It can be useful when racing to consider using certain running accessories. Things like specialised running drinks bottles, waist pouches and a watch can aid you in achieving your race targets and make for a more enjoyable experience.
Depending on what distance you are choosing to race, you may or may not require any accessories at all. For example, for a 2 mile or 5km event, you really do not need to worry about this too much, but for something slightly longer such as 10km or 10 miles you may want to start considering what might be good to take with you when racing.
The following list gives examples of useful race accessories, you would never need to use them all at once! It is usually best to minimise what you carry when racing, but bear in mind the things you may actually need. For shorter distances (2 mile or 5km) you may wish to consider accessories like socks, a watch or calf guards.
For longer distances (10km or 10mile) you may start to think about drinks bottles and accessories to carry the likes of gels. Before racing with any accessories, remember to try taking them on your raining runs, to ensure they will not irritate you or affect in any way how you perform on race day.
Waist bags and pouches come in many shapes and sizes and can be a useful accessory to store anything essential when you are racing, from gels to car keys and spare hair bands, there is often something you cannot go without. Some runners do not like to run with anything attached to them, whilst others are happier to have the things they feel they need on their person. Whichever category you fit into, there is bound to be a type of waist pouch that will suit your needs when you just can't avoid carrying the essentials.
The SPIbelt is a great pouch for those who do not like to carry much at all, it is so small and lightweight that you are barely aware of it when running at all. It is great for the likes of gels, phones, keys. The elasticated strap allows is to fit around your waist or hips, with no movement as you run.
Slightly larger examples would be the U.P. Runner's Pack which gives slightly more storage. Larger still would be something like the Inov-8 Race Elite 3.5. The larger packs are more ideal when it comes to off road or hill racing, where often you are required to carry waterproofs on your person in addition to the gels/drinks you may be carrying already. This sort of size is probably a bit excessive for a road race, unless you are going beyond the marathon to the world of ultras!
Often runners like to carry their own drinks bottle, as they may like to drink as they go as opposed to waiting for the next water station on the race route. Another reason to carry a bottle may be if you wish to take on your own energy drink, again as opposed to waiting for a drinks station or if the product you prefer to take on differs from that being supplied by the race organiser. You can usually find out from the race organiser's website whether or not there will be energy drinks on the route and if so, what product they are providing.
One of the most popular drinks bottles for runners is the most simple, Runaid Handheld Bottle, ideal for carrying as you run. Other options include the U.P. Kielder Handheld Bottle with a small pouch. There are also numerous shapes and sizes of bottle belts that contain bottles / bottle holders and usually some pocket room too, for example the Ultimate Performance Ribble Bottle Belt. Bottle belts can combine the need for a waist pouch and carrying a bottle in one accessory!
Armbands for storing your mobile phone or digital music player are popular with many runners today. With some runners using phone applications to track their speed, distance and race route, this is an increasingly sought after accessory: Digital Music Players Armband iPhone. The only note of caution here is that you must remember when racing to check with the race organiser as to whether it is permitted for you to run with headphones in. It is common for this not to be allowed due to safety issues, and if so, best sticking to using this accessory for training runs only, unless of course you are using a tracker application on your phone.
If a waist pouch isn't your thing, you could consider a wrist pocket as an alternative to carry your gels and other essentials. For example the Sugoi Zap Strap. Wrist pockets are good for small items, but not so good if you need to pack a lot of things in, as you may feel a little imbalanced unless you wear one on each side!
There is nothing much worse when racing than to chafe. It is not very comfortable, and especially in warmer weather when you sweat more it can be pretty stingy as well! Anti-chafe products are great at preventing this from happening. BodyGlide works similar to a stick deodorant, you just roll it on the areas where you are likely to chafe and it creates a protective layer between your clothing and your skin. It is not greasy and therefore causes no discomfort.
There are many different types of sports watch, from your basic watch with a stop watch to watches with memory for storing interval times to GPS and Heart Rate Monitors. When it comes to racing, it can certainly help to have in the least a basic Running Watch with a stopwatch, in order to keep track of how long you have been running, specifically if you have a target you have set out to meet.
GPS Watches can be helpful in this respect too, with the additional benefit of being told your time split each mile or kilometre, so if you are aiming to run say 7.30 minutes per mile then you can check each mile whether you have done that, and try to speed up or slow down accordingly. It can be a useful device in helping you pace a race, particularly a longer race where this can be more difficult.
A watch is, however, not essential and some people do just prefer to run how they feel without the pressure of being aware of the time.
Nutrition is a really important aspect to consider when racing. What works for one person probably will not work for another! The best thing to do is to try a variety of options when training. For anything above 10 miles it is certainly a good idea to consider Energy Gels, Energy Drinks or Energy Chews. For more information on nutrition for racing, see this article: Fuel Your Body for Running.
The type of socks you choose to wear for your race can be the difference between a good race and a not so good race! Socks and all your clothing that you plan to wear for your race should be worn in training to ensure you feel good in them and have no issues. There are a number of socks to choose from, it tends to come down to personal choice but if you have certain issues with your feet then it can be a good idea to choose your socks accordingly. There are various different lengths of socks as well, so be sure to choose the length you are comfortable with. The main types of socks are as follows:
- Thin socks, for example Hilly Clothing Monoskin Lite Anklet
- Double layer socks which help prevent blistering, for example 1000 Mile Ultimate Tactel Anklet
- Padded socks which can help alleviate foot pain, for example Thorlo Experia
- Thick socks which are great for colder weather or more off road racing, for example Thorlo LRXM
- Merino wool socks, again great for warmth and off road racing any season, for example Thorlo Experia Merino Sock
- Toe socks, for example Injinji Performance Lightweight Toe Sock
In colder weather hats, gloves and headbands are definitely worth considering. When the weather is colder in the least I would consider getting a pair of Running Gloves, gloves range in their thickness and weight so even if it is just a light weight glove it will help keep your hands warm and more comfortable. You don't want to wear too much, especially when racing, as you don't want to end up having to carry anything more than you need to, so again training in the gear you are considering racing in is a great idea. Preferably in conditions that the race is likely to be in.
Running Hats can be quite warm so I would leave the hat for really cold weather, unless you are easily prone to getting cold in which case you may need a hat more often! A Running Headband is a great alternative to a hat when it is not quite cold enough for a hat but not quite warm enough to go without! For female runners a headband also helps to keep your hair out of your face. When it's sunny, a Running Cap is well worth considering.
Calf sleeves or compression socks are a great accessory if you are prone to sore or tight calfs, or simply want to give your calfs and shins a bit of protection when racing. Compression gear helps blood flow and keeps your muscles warm, so in colder weather especially these are great. They may just give you that extra bit of confidence to go flat out in your race!