A closer look at my Ultramarathon running (long run) kit.

As you can gather from my posts on here and else where I like to go on long runs. I prefer to run them as opposed to short fast paced ones. I am lazy you see. Anyhoo one question I always get asked is what do I take with me amd why. So it kinda makes sense for me to list my long running gear here and go into detail to why I decided on that model/ brand/ size rather than another one, why I take it with me anyway and how often do I actually use the item/s.

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The pack/ vest:
I use a ULTIMATE DIRECTION PB running vest. I have a fair few running backpacks/ vests but this one came out as a winner at some point last year. I used to use a Salomon skin pro3 but felt it just wasn’t big enough, plus the rear zip was weak and kept splitting open which was a royal pain in the butt while trying to focus on being knackered. The last thing you want to do is stand struggling with your bag when all the time your legs are getting stiff from not running. So I moved onto the Ultimate Direction SJ brand and I think I lasted about a week with it. The front bottles hurt my chest bouncing up and down and in and out. I made sure I ordered the correct size, but just could not adjust it to fit my body tightly. Anyway while on a trail race I spotted a few runners with the UD PB vest and thought it looked slightly bigger and might be different enough to warrant a try. I took the plunge and bought one. And was instantly pleased. The fit was suited more for my body. It was slightly longer and the bottles sat slightly lower down. Best part is I could synch it down so nothing moved. Clear winner. The pack itself is not cheap, but you get what you pay for. No weak ass’ed cheap plastic zips that pop open upon sight. I have thrown mine around a lot and it still holds up well. The best feature of the pack is that I can place two kicker bottles in the front pockets, which also have two smaller side slide in pockets so I tend to throw in half eaten bars, caffeine shot bottles, or anything else I just want to get instant access to. On each of the arms straps there is a zipped pocket, I store my iphone 5s in the left one and my gopro remote and ziplock bags in the right one (this one is meant for a gps device and the zip closes downwards /me shrugs). On the arm straps there are some loops which I can and did place my gopro stick in while running, worked for a while before bruising my collar bone lol. There are two larger side pockets on each side which I use to contain 5X gels on the right and 5 energy bars in the left. There are two smaller pockets under those that I store my keyring bundle in ( more details about this later) This is a nice small sized pocket that holds the bunch tight and waterproof. There are three large rear pockets on the back, 1 for the hydration bladder (optional). 1 big enough for my spare clothes, first aid kit, etc and a last front pocket for maps, paperwork, spare gels, chargers and other stuff I might take with me. I have never over filled the pack/vest and never noticed it bouncing behind me. Infact once on I never really notice anything on the back for the entire trip. This is who it should be imho. The pack also has two areas on the sides at the rear where you can if needed carry two more 500ml kicker bottles. I opted to use these last year while doing a summer ultra. Taking an extra bottle and securing it there was great and very much needed. I could also take my handheld gps unit which I placed in the other side.
The best feature of this pack/vest is that in all the runs I have done with it I have only taken it off once. Everything I need for the run can be stored in the front so I can get to it while still running. This is much needed imho as it saves a lot of faffing and stopping. The materials of the pack are very comfy and I have never had any issues with chaffing. There are no rips, snags or any general issues with the quality of the pack at all. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I would suggest trying one on first and actually running with it though as like the SJ vest some are just not suited to certain peeps and sometimes you just can’t tell until after a certain amount of miles. Running under 5miles with the SJ vest would have been fine but it was only when going out longer would I notice the issues, so make sure you give it a good try first. They are not cheap and you don’t want to be caught faffing with your pack instead of running.

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The Kicker Bottles:
The race pack comes with 2 bottles which are large enough to serve most runs. It took me a while to actually get used to getting the liquid out of the friggin teat lol, but now I have I love them. They are easy to open and refill fast in races. Easy to clean and they don’t taste of anything apart from what you put in them.

