, and also provide muscle support and a high level of sun protection; even in the UK it is easy to get sunburnt if you are out running and sweat off your suncream. 2XU also have compression clothing, plus accessories such as caps and visors to keep sun and sweat out of eyes.

With the running clothes and shoes all sorted, the training programme under way, the entry to the race confirmed and any travel and accommodation arrangements made, all you need do now is rustle up your sponsors. Remember that there are a lot of these events so don’t put colleagues and friends in a difficult position; email or facebook announcements are good as there is no obvious personal pressure. Also be aware that some people do not like to use online donation sites due to the collection of personal details and the overheads, so be flexible about how you offer to collect donations.

Good luck in the first of many races!