Dear all; I’m sorry. I’m sorry to friends, family, work colleagues, physio, and most especially to my lovely and patient husband. I’m sorry for boring the pants off you for months with my training stories, aches, pains, moans and more moans*.
It’s nearly over.
I’ve done the miles, the preparation races, I’ve stockpiled my gels... And now all’s that’s left is to rest up, eat a few bowls of pasta... and decide what to wear for the big day. Well, I am a Grazia Girl, after all. PB’s and pace times are very important, of course, but it’s also quite nice to look the part.
Since I started running a few years ago women’s running gear has improved considerably. It used to be terrible. If it wasn't terrible, it was super-expensive. And while some brands are not 100% there yet, many others now sell some brilliant ranges – you just have to know where and what to look for.
I’ve also learned what to spend on and what to save. Don't believe anyone who suggests you should be spending £300 on a running jacket. It’s just not necessary.
If you just like to do the occasional run, or if you’re at the end of a 17-week slog like me (and congratulations– I’ll be high-fiving you at the finish line next Sunday), you'll know it's nice to treat yourself to some shiny new kit every one in a while. Here are a few things I’ve learned about running fashionably…
Cheap Is Chic
Given that I've needed to throw kit in the washing machine daily, and given that training in January and February means you're exposed to the worst of what the Great British winter can throw at you, I've found I've gravitated towards stuff that's colourful, fun - and can be replaced after a few months of very hard wear. It's a habit I've had for a few years now, thanks to stores like H&M and GAP whose colourful sportswear is stylish, fun and easy on the purse. A tip: head to the men's section for great zip up tops THAT ARE NOT PINK. I will go out of my way from wearing pink, sometimes unintentionally aggressively, as my poor local running shop will testify.
The Lore of Leggings
Having said I like cheap fun gear, I am now going to contradict myself as the one thing I would suggest you never skimp on is leggings. Just imagine the horror of running along the street, catching your reflection in a shop window and realizing your leggings are see-through. Not good. My favourite go-to is sportswear mecca Sweaty Betty: plain, streamlined – and not too fancy or print-tastic.
The T-Shirt Travesty
The main thing that makes me rage about sportswear (apart from how so much women's running gear is pink) is the lack of female-friendly t-shirts. Too often I’ve fallen into the trap of buying styles that I take home and find are really high-necked and super-unflattering. Then there's the abundant use of shiny fabric that clings to every lump and bump. Running is generally quite a male dominated sport (especially racing), but I don’t want my gear to feel like it too. I don’t like cap sleeves, and I definitely don’t want masculine logos emblazoned on my top. And enough already with the go-faster stripes: they won’t make me 'go' any faster. I don’t want frills or ruffles either – or long t-shirts that hide my bum. When I’m running extra fabric, fussy details and drawstring hems just get in the way. Nike however has woken up to all this and their round and V-neck tees are now some of my all-time running wardrobe favourites in lovely lightweight fabrics and scooped hems. They’re a decent price too.
One Colour Looks Sleek
My running hero? House of Cards Claire Underwood. I want her quietly-luxe all-black running gear and I want to run around Washington DC without breaking a sweat with and as if my feet are barely touching the floor. Claire has inspired me with my favourite mode of sports dressing, which is: wear one colour top and bottom and you’ll look so much more put together and streamlined. Wearing lots of different clashing colours is all very tempting – sports shops are like a fashion pick and mix of candy brights – but I found that I risked veering into Kids From Fame territory. My advice is: if you wouldn’t wear all those colours at once in a normal outfit, don’t wear them out running.
The Ultimate Running Jacket
I’ve spent many an hour in various running shops trying to find the ultimate nylon running jacket… and I’ve failed.
My standards are high: I want one that is waterproof, so I don’t get wet in a downpour (they exist). And I want one that’s breathable, so I don’t have to run with sweat running down the inside of my jacket (they also exist, and apologies for the overshare).
But a rainproof AND breathable jacket? They don’t exist! It's not 'technically possible for a fabric to be both' I've been told. And I've looked at so many I feel like I could do a PHD in running jackets. So this winter I’ve gone for a jacket in super-thick jersey that’s breathable and keeps out some of the rain. And I’ve stayed in bed when it’s been pouring down. Check out the range by adidas for Virgin London Marathon.
Throughout my four month training marathon schlep the one thing I never got right was the gym bag. Hoiking a big old grey sack round various post-work fashion events (my run of choice was lunchtime around Regents Park) was not a good look, especially when the bag in question had seen better days. The reason I’ve been a bit reluctant to spend on a new one is that I couldn’t find one I liked. I hate those prints that many sports brands currently favour, the ‘look-at-me-I’m-a-funky-sporty-person-who-loves-neon-yellow-and-jazzy-eighties-graphics’. I don’t wear them during the day, so why the hell would I wear them in the gym? What I want is something that doesn’t look out of place with my work attire. Stella McCartney’s black gym bag from Harrods, £119, is perfect.
Lucy Dunn is raising money for Royal Marsden Cancer Research and you can donate to the charity here.
**PS: If like me, you are suffering, and you’re currently getting out of bed on a morning feeling like a stiff weary octogenarian, then I’d wholeheartedly suggest flinging a tube of FLEXISEQ Sport into your gym bag, a new drug-free gel that is proven to relieve the pain and stiffness. A PR sent me across a sample this week and it really works. £34.99, Lloyds pharmacy. *
Exercise gear gallery
H&M, £ 24.99
H&M, £ 24.99
H&M, £ 14.99
Gap, £ 8.99
Gap, £ 9.99
Sweaty Betty, £ 50.00
Sweaty Betty, £ 70.00
Nike, £ 25.00
Nike, £ 30.00
Sweaty Betty, £ 85.00
Sweaty Betty, £ 90.00
Sweaty Betty, £ 175