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Satmap Active 10
A lot of long runs/ ultras demand you carry a map for navigation. Kinda obvious really. I like to carry paper maps, but I am also a addict for technology so kinda makes sense I would also carry a GPS device. I tried the garmin gpx 60( twice infact lol), but it was just too much like hard work. Yes they are good bits of kit and worth every penny, it is just that I think we are spoilt today with UI that are faster to use and get to what you need. Bottom line was the Garmin was too much for what I needed it for. I came across a device by Satmap called the active10 and I was instantly sold. It actually used OS explorer maps built in. This was another big fail for the garmin, you had to buy other maps and they are not cheap ( yes you can get free open source ones but that meant time spent away from running). The screen on the active10 displayed the maps brilliantly clear. It basically looks like it did on paper but on the friggin screen WOOT. Everything was easy with it. I plotted the route with basecamp or garmin connect site and uploaded to the device and I was good to go. Rechargeable battery too which lasted for a few of my ultras, but can be charged on the go. The device is not that big either so you can run with it in hand or slip it into your pocket of pack. They come with a snap in front screen protector too so no fear about scratching up the screen, just buy a new replacement cover which is cheap. Worth the investment IMHO.

 

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Garmin Fenix3
My every day running kit. I love my fenix 3 a lot. This watch is aimed at peeps that want to do ultras, etc. It is rugged and built to be thrown around in mud and crap. The watch isn’t cheap BUT you do get what you pay for and that is a lot. It is fully waterproof too so bring on the rain or obstacle courses. Oh and swimming :).I have ran a few ultras and long runs with this watch and the battery has always been 50% or just below, example last weekend I ran 38miles took 6hours and still had 68% left on the battery. I had step tracking on and didn’t faff with the settings to make it battery friendly I left it as it was. I also used the feature I love the most which is the navigation feature. Basically I plan my route, plot it in garmin connect, basecamp or take a gpx from strava of a race/ run I or someone else has already ran and upload it to my watch. In garmin connect I can tell give it a pace I want to run it in and it will tell me how long it will take. When I am ready to run I simple goto navigation mode and point it to the course I want to run. Then I tell it I want to run it and off it goes. It will then display a track and arrow which I will then follow. All the time knowing that if I go off- course it will bleep and tell me ( doesn’t take long before it tells you either so no chance of getting too far off-course). There is a data screen telling you the ETA and how many miles left to run. The other screen I use a lot is the virtual racer as this tells me how far behind/ infront I am to the pace runner I made when I created the route. I can not tell you how useful this navigation is. It saved me and a few other runners on a few of the ultras I was on last year when we started to go off course. Also the run I did this weekend it saved me there too as one of the canal paths was closed due to being repaired/ upgraded. Big stretch of my run blocked, eeekkk. I followed the roads around the city all the time watching my track on my watch and finally ran around until I met up with the track route. I could have ended up miles off course as I have never been in that area before. I also use the gradient data page a lot as it shows me the elevation graph for the route ran and I can see how high my poor legs are going. The watch can also be charged on the go too which means you can go for days. I have a small Mili battery I take with me which I can plug the watch cable into and then carry on running. This is good as not a lot of watches offer this feature. Not going to go into any more details about the watch as you can get that from the site and other places, but feel that covers what I need it for on long runs.

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Keyring bundle:

This is a small bundle of objects I have wrapped up in a elastic band to stop them from jingling around. They include objects you might not think of taking with you, but will come in handy if you do :).

  • Shard tool by Gerber- very handy for prying stuff out of shoe, stones etc, bending obstacles you find along the way like sometimes some muppets leave trip wires etc along paths well the pry tool allows you to pry nails etc away from wood. Also has other things on it too including a bottle opener 🙂
  • Ultra mini waterproof LED torch. Incase you need to see in the dark (D’oh)
  • Waterproof, drop proof pod. For keeping paper money in. It doesn’t rattle around. You forget it’s there but after 30miles and still 10 to go you are pleased you have it as you can nip into the shop for a nice choc milkshake and mars bar :). Just remember to replace the money when you get back home or you might run into a shock next time. It can also be handy for a taxi or bus ride home if your poor legs can’t take any more.
  • Metal firemans whistle. Metal so it doesn’t shatter, crack or just break, used for when you run into issues where you need to get someones attention and you can’t shout loud enough 😉
  • Elastic band which is holding it all together can be used for all manner of things, sealing bags, sleeves, etc to stop dirt from getting into cuts etc.

