I’ve had a difficult few years, as most of my friends know. A stepfather with dementia, a diagnosis of my own, a relationship breakdown in the middle of a book deadline (thanks, ex). Along the way I’ve had great support from my friends, from Twitter and Facebook, from all sorts of quarters. And one of the things that calmed me most was running. And another thing that calmed me was KIT.
I love kit. I’ve loved it ever since I had my first Dunlop Green Flash trainers, then my beloved hockey boots and shin-pads. In 1993 I went to Siberia with Operation Raleigh on a three month expedition around Lake Baikal. We had three different projects each: mine was a survey of the remains of a nuclear underground explosion ten years earlier (that meant gathering mud and leaves and giving them to a bearded scientist named Viktor and never knowing the results); a paleontological survey with a delightful Buryatian scientist Margarita Erbaeva; and a three week hiking trip through the astonishing Sayan mountains. Throughout all that, whether digging for million-year-old frogs legs or gathering mud or hiking, our conversation covered three topics, consistently: food (that we couldn’t get), toilets (of course) and kit. So maybe it’s the memory of those soothing conversations about bivvy bags and Thermarests that gently pushes me to spend hours on sports kit and running gear websites. This habit gets worse when I’m under stress. I bet my running related purchases spiked during the three months last winter I was rewriting my book.
I love my daily email from sportspursuit.com even though I rarely buy anything. But oh, those merino wool long-sleeved tops! I love looking through sportsshoes.com; running geek; Striders Edge; far too many other sites to list here without you wondering how I get any work done. Sometimes I even go to Sports Direct, although I never buy online. But clicking on the colours, the shoes, the accessories: it calms me down. I think it helps me get work done. I think it must be a form of meditation.
It also means I have a lot of kit. They say that running is cheap. It’s not, if you buy expensive race fees (£50 for the Great North Run? really?), and if you spend as much time gathering accessories and clothing and shoes as I do. It would take me too long to do an accurate list, but here is one from memory of my running possessions:
1 Garmin 210 watch
1 massage stick
1 foam roller
1 spiky massage ball
2 boxes energy gels
About 15 short-sleeved or vest running tops
1 club vest
3 long-sleeved running tops
3 high-vis jackets
3 pairs capri running tights
2 long running tights
2 pairs running shorts
6 pairs Karrimor running socks
2 pairs orthotic insoles
2 Moon finger-held lights (though they double as bike lights)
1 pair running gloves
6 pairs running shoes: road, fell, trail, race, freebie, mistake
Then there are the massages, podiatrist and physio appointments, and running gait analysis. It all adds up to a lot of money, and every penny is worth it.