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Top 5 Gifts for a New Runner

Foot Health, Heart Rate Monitors

I read an article in the current October 2008 edition of Runner’s World magazine and it made me stop and think. The article is about the first runs of a new runner. There are many reasons why people start running. My desire was born from the challenge of completing a marathon, and I joined a “Train To End Stroke” team to guide me through the process. The other reasons that people begin to run are vast, ranging from the desire to lose weight, improve health, change lifestyles, to connect with a loved one who loves running or to connect with a community, to improve fitness level for other activities, reduce stress, to sleep better … and the plethora of motivating forces goes on and on. All of these reasons are positive and ultimately lead to individual gains, some more profound than others. I completed my marathon 3 years ago, and have completed 8 more since. I lost 30 pounds, have increased energy, and overall enjoy enhanced physical and emotional well-being. Had I not stuck to my commitment to running I may never have realized the point where I am today. I could not have even imagined it as a possibility. So where does this tie back to the article I mentioned in the beginning of this diatribe? Well, it made me think of the challenges that new runners face and the fortitude it takes to stick with it to the point where running becomes a fiber of their being. There are so many reasons or excuses to abandon their original objective, but the impact of that decision can have far-reaching effects. With that in mind, I began to think about things that could help maintain motivation and focus for runners to assure that they stick to their goals. Many of my friends and family provided me with support along the way, but some wondered how they could help. For any of you out there who are looking for a way to support a loved one who is taking up the sport of running, or even if it is you that is taking on this challenge, I am providing a list of what I perceive to be the Top 5 gifts for a new runner:

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1. Good Running Shoes: Foot health and comfort are keys to enjoying the miles. Starting a new fitness program leads to new discomforts as you challenge your body to respond to physical stress. With improper footwear, the discomfort can quickly be replaced by pain and/or injury. Both obviously lead to discouragement and often abandonment of your goals. Take your runner to a running store for a professional fitting. I went to a local Fleet Feet store ( http://www.fleetfeetsports.com ) and they put me on a treadmill to determine which type of shoe best met my needs. The cost of the shoes was no more that I would pay at a sporting goods or shoe store, and I received experienced guidance that was invaluable. Buying running shoes as a gift on your own may be a risk, but taking the time to go with your runner and buying the shoes after a professional fitting takes all the risk away.

2. Garmin Forerunner: I’m a numbers guy and I wanted to keep track of my progress throughout my training program. The personal GPS system from Garmin ( http://www.garmin.com/garmin/cms/site/us/ontofitness ) allowed me to track my mileage, pace, calories burned, etc… Although the numbers were not impressive at first, the gains/improvements were nice to see. It also had a feature with a “virtual partner” that would set a pace for me on runs where I was by myself instead of with my running group. There are several brands of GPS units, and some people prefer heart rate monitors or a combination of products, but I used the Garmin and still enjoy using the same device.

3. BibKeeper: When I was running mostly 5K and 10k races, I wasn’t at a level where I was winning medals. My rewards for these races were usually a race shirt and my finishing time. These races were my motivation. Trying to set a personal record at a certain distance was always a goal that got me out the door every day. At the end of each race I would save my racing bib (the number you wear during the race) and on it I would write my finishing time, the place I finished, my pace, the weather, who I ran with, etc…. I kept these bibs in a shoebox and would look back through them often to inspire myself to keep training and trying to improve. It reminded me of the ‘high’ I felt at the races and kept me focused. I recently found this BibKeeper item ( http://www.bibkeeper.com/ ) that is custom made just for storage and display of the bibs that I had been keeping in my shoebox. Having them in this display album allows me to share them with my wife, my kids and friends. I pulled out my old bibs and put them in chronological order in this album. I’ve got one that holds my racing bibs for my races that led up to my first marathon, and I have one that holds all my other marathon and half marathon bibs that led to my qualifying race for Boston and then my bib from the 2008 Boston Marathon. This album would have been a great piece of motivation for me when I first started racing, and would be a great gift for any runner, especially a new runner.

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4. Massage: Ahhhh! Talk about a rejuvenating reward. Even when training properly, the rigors of running can create some soreness and discomfort. What better way to reward yourself than to enjoy a professional massage. I only get one about once or twice a year, but every time I do, I can’t believe I waited so long. There are many different types of massages, but a professional will know what type would best meet the needs of your particular runner. You can just buy a gift certificate and that leaves the door open for multiple options. Some people are resistant to massages, but maybe you can buy one for yourself and the runner in your life and you can both enjoy this wonderful gift together.

5. Road ID: I have talked about comfort, motivation and reward, but safety is also an important consideration for any runner. I travel a lot and end up running in many different cities/towns. Even when I am running in my home town outside of Salt Lake City, I typically don’t run carrying my driver’s license. There is always the chance of being injured on a run (auto accident, fall, dehydration, etc…) that could leave you unresponsive. Without identification, your treatment by healthcare workers will be more challenging, and your family will be left wondering why you have not returned from your run. The Road ID ( http://www.roadid.com/common/default.aspx ) is an essential safety device for any runner. I have the ankle bracelet that I wear on every run and in every race. It has my name and family contact information as well as any pertinent health information. This is not just a great gift for a runner, but should be considered an absolute requirement.

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These gifts would all be appreciated by any runner (even if you are buying for yourself). The prices of these various items range from approximately $20 – $200+, so there should be something to meet every need and every occasion. I’m just a regular guy who loves running after not being a runner for the first 36 years of my life. Running has, and will continue to shape my life, and if you are reading this article, I am hoping that it is changing your life or the life of one of your family or friends. I hope you find all or some of my recommendations helpful as you search for gift ideas for special people.