This keyring bundle is in the pack and is rarely seen, but when it is it is for good cause so I say this. Make sure you buy good quality items for this bundle. It goes in the smallest pocket in the pack and isn’t inspected for months so you need to be sure it is in a good state when you get it out. Can’t rely on that £20 in the pod if the pod isn’t as waterproof or drop proof as it said it was. Torch being dead or broken when the light goes down fast and you can’t read your map. YOU GET THE IDEA….

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Ipod shuffle – mp3 player: 

To be fair any device that allows you to play music, audio books, etc. Sometimes you need a distraction. Or company on the long long way back. The apple shuffle is tiny and the battery lasts forever ( well not forever but long enough). I have also had it drowned a few times in heavy rain and it has survived. Not the case for my daughters who’s was left in the shirt and washed in the washer.

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Gopro – Camera: 

Long runs take you everywhere so sometimes you need to stop and capture a moment. Plus you can use this as a welcome break. But seriously if you are going to run 30miles around the country you must enjoy the country side so TAKE A PHOTO to remind yourself of your great day. To show others that you do more than just plod the tarmac you are at one with the country, blah blah blah. I have a Gopro hero 3 and a gopro 4 session. Great waterproof, small HD cameras and action cameras for videos. I use mine on a stick ( monopod) and then use microsoft’s hyperlapse pro to steady it afterwards. You can get some nice footage of the countryside you run in.  Idea for drawing inspiration and sealing mojo leaks.

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Pen/ paper:

Take a pen and paper with you just incase you need to make a note of something. Doesn’t take up too much space and you never know when you might need a pen.

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I.C.E Bracelet – ROAD ID:

If you are going out for a long run that might take you away solo for hours and hours then you need to have some form of ID with you, some form of emergency contact details on you. Yes I know you can have it on your phone, but what happens if you fall down a bank and your phone breaks or gets wet and no longer works? Or you are mugged and left for dead. This simple little band sits on my wrist and I just forget it is there. If anything happens to me my wife will be contacted. She is happy knowing this. You can get them for your neck or on your shoe laces, but I prefer mine on the wrist. As I know they check there for pulse and medical tags.

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Ziplock bags:

I carry a few sizes of these as you never know when it might rain or be wet. You can store pills, spare clothes, mucky muddy clothes, empty gel wrappers, phones, mp3 players, bog roll. They don’t take up that much space and they are really really handy to have. You can buy loads from amazon or ebay.

Smartphone:

My iphone is used rarely to call peeps on long runs, what I do use it for is navigation. I have a few goto apps on there that allow me to instantly find my location asap, like UKmap if is fast for me to get a good idea where I need to go. Ofcourse there are many many other reasons to carry a phone with you on long runs which I don’t need to list.  🙂

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External battery:

I have a little Mili external battery pack that I charge up before I go out on a long run. It is really small, light and will charge my phone, camera, mp3 player and watch if needed. I have had to use this on several runs and would not leave the house without it.

Spare clothes:

A spare pair of shorts, socks will come in handy one day for sure. I haven’t had a chance to use them yet but one day I will. It might rain 15mile into my 30mile run and wet shorts = a world of chaffing. Same goes with socks can you imagine your feet after 15miles of running in wet muddy socks? I can and it is not pretty :).

 

First aid kit, plasters, ibuprofen, antacid tablets:

Too obvious to state why. JUST TAKE THEM.

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Papermaps:

Again too obvious to state why. Just make sure you put them in a ziplock bag 🙂

 

Well that is about it. I don’t use a lot of the stuff I take with me but I do know for a fact that one day I shall reach in to my pack and bloody miss them when I do come to use them. Also some Ultra marathons make you take most of this stuff anyway so you better get used to carrying it now.

Hope this post is of use to some peeps, if not nothing lost apart from 5mins to read it 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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