THE ARTICLE “Six Ways To Carry Gels On Long Runs” by NYC Running Mama for Women’s Running, re-posted on Competitor.com definitely falls into the running ‘MacGyver’ category. Those who take long runs of greater than 75-90 minutes in duration are familiar with various tactics to store and access nutrition and water during these runs. I find summer runs to be most problematic because there are less layers of clothes to wear, the construction of which tend to be less sturdy and lighter. Thus there are fewer available pockets of sufficient size to store small items like earphones, money, and ID, as well as a phone. This is especially difficult to deal with if having free hands is important to comfort and running ease.
So although there are 6 ways suggested by the article, only one (pinning to shorts) seems truly workable for comfort’s sake for many runners. The key to the remaining five suggestions being workable lies with the specific piece of ‘equipment’ utilized:
Pockets: An effort must be made in advance to search for, purchase, and trial apparel that have pockets. Of course this gear must, more importantly, accommodate the weather and be ‘breathable’ on bodies that quickly heat up with moderately intense physical activity. What works for one person may not for another, so like finding the ‘right’ shoe, finding pocketed clothes can be a challenge.
Bra: Remember this story initially appeared in a women’s running magazine. If you do wear a sports bra, it would seem that the best place to store gels/etc would NOT be next to the skin. There are brands with outside pockets in various locations advertised on the internet. As with other pocketed apparel, the primary purpose of the bra must serve the wearer well; that there’s also a pocket for storage would be a plus.
Belt or hydration device/system: If water isn’t available on the long run course (some training teams will provide it at stations along the way or some pathways have fountains) runners need to carry their own water. Many runners don’t mind wearing a belt with attached re-fillable bottles or a back pack system with a drinking tube. As the article says, there will be additional pockets on these products that will store gels and other stuff. It’s extremely unwise to take in gel/etc. nutrition without water (NOT a sugar sports drink) so the challenge of transporting both items is a combined issue for many.
Hand: As long as you don’t need to carry a phone or water in one hand, carrying gels/etc. in the other isn’t too cumbersome.
Pin-it: This is a great idea if the item is NOT pinned next to the skin. If it can remain outside the shorts and not get in the way of running, it’s perfect! I hope to try various ways of affixing small bags of gel, gummies, or beans to the waistband of my pants.
PLASTIC BAGGIES: Again, this is a MacGyver move. I use plastic baggies if pockets aren’t available. The quart size that the TSA recommends you put liquids in if they will be carried on board the plane rather than stowed in checked luggage work best. Thin bags are more pliant/softer than thicker freezer bags. Put your folded money or credit card, ID, AND gels/etc in this bag. Tuck the softer longer bottom portion between your shorts/pants and undergarments*, and leave the top, stiff, sealable portion of the bag folded out over the waistband. The bag’s rigid top portion won’t easily slip down between your outer pants and underwear; it will remain on the outside of the pants and possibly be stabilized by a shirt or jacket pulled down over the waistband. If it starts to rain you can pull the baggie out from under the waistband, slip your phone into it, and carry all in your hand, protecting it from getting wet. One benefit of having everything in the bag is that only the phone needs to be gripped as you run, the rest will flop a bit with motion but be contained.
There’s always the tactic of planting water and nutrition on the course before you start out, or leaving it at a convenient point on an out-and-back run. For example, stash your supplies at mile 4 mark, run 2 more miles, turn around and it will be at mile 8 on a run that is 12-miles in distance. Well-meaning trash collectors or inconsiderate pranksters may remove it and leave you dry and depleted however, so always have a back-up plan if you do this (my experience).
Please share any other ways you’ve successfully carried nutrition on long runs.
*This will not be comfortable if you wear shorts with a liner.
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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