The Good Stuff Runners REALLY Want for Christmas: A Fast and Fabulous Gift Guide

Happy Holidays, fast and fabulous friends! Yes, today’s post is yet another what-to-get-your-runner-for-Christmas gift guide. Cliche, I know, but this gift guide is different and better than all the other runner gift guides out there because it highlights myriad exotic, luxurious, novel, and all-around fabulous items that runners desire and covet, but might feel frivolous purchasing for themselves. That’s how you know these things make awesome gifts. So this one’s for you, non-running family members, friends, and significant others of runners who appreciate fashion, function, fun, and whimsy. This gift guide is guaranteed to save you from the shame of defaulting to the generic Visa gift card and it is sure to earn you the title of gift-giving super-star come Christmas morning. You’re welcome.

Now I don’t know about you guys, but as a humble fitness professional and running store employee I must adhere to a fairly tight budget when it comes to holiday shopping. Thus, I took the liberty of keeping all the gifts featured in this post, right down to the fanciest and most fabulous, under $100. So without further ado, let’s talk about the good shit the runner in your life wants for Christmas!

The Extravagant and Luxurious: For that Special Someone You REALLY Want to Impress:

Podium Pajamas from Oiselle, $64.00 Help your favorite runner say yes to that thing they need to do more of, but most likely struggle mightily with on account of their go-getter Type-A runner personality: relaxing. Even the most tightly wound, certifiably ADHD of runners will find themselves counting down the miles of their long run separating them from chilling out these fantabulous PJs. (This is the voice of experience speaking.) Their super-soft fleecey-ness more than qualifies them as the ultimate pre-race/ post-long run napping bliss! And they come with a bonus inspirational message printed on them at no extra charge! If they aren’t already at the top of your favorite runner’s holiday wish list, then they should be!

Oiselle's Podium Pajamas. Perfect for pre-race slumber parties, post-run chillaxing, and story time with your 8 year old BFF.

Oiselle’s Podium Pajamas. Perfect for pre-race slumber parties, post-run chillaxing, and story time with your 8-year-old BFF.

Holiday Sweater Tech Shirt from InknBurn.com, $69.95 I know what you’re thinking. “$69.95 sounds like an awful lot of money for a running shirt!” And you’re right, 70 bones for a mere piece of dry fit material borders on extravagant, but trust me, this is worth it. My running BFFs and I were so enamored by/ jealous of our friend Karen’s ugly Christmas sweater tech shirt that we just couldn’t wait to order our very own. And boy, are we glad we did! The joy we get from running around in those sweat-wicking sweaters, and better yet, the looks we get from other runners as our band of merry sweater-wearers passes by are worth every penny of that $69.95. So give the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season and get your favorite fun-loving runner an over-priced, but totally worth it holiday tech shirt.

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Holiday sweater tech shirt from inknburn.com, $69.95. Endless joy and holiday-themed runs for the #1 runner on your shopping list, priceless.

Pedicures! $25.00 to $70.00 I mean, who doesn’t love a little pampering on someone else’s dime? And let’s face it, runners’ feet generally need all the help they can get. Also, I find it secretly thrilling to watch the nail tech lady wince at my sundry calluses and black toe nails and I enjoying making up stories in my head about what she must surely be saying to her fellow nail techs about how disgusting they are. But maybe that’s just me… At any rate, suffice to say that runners like getting pedicure gift certificates for holiday gifts.

An unfortunate (but festive) non-professional pedicure. Give your runner a pedi gift certificate so their feet don't end up looking like this.

An unfortunate, yet festive non-professional pedicure. Give your runner a pedi gift certificate so their feet don’t end up looking like this.

Functional, Yet Fabulous: For the No-Nonsense Runner Who Appreciates a Hint of Flair

 Progressive + Run Compression Socks from CEP, $59.99 Again, 60 bucks for socks may sound moderately absurd, but these socks are seriously the cat’s pajamas and your favorite runner wants them for Christmas, so stop being such a cheap skate. There is some scientific evidence that compression socks increase performance and expedite recovery for runners. These often-colorful knee-high socks are also extremely trendy on the race day fashion scene and they just feel downright fantastic, especially when you find yourself on your feet all day after a long run . Read all about my thoughts on them and the science behind them here. In my humble opinion, CEP compression socks are particularly awesome because they offer the best blend of graduated medical grade compression technology (more  on that here.) and fast and fabulous color options for coordinating with your every race day and/or recovery outfit.

