Choosing a gift for a runner this Christmas may seem like an easy task. There is no end to the clothing and gadgets now available. But you may also be bamboozled by the array of watches and fashionable gear out there. Before you invest your hard-earned cash, please remember that runners are quite a fussy bunch.
Even though something is voted the ‘best gift for a runner’ doesn’t necessarily make it a good choice for the runner in your life.
A runner’s wardrobe
If you are buying for someone who has recently caught the running bug, keep in mind that even though they are new to running, they will still have their own personal taste. While it may be hard to choose leggings, sports bras or running shoes for someone else, there are accessories that are easier and cheaper to buy that should keep them motivated and running throughout the winter. From socks to running belts, gloves to hi-vis jackets there are bargains to be found locally in dedicated running shops as well as in general high street stores.
Beyond running gear
But if you are buying for someone who has been running for a long time, it is not so easy to find the perfect running gift. If you live with a runner you can attest to the fact that their wardrobe is already crammed with running clothing and there are more shoes beside the front door than seems necessary. Runners in this camp probably don’t ‘need’ too much more stuff. Could you choose something different for them this year that won’t add to the laundry pile?
Think outside the box
Take a moment to consider what your favourite runner actually enjoys about running. Are they serious about improving their speed, finding new routes or running long distance? Do they struggle with aches and pains, motivation or dodgy toe nails? Is running their social activity or a chance to escape solo. If you can put yourself in their running shoes for a moment, you might see what they really could benefit from this winter.
A treat for their feet
All runners’ feet deserve a little treat. They work hard, get sweaty and cramped and often only get attention when there is a blister or a black toe nail to be addressed. A voucher for a pedicure or a general checkup at a podiatrist might be a nice kickstart into the new year of running. For a smaller budget, consider a small spiky pilates ball which is wonderful for a great foot massage at home. You could even create a mini hamper of footcare and pampering products to inspire the rest and recovery that runners often struggle to dedicate time to.
For the foodie runner
I’ve never met a runner that doesn’t enjoy their food. While some love to cook, others prefer to dine out on a weekend brunch. There are plenty healthy cookery books and online cookery courses on the market for those keen to experiment. But if your runner spends more time chatting to their running buddies after a run than actually running, why not consider a fold-up chair or picnic blanket and flask to make those post-run social occasions all the more comfortable. With more time outdoors out of necessity this season that in pre Covid days, the picnic gear will get more use than just training days.
Help them run faster
If the time on the clock is what is important to the runner in your life, help them reach their potential by offering them a new perspective. There are coaches for every aspect of performance and many will offer a group workshop or event in their chosen field before you commit to working with them individually if you don’t want to invest too much up-front. From sports psychology to breathwork, run technique to V02 testing there are many ways to delve deeper into running performance. Whatever you might pick, adding a new focus to training might be just what they need to make the gains they are looking for.
For a little inspiration
Most runners have a few running books that they will return to again and again for motivation. You can choose from personal inspirational stories to practical guides for getting started and staying moving. To keep the motivation up all year long, consider a subscription to a running magazine. A running journal can also be a great asset to any runner to help track their miles and memories. But maybe running memories are already scattered all over the house. If that sounds familiar, consider replacing the medals and race numbers hanging off door handles with a nice wall display. For a smaller budget, frame a few of their favourite running pictures or special race numbers.
Keep it practical
If none of the above options appeal, stick to practicalities and consider what money is current spent on running by your loved one. Are they a member of a running group/club which has a monthly subscription? Do they have a physiotherapist, physical therapist or osteopath they attend regularly? Maybe they go to a yoga or pilates studio to complement their running? Do they love to browse the new stock in your local running shop? Your local coffee shop might be their favourite hangout after a run. Vouchers for these small companies might seem a little boring, but they will certainly be useful and you will be supporting a local business.
A date in the diary
As we head into an uncertain winter, we all need something to look forward to beyond the Covid case numbers and possibilities of more restrictions. And nothing helps focus the mind of a runner than a race date in the diary a few months in the future. Make it extra special by choosing a race entry for an event away from home. Make a weekend of it. It could be a parkrun, a charity event, a big city race or maybe even a running holiday or retreat. Just don’t sign anyone up to a long distance event that is beyond their capabilities – there is a fine balance between looking forward to the future and dreading an upcoming race.
Most importantly, don’t just send your favourite runner off on their own on this running getaway. Make sure its somewhere you fancy travelling to also and join them on the journey – even if you are not a runner. You can always be the cheerleader or walk the event. You too deserve a little treat for being the listening ear for a runner over the past 18 months of ups and downs. That is an endurance event in itself that needs to be rewarded.
– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie