Useful Training Aids

There were a lot of useful little running aids and pieces of equipment that came in very handy during both my training and also the actual race.

Heart Rate Monitor

Some friends got me a heart rate monitor for my birthday a little while before I started training for the marathon, and boy, did it come in useful. After wearing it over several different training runs, you can quickly get an idea of what your average heart rate is for each type of activity.

More importantly, you get a very good idea of how hard you're pushing and how long you'll be able to maintain it. For instance, during a 20 km run: if my monitor registered in the 150s or 160s, I knew I was cruising. 170s - it was going to be a hard, but doable run. 180s - too high! I could slow down and save myself before burning out.

Of course, after a while, you won't need to rely on the monitor so much, as you'll know your body and its capabilities pretty well. But the monitor is very useful when you're first starting out, as a sort of benchmarking exercise.

A few words of warning - the cheaper ones can sometimes give bad readings. Also, more expensive ones will work even when you're surrounded by hundreds of other runners each with their own monitor. I had times at the start of races when my monitor said 280 beats per minute! Sure, I was nervous, but not that nervous.

Energy Gu/Goo

Energy gus are little packs of thick liquid / slush that contain a lot of carbs, sugar, and sometimes even caffeine. You can buy them in running shops and even some supermarkets.

I tried and was quickly converted to using energy gu packs during my long training runs and also during the actual marathon race. However, if you read the discussion on the Internet, they're a controversial running aid.

Some people can't stomach them, and have to stick to sport drink. Others think that you should not use them in training, and save them for the race day.

That second approach of course runs the risk of not knowing whether your body will handle it come race day. A compromise is to try it a few times in training, make sure it's ok, then hold off till race day.

The major argument I have heard for energy gus over just drinking sports drink is that with sports drink, over a marathon, you're fighting a losing battle - you can't get enough energy from the drinks alone. The idea is that the gus, with their higher payload, fill that void.

For those of you who are very budget conscious, they're not a cheap proposition - several dollars per pack and you can use several packs in a single long run. However, the wonderful Internet also has quite a few home recipe versions you can make - but do it at your own risk!

Another word of warning - it's pretty hard to down a thick energy gu pack without having something to drink just afterwards. So don't pop one in your mouth on raceday when it's still another 2 kilometres to the next drinks station!


Chafing can be a big problem even for fit and lean runners, and can be much worse if you're only starting on your way towards leaness :) The two main areas are the thighs and the nipples - it's quite common at the end of races to see runners with blood soaked singlets from their nipples rubbing raw during the race.

To avoid chafing, you can buy products like BodyGlide, or even use your own home versions - vaseline works OK for instance.

Make sure you put it on at first sign of chafing - once you've rubbed raw it's very hard for it to heal up unless you stop running, which is to be avoided during your training regime.

Lightweight Sun Visor

If you want some protection from the sun during your runs, some form of head gear is needed. However, you definitely don't want a normal basebal cap or hat, as a lot of heat is normally lost through the top of your head, and wearing a conventional hat will just bottle it up!

What you want is a sun visor of some description. You can even get 'temporary' plastic ones which you can throw out after a few runs if they start to get a little smelly and sweat soaked.

Other Things

Runners often choose to carry all sorts of other things with them. Toilet paper can be handy if you're on long runs and there aren't any toilets on your route. Asthmatics should carry inhalers with them. A small lightweight mobile phone, or alternatively some change for a phone call is very useful if an injury flares up when you're 15 km from home.

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Copyright 2007-2010 Michael Milford