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CEP compression socks: Medical grade graduated compression to make you fast. Fun and exciting colors to make you fabulous.

The Ulti-Mitt from Saucony, $45.00 The glove/ mitten combo or “glittens” as I like to call them (not to be confused with Shittens, which we will get to later) are a cold weather running essential in my book. These handy (pun intended) little winter accessories have got you, or at least your hands covered no matter what cold weather comes your way. Their lightweight wind and water-resistant mitts keep your hands toasty on the coldest and windiest of days, and can easily be stashed in the glove’s front pocket in more hospitable, but still glove worthy weather. Most major running apparel companies make some variation of the glitten, but I especially like my Ulti-Mitts from Saucony because they feature a convertible thumb and forefinger  (extremely helpful for glove-wearing dexterity) and they come in an exciting variety of obnoxious high-vis colors, including but not limited to pink and coral. Doesn’t your favorite runner deserve the hand warmth versatility and increased visibility of a good brightly colored pair glittens? I think we both know the answer to that question.

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Highly visible colors, hand warmth and comfort in any and all cold weather, and optimal glove-wearing dexterity! What’s not to love about the Ulti-Mitt from Saucony?!

 Arm Warmers from Oiselle, $30.00 Every runner who has their sights set on a big spring goal race needs a pair of arm warmers. Arm warmers are the things that save us the hassle of the throw-away long sleeve shirt when it is 40 degrees at the start line. They are also easily stashable or removable should the temperature climb to 60 degrees before we reach the finish.  Yes,  arm warmers are a revolutionary cool weather racing accessory, plus they just make you feel fast. Here’s proof from professional runner for Oiselle and arm warmer enthusiast, Kate Grace, and also from my friend and general workout champion Liz, who likes arm warmers so much she uses them for various basic domestic tasks as well as running. I’ve even been known to pair them with formal wear. In case you haven’t noticed, I may have a bit of a Oiselle bias, but their arm warmers are seriously baller and far and away my favorite on the market. #thumbholesFTW, plus ALL THE FUN COLORS! Well don’t just sit there, order a pair already!

Thumb holes and fun color options get the thumbs up!

Thumb holes and fun color options always get the thumbs up!

 Knuckle Lights, $39.99 Nothing says “I love you, special runner person in my life, and your safety is important to me!” quite like new set of Knuckle Lights. As the name indicates, Knuckle Lights are LED lights with the purpose of illuminating one’s low-light run that are worn, wait for it…on the knuckles. They do an excellent job evenly distributing light ahead of and to the sides of you as you run. This helps to eliminate the scary tunnel vision that can sometimes come with running with a headlamp. Knuckle Lights are comparable to a standard headlamp in terms of both light output and price point, but they offer a fresh, new perspective of what’s in your periphery and a bounce-free means of carrying your light source. They are also much handier than a traditional headlamp for sharing with friends. Brighten up someone’s holiday this year by giving the gift of Knuckle Lights! (Check out a complete Fast and Fabulous review of Knuckle Lights here.)

Knuckle lights add safety and illumination to both outdoor low-light running and pretend running in your living room. They are also prefect for sharing with friends.

Knuckle lights add safety and illumination to both outdoor low-light running and pretend running in your living room. They are also prefect for sharing with friends.

Amusing Novelty Items and Stocking Stuffers

 Runderwear Runderwear is a general term for comfy, running specific (?) underpants with cheeky running-themed saying written across the butt. Runderwear makes a fabulous gift because it is fun and whimsical and like many other options listed in this gift guide it screams “I got you this running-themed gift because I know you like running and it is important to you!”, but it is not an especially technical item like as shoes, sports bras, GPS watches etc. Of course all these products make fabulous, thoughtful gifts as well, but runners can be SUPER PARTICULAR AND ANAL about that stuff. So I say when in doubt, keep it novel and lighthearted and buy the runderwear.  Oiselle’s Randies come in a 3-pack for $48.00. Or if you are just looking for a single serving of runderwear, check out Saucony’s Runderpants at $18.00 to $20.00 a pop. I especially like the ones that say “Get used to the view.”

Randies and Runderpants take "cheeky sayings" to a whole new level.

Randies and Runderpants take “cheeky sayings” to a whole new level. Photo Source: oiselle.com and saucony.com.

 

Shwings, $7.00 to $8.95 Shwings are wings for your shoes. This fact alone makes them awesome. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure they make you run faster, and I KNOW that they make you smile every time you look down and see them on your shoes, which is why I never race without them. The runner that you love shouldn’t have to either. Shwings come in a vast array of colors, textures, and prints to compliment even the most seemingly un-matchable neon racing flats. They can be purchased online here and here, or at your local Michael’s craft store if you’re lucky.

Shwings may or may not make you run faster, but they most definitely make your shoes look more awesome!

Shwings may or may not make you run faster, but they most definitely make your shoes look more awesome!

Shittens, $9.95 Don’t even act like you didn’t see this one coming. We all know that poop stories are the glue the binds the running community together. If the runner on your shopping list tells you any different this can only mean one of two things: (1) They are lying to you. (2) They have not yet established a group of running friends with whom they feel comfortable sharing their poop stories. It is only a matter of time until this happens. This common bond of sharing poop stories and the experiences behind said stories are the reasons that your favorite runner would absolutely delight in getting their very own pack of Shittens for Christmas. In case you haven’t read any other blog post I have written ever, Shittens are mitten-shaped wet wipes. They are useful for many things ranging from, umm, code brown situations to freshening up after a particularly dusty/ sweaty run to cleaning window marker of your Ragnar rental van. Shittens are also sure to provide unlimited holiday laughs for the whole family. Check out the catchy Shittens jingle below, and then order some right now, ‘cause poop is gross.

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Save the runner in your life from getting caught brown handed by giving the gift of Shittens.

Sparkly Soul Headbands, $15.00 to $17.00 Every runner girl needs a little bit of bling in their world.  As a lover of all that glitters, and the proud owner of a short haircut I am a huge fan of a good non-discriminatory, sparkly hair accessory. That’s why I love Sparkly Soul headbands.  They are useful and flattering for gals with all imaginable hair lengths and types! Additionally, they are the only headache free AND slip-free headband I have encountered in my running specialty career thus far. And this is coming from a person who has tried A LOT running headbands! Give the gift of bling-tastic, sans-headache accessorization this holiday season with Sparkly Soul!

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Sparkly Soul headbands: Blingy, non-slip, head ache-free hair flair adored by long and short hair styles alike!

And there you have it, folks. Eleven fast, fabulous, under-$100 gifts that your favorite runner will surely be hella-pumped to unwrap on Christmas morning. Happy shopping, and Happy Holidays to all!

What’s on your running holiday wish list? Please fill me in on any awesome stuff I might have overlooked in the comments!

Other Running Gift Guides I Like…

Bull City Running Co.’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide Run local, shop local!

A Dose of Running’s Guide to Gifts on a Grad School Budget

Lauren Fleshman’s Fleshmaniac Gift Guide

rUnladylike’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Runners and Triathletes

The Obligatory Disclaimer… I own, use, and love all of the products cited in this post. None of them were given to me for free and all opinions are my own.

Words of Gratitude…

The biggest shout out to Kara and Monte for the professional level high-resolution photo shoot. Guys, The Fast and the Fabulous has never looked more fabulous! All the love to y’all for taking and being in all these pics. The only thing that separated this photo shoot from perfection was the absence of Cat Santa. Next year.

As always, love to Allie and my 8-year-old BFF Z  for cheerfully accommodating my silly blog musings. And above all, thanks to all of you for reading.

The Secret to Half Marathon PR Success: Stalking…Ummm, I Mean Teamwork…

Check it out y’all, I wrote another race report! Time to cozy up to the computer or mobile device of your choosing and read all about my latest running adventure, The Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon! It’s sure to be a real page-turner…

We’ll Start with Some Reflections and Some Strategy…

Leading up to Sunday’s race I had been doing a lot of reflecting on my run at Disney Princess and why it did not go so well. I know that a lot of reasons for my disappointing performance that day were entirely out my control… Heat and humidity, GI distress, tutu drag, etc. But still, it is disappointing to fall short of your target pace on race day, especially when you have been nailing said pace in all of your workouts. I was discussing this matter with my wise and speedy Oiselle teammates on our Saturday shake out/ race strategizing run when it dawned on me: I should approach this race as though it were workout! I like workouts and I am generally successful at them because they provide a structured plan of action… Run at this pace for this long, then take this much rest and repeat x number of times. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps and maybe endure a little discomfort, but before you know it you are done and you probably kicked that workout’s butt! This whole simple how-to thing usually works out really well for me.  And so somewhere in the mix of our profound and very important conversations about what’s trending on Twitter, our Oiselle spring line wish lists, the latest episode of Glee, and sweet vs. savory crepes for our post-run festival of carbo loading, my teammates/ running gurus Allison and Bigs and I put our heads together and my race day game plan was born.

