Running For Dummies
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You don’t really need a lot of the gadgets that are marketed for runners. What you need, truthfully, is a good pair of running shoes and whatever you consider to be comfortable clothing. But some items certainly can enhance your running, either by providing more feedback for training, more comfort, or even protection from possible dangers.

A word about running clothes

You’ve probably seen very serious-looking runners wearing tight Lycra pants or shorts and a shirt made out of some space-age material. You’ve also probably seen runners wearing sweats from top to bottom (no matter what the weather is like) à la Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies. If you’re a beginner, here is some simple advice:

  • Wear light, comfortable clothes that are appropriate for the weather.

  • Avoid pants or shorts that chafe.

That’s really about it. You shouldn’t worry that much about what you’re wearing. You’re better off devoting energy to getting comfortable with your running routine and sticking to it.

Running watches

You can purchase a plastic running watch for less than a dinner at a good restaurant. For about $30, you can get the most basic watch. But if you want waterproof, glow-in-the-dark, alarm-clock, multibeep models, you’re getting into the $100-plus range. Although you don’t absolutely need a running watch, it’s a nice thing to have to time the duration of your workouts and to monitor your pulse rate.

Heart monitors

Heart monitors can be of major importance for the following reasons:

  • Your doctor thinks that you need to monitor your levels of exertion for medical reasons.

  • You’re an advanced athlete looking to train at specific rates and gearing toward high performance.

  • You are a habitual overtrainer who can benefit from a device that helps hold you back.

Otherwise, don’t be in a big hurry to purchase a heart monitor if you are just starting a running program. You can always consider getting one if you become a lifetime runner with an eye toward improving performance in competition.

If you do decide to shop for heart monitors, consider the Polar brand. They have a good variety of models to choose from and they have historically been a leader in the industry.


Amazingly enough, some high-end, high-tech sunglasses can cost as much — or more — than a pair of running shoes. (And running shoes do better if you forget and leave them on the car seat.) Although you don’t need top-of-the-line shades, strongly consider a pair that features 100-percent protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Good sports shades can also be a general comfort-boosting accessory. Squinting your way through the last 2 miles of a morning or late afternoon run straight into a fiery red sun isn’t a lot of fun. Even winter running can expose you to lots of reflective glare off fields of snow. Shades, plus sun block and a hat with a brim, can cut down on intrusive rays, no matter what the season. Sport sunglasses can also protect you from dust, insects, and other airborne particles.

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Florence Griffith Joyner, the "World's Fastest Woman," won three gold and one silver medal in track and field at the '88 summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, in addition to a silver medal at the '84 Games in Los Angeles. In 1989, she was voted "Most Outstanding Amateur Athlete in America" and was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995.
John Hanc is a running and fitness columnist for Newday and contributes frequently to Runner's World magazine. He is the author of The Essential Runner and The Essential Marathoner.

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