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Last month, I ran a mile in less than five minutes for the first time in a decade.
Getting there — which you can read about in full here — was a wild ride that involved hill workouts, thrown-up bagel sandwiches, pandemic racing tournaments, and months spent reckoning with how to make running a force for good in my life again.
The journey also, inevitably, intersected with a ton of performance tech. Somewhat unique to running, the sport’s amateurs are on the front lines in testing and deploying the age’s most advanced techniques and equipment. If you’re not sure where you stand on this revolution (which is understandable — one might argue that this arsenal of available tech lead to “artificial” personal bests), I’d point out that many recent developments in running gear are aimed at improving running economy and protecting against injury.
Essentially: running is hard enough, and you should feel comfortable embracing the toys. To that end, I thought I’d share the 10 top products that helped me recently log a 4:51 after 10 years away from the sport. Below, a pair of carbon-plated racing sneaks from Saucony, herbal recovery rubs out of Arizona, our hands-down favorite pair of running shorts, and more.
Nalgene 16oz Narrow Mouth
Nothing fancy here. I like to bring this little “shot glass” of a Nalgene bottle to the track for workouts and time trials alike. Pre-race nerves can commonly cause dry mouth before a race — a mini swig of water from this highly portable fella is my best defense against it.
My favorite socks to run in and it’s not even close. They’re made of SilverTech threading, an antimicrobial fabric initially developed for American military operations. Rhone spends more on socks than most brands do on quarter-zips. For running the mile, specifically, I love: A) the anti-chafing silicon pad at the heel and B) the grip at the bottom, which makes sure I don’t slide in my shoes.
Runner’s High Herbals Chill AF Plus+ Muscle Rub
Run by a husband-wife team of adventure athletes-turned-herbalists in Glendale, Arizona, Runner’s High makes a variety of recovery rubs from all-natural ingredients found in the American West. This particular rub — which includes sunflower oil, piñon pitch, arnica flowers, beeswax, and menthol crystals — is meant for calming down inflammation after workouts. I apply it directly to my calves.
BioBeet Juice Powder
Beet juice is a pre-workout godsend. The vegetable’s absurdly high nitrate levels encourages vasodilation in blood vessels, which makes it easier for your heart to pump blood (and oxygen) throughout the body. For an athlete of any endurance pursuit, beet consumption is a no-brainer. So you don’t have to prepare a bunch on a plate everyday, though, just pour some powder into a glass of water. It doesn’t taste great, but keep at it — best results arrive from continuous use.
One of our favorite, under-the-radar running brands, Janji travels the world for inspiration on each collection it develops, and builds sustainable water sources along the way. They also make great hats. I wore this exact one during my my mile trial. Crazy lightweight, and doesn’t mind wind or rain. There’s even a little pocket for stashing cards or a key.
Tracksmith Session Shorts
The Holy Grail of running shorts. They’re handsome as hell, obviously, and super comfortable — the Boston-based brand sourced a four-way stretch Italian fabric — but the real test they pass for me is whenever I kick into high gear on the fourth lap. Some shorts will suddenly ride up, and get in your head as a result. These hold the line, every time.
The only knocks on Theragun’s percussive therapy devices were that they were too loud and too expensive. Then the brand went ahead and dropped the Mini, which is $400 less expensive than the Theragun Pro, and a full lawn mower less noisy, but just as effective. Check out our full review of the device here; suffice to say, it was instrumental to keeping my legs fresh during training. I use it every single day — both before and after a run.
Saucony Endorphin Pro
I ran a 68 on my final lap. The shoe on the left up there is why. It took Saucony several years and dozens of prototypes, but their entry to the carbon-plate revolution is one of the fastest racing shoes ever released. They’re so fun to run in, honestly. That “propels you forward” concept isn’t marketing mumbo-jumbo; this is a tall, foamy, responsive sneaker that puts you on your toes and pushes you to fast times. Unsurprisingly, Saucony has had trouble keeping it in stock. If you can’t find your size, I’d also recommend New Balance’s FuelCell 5280 — pictured on the right — which was expressly designed for the mile. (There are 5280 feet in a mile.)
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro
Having music motivation for my mile trial was a revelation. (During my prep years, I never raced with music. It wasn’t allowed/there wouldn’t have been any reliable Bluetooth options anyway.) Thanks to these bad boys, though, I was able to queue up a couple bangers and ride them to victory. I’ve run in Powerbeats Pros for about a year now and have zero complaints. They’re clingy, sweat-repellant and offer a great sound.
NormaTec Pulse 2.0 Leg Recovery System
One of the most important achievements for me during this process, beyond breaking 5:00 itself, was learning to appreciate the importance of a rest day from running. Pounding pavement is a violent pursuit. Your legs need a break, and this system is one of the best methods for fine-tuning that process. Once the exclusive purview of Olympians and NBA players, NormaTec’s systems are now widely available, and capable of administering a dedicated, contract-and-release massage for your legs. I’ll sit with my phone or a book for a half hour while the Pulse 2.0 goes to work.
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