four easy technical instruments that helped me run my first marathon

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to purchase technology aimed at improving your physical performance. Regardless of your favorite sport or personal goals, there is a deep rabbit hole to go down. It’s going to cost a lot of money, but the gains can be marginal – and frankly, can just be a distraction from what you’re supposed to be focusing on. Running is certainly prone to this.

A few months ago I ran my very first marathon. It was an incredible feat I never knew I would ever achieve and it will now be the first of many I will walk in my life. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech and the endless opportunities to gear up through the marathon with every last product, I went with a fairly simple approach.

When it comes down to it, there were really only four major pieces of engineering it took me to make it to the finish line at 26.2 miles.

A great running watch

Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Ultimately, only my smartwatch counts in this list. I’m lost without her. The watch in question is the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar – a beast of a device I’m almost inseparable from.

Before you run seriously, you’ll laugh at the idea of ​​spending over $500 on a watch specifically for running. Once you start earning the miles you won’t think twice. You quickly realize how important it is to have pinpoint GPS tracking, pace information, programmable workouts, route navigation and much more right on your wrist.

During my hundreds of miles training for the Chicago Marathon, the Forerunner 955 was a constant companion. It has a large screen that’s easy to read on the go, and you can customize your display to provide just the right combination of data whether you’re training or racing. Battery life is incredible, stretching to nearly two weeks, even with multi-hour runs and workouts.

Garmin doesn’t offer a particularly slick user interface and it takes a bit of a steep learning curve to get used to its features, but it’s worth it. Garmin watches simply deliver incredibly accurate GPS tracking and consistent data recording that you can rely on when making all of your training and fitness decisions while preparing for a marathon.

Two applications

Strava app on an iPhone.Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Garmin keeps all your data neat and tidy in its Connect app, and if you’re solely focused on your own trip, it provides all the information you need. But I spend a lot more time with Strava, which imports all my runs (and every other activity) from Garmin and offers what I think is a simpler and more useful interface – with a great layer of social interaction.

At its core, Strava is a log of your fitness — whether it’s running, biking, hiking, snowboarding, or participating in a whole host of other sports, your activity is cataloged and displayed beautifully for your analysis and reference. You can use it privately or open it to friends and followers if you prefer to get inspiration and encouragement from other people.

Much like buying an expensive Garmin to track your runs, you’ll quickly find value if you pay $80 a year for Strava’s premium subscription to unlock additional features. The biggest benefits for me have been setting and tracking goals, creating custom routes (that’s a big deal!), and getting various insights into my performance improvements over time. Strava strikes a good balance between providing a good core experience for free and strong value in its paid tier.

Just pay the $80 for Strava, it’s totally worth it.

The other app on my marathon journey was Nike Run Club. NRC is incredibly easy to learn and use, whatever your skill level, and it provides training plans and guides to guide you through every part of your progression to any length race. Nike draws on a deep bank of running coaches and athletes to offer insight and help. Nike Run Club can be a really important tool, especially when you run and train alone.

NRC can be your one-stop-shop app for running, but I preferred to pick it up here and there when I wanted to do something new or needed some motivation for a run I wasn’t otherwise particularly excited about. I’m more of a fan of taking the self-guided route with Strava, but the apps can absolutely complement each other.

Wireless Earbuds

Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds.jabra

Last year I ran over 175 hours. With so much time on the road, I would have lost my mind without a solid pair of earplugs in my ears. After bouncing back and forth between plenty of “regular” earbuds, I settled on a pair that’s fitness-focused: the Jabra Elite 7 Actives.

Whether the Elite 7 Active (or any other pair) is right for your ears is a personal question. But the Jabras fit my ears well and they have the core features I need. The big thing I look for in running earbuds is physically Buttons to control volume and playback, and the Elite 7 Active has them. Touch controls don’t work so well when there’s sweat involved and you’re trying to tap and slide on capacitive controls while moving. Trust me.

The right shoes

Nike Alphafly Running Shoes.Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

I know this isn’t technique in the traditional sense, but you’ll just think “shoes are shoes” until you’ve put a few miles in top-notch racing shoes. There’s a whole lot of technology involved in designing the latest and greatest running shoes, and it’s immediately apparent how many seconds and minutes you can save in your time just by finding the right pair. With these advanced materials and construction techniques, racing shoes are lighter than ever while adding a measurable amount of extra speed to your run. Nike is the leader when it comes to fast shoes, but it’s not hard to spot the technology-driven innovation across all major running shoe brands.

And it’s not just about speed, either. In the months of training runs leading up to the big race, I don’t wear those sleek Nike Vaporflys – I wear much more supportive and forgiving Nikes that have the same amount of engineering behind them, just with a focus on comfort and reducing stress on your joints. Not only do these new-age shoes make us faster and more consistent runners, they also help us prevent short- and long-term injuries. For us, normal everyday runners, this is probably more important than fast shoes; Let’s avoid knee surgery.

I hope it’s clear by this point that you don’t need every running technique available to get out and run—even long distances. Pick a few key parts, invest wisely in them, and you’re ready to hit the road.

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