The Items I Never Run Without

When I run outside I definitely stick to the less is more philosophy.  I wear lightweight minimalist shoes, I don’t carry water (unless I truly need to) and I hate fuel belts.  That being said, in my 20 or so years of running I have learned the hard way that it’s important to carry a few essential items with you when you’re out for a run.  But first, two stories sharing how I learned this important lesson.

Story #1.  I spent Christmas of 2008 in Grainau, Germany with my family.  It’s the most charming little Bavarian town that’s right at the base of the tallest mountains in Germany. 

View from the mountains above Grainau and Garmisch, Germany (needless to say it was a cold and snowy run down at the base of the mountains).

One afternoon I decided to go for a run to the Eibsee, which is a gorgeous lake about 3 miles from the apartment we were staying in.  I decided to leave around 4 PM, and even as it kept getting darker and darker I was stubborn and told myself I had to run all the way to the lake.  By the time I got there the temperature was dropping fast…as was my blood sugar.  I have hypoglycemia and when my blood sugar gets low I get shaky and lightheaded, which isn’t a good thing if you’re half way through a run in the snow, in the cold, in a foreign country, without a phone and without money.  I didn’t have a way to pay for a taxi home, I didn’t have money to pay for food so that I could endure the trip back, my parents didn’t know where I was, and I had no way of calling them.  I started to panic.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to get home.  I thought about walking home but I wasn’t dressed warmly enough for that.  Then I saw them.  Miraculously I ran into my aunt and uncle who had gone to the Eibsee for the day with my cousins.  I started crying as I ran to them.  Here I was, a 22 year old soon-to-be West Point grad, and I was crying because I was so cold and hungry and relieved to see someone who could save me from the predicament I had gotten myself into.  I should have learned to never run without money or a phone ever again…but I didn’t.

Story #2.  In 2012 I was training for what should have been marathon #3 in less than a year (I ended up having to drop out of the race half-way through due to a nosebleed that would not stop…but that’s another story).  I lived in Hawaii at the time, and every single run was magical, warm and full of beautiful scenery and sweet smelling flowers.  

I had been having trouble with my right IT band, which caused my outer knee to hurt really badly, but I decided to head out for a long run one Saturday morning anyway.  I made it from my apartment out to Kahala (about 7 or 8 miles) before the pain was unbearable.  I was limping and couldn’t even think about running any further.  I was able to get some ice for my knee at the gas station, but again…I didn’t have any money or a phone so I had no clue how I would get home.  Luckily, there was a city bus driver taking a break outside a smoothie shop and I limped over to him and told him my problem.  He kindly gave me a bus transfer ticket so that I could catch a bus home without having to pay for it.  This time I was saved by the kindness of a stranger, and I finally learned to never leave home without money or a credit card.

Now I always run with a phone, a credit card/cash and an ID card.  If it’s a long run I’ll run with a gel or a little snack, and if I’m doing a long run on a route without water fountains I’ll bring water with me too.  The phone is important in case you need to make a call, plus it’s nice to have in case you want to listen to music or take a picture of something pretty (or a selfie for proof that you worked out…haha!).  Just make sure it’s fully charged in case you get lost and need to use Google Maps.  I found myself in this situation this past Christmas when I was a mere 6 weeks postpartum, and it was awful!   I got lost on a trail on Hunting Island, SC and ended up running 8 miles which my body was NOT prepared for. 

What items do you always have on you when you run?

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Katie Vail
Katie Vail

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Leave a comment

  1. June 1, 2016 / 12:17 pm

    They make a Road ID for your shoe, I recommend you stick it there and leave it! I put my name, blood type, year of birth so they know my age, and NKA for No Known Allergies. I put both my parents numbers with Dad and Mom labels. This was before I was married, but it always made me feel better to have that ID stuck to my shoe with Velcro.

  2. June 1, 2016 / 4:43 pm

    I always wear my Road ID and use the Road ID app to drop "breadcrumbs" so that my boyfriend or mom know where I am running and that I ended a run and safely got home – it alerts your emergency contacts if you don't hit a certain button after you complete the run.

  3. June 2, 2016 / 12:26 am

    I need to get one of those! Thanks for the tip Aubrey!

  4. June 2, 2016 / 12:27 am

    I haven't heard of that app but it sounds like a great one especially if you don't have a planned route and if they don't know where they should look for you if something should happen. Thanks for the tip!

  5. June 2, 2016 / 2:10 am

    I always wear my Road ID, especially when I'm doing long distance runs on trails. I'm very allergic to penicillin and sulfa drugs, the two most commonly prescribed antibiotics, so it's very important that if something happen not only can someone reach my husband, but I can be treated without a severe allergic reaction.

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