On being a gear junkie

I’m a bit of a gear junkie. I like buying and using new running gear, and finding kit which works well for me. But, judging by some of the discussion on the Ultra Running Community Facebook page, this makes me a bit odd. A profligate fool, even.

I know fancy, or even decent, gear isn’t going to make me run faster. I ran my marathon PB (nearly 20 years ago, when I was a penny-less PhD student) wearing a pair of ‘trainers’ from a high street shoe shop, some M&S cotton socks, a huge 99p cotton T-shirt from New Look and a pair of purple shorts from the bargain bin at the local running shop. But I’m lucky enough (thanks to a job which kicks my arse for half the year) to have some disposable income, so why not spend it on things which make me happy and running a more pleasant experience? For multi-day mountain races decent kit is a necessity, but even for tamer events, how much is finishing in comfort, rather than cold and chafed to bits, worth?

There’s an argument that it’s better to spend cash on experiences than on kit. I’m the last person who need to be convinced of the value of experiences. Up until recently our mortgage payments were only slightly more than our holiday budget... However I’m a bit wary of ‘big-ticket’ races. Any ‘big’ race involves an investment of time and energy for training. Throw in a substantial financial cost and DNFing becomes even more painful. Some races require new kit. But unless it’s really niche stuff you can use it again and again. And if you don’t, you can usually eBay it and recoup a substantial fraction of the cost.

I don’t rush out and buy new stuff for the sake of it. I like ‘things which work’ more than I like new shiny things (unlike the couple at this year’s Round Rotherham who looked like they were taking part in a Killian and Emelie impersonation competition). My favourite medium-weight long-sleeved tops are a couple of Men’s Raidlight Stretch Raider tops that I picked up in a sale 7 or 8 years ago. They’re looking a bit battered, and I’ve had to mend some small holes, but they still do their job well.

While I do spend a fair bit on kit, I like to make my cash go as far as possible. I rarely pay full RRP for anything, unless I absolutely have to. For instance to replace something which has broken and is needed for a specific race. But I don’t just buy from whatever random online shop is cheapest. Good customer service (and supporting business who’re doing a good job) is worth more than saving a couple of quid. I do sometimes have to restrain myself from buying things from SportPursuit because they’re cheap and/or purple and/or might come in useful one day though.