We decided that the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon should be a progression run, and we mapped it out to look something like this:

  • Miles 1 through 4: Keep it comfortable, let’s say 7:20 to 7:15.
  • Miles 5 through 9: Try to pick it up at little, but don’t go crazy… 7:10 to 7:05 pace.
  • Miles 10 through 13.1: Get the hell out of the comfort zone. It’s all out balls-to-the-wall from here to the finish.

I took great comfort in mapping out a game plan, and also in spending a lovely Saturday morning running, eating, hydrating, and power-shopping (all critical components of my day-before-the-race preparation plan) with my awesome teammates. I had a good feeling as we packed up and head east for Wrightsville Beach.

Just in case you were wondering, I was unable to choose a winner in the great Sweet vs. Savory Crepe debate. This left me no choice but to have one of each.

Just in case you were wondering, I was unable to choose a winner in the great Sweet vs. Savory Crepe debate. This left me no choice but to have one of each.

Upon our arrival at the beautiful North Carolina coast, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon and evening of packet pick-up, more shopping, 5K watching/ cheering, a very carbohydrate-intensive team dinner, and of course, a serious green nail polish mani-pedi party… I mean, is it even possible to run a race on St. Patrick’s Day without green finger and toe nails?

All for one, and St. Paddy's Day manicures for all!

All for one, and St. Paddy’s Day manicures for all!

I awoke on St. Patrick’s Day morning feeling reasonably well rested, well hydrated, and ready to kick some ass. My fabulously fun teammates and I donned our race kits and all the sparkly green accessories we could find and jogged/ booty danced our way to the start line. (Apparently dance parties are the new half marathon warm up of champions.)  Before we knew it, the gun went off and so did we.

Bigs and I take a quick moment between the dance party warm up and the starting gun to model our fly new Oiselle spike bags before depositing them at bag drop.

Bigs and I take a quick moment between the dance party warm up and the starting gun to model our fly new Oiselle spike bags before depositing them at bag drop.

The Mile By Mile Breakdown…

Right away my teammate Caren (Caren is the reigning Masters North Carolina State Champion of the mile distance.  She’s kind of a big deal.) pulled up to me, and I breathed a giant sigh of relief. I was admittedly lacking confidence in my ability to execute the race plan on my own, so I was extremely grateful to have some company. We easily rolled through mile 1 in 7:11 and I decided to rein it in a little, even it meant losing Caren. She humored me with a conservative  7:17 mile for #2, but pulled away by mile 3, which I ran in a somewhat embarrassing 7:28. Fortunately, the running gods were smiling on me and I missed the slowest split of the day as it popped up the watch. Had I been aware of it, I suspect it would have psychologically derailed me for the remainder of the race. By mile 4 I was back on track with a 7:15 and it was Hammer Time. Hammer Gel time, that is. I celebrated completing phase one of the game plan with a delicious raspberry Hammer Gel.

Raspberry Hammer Gel, the race day nectar of the gods...

Raspberry Hammer Gel, the race day nectar of the gods…

Time to step it up a little… I was able to accomplish this pretty easily thanks to my first sighting of the officially Bull City Track Club cheering section (i.e. Jason Page toting the camera and the child-filled baby jogger,) plus an especially awesome NC State-themed aid station complete with a pack’s worth of cardboard cut-out wolves and guy with a sign that read “FREE HIGH FIVES”. (I don’t really have any special attachment to NC State University, but who doesn’t love a good cardboard wolf pack?) I cashed in my free high-five as my watch chirped a big  7:05 for mile 5, and to my great joy I caught a glimpse of Caren maybe a quarter of mile ahead of me!  I immediately adjusted my game plan to include reeling her in by mile 10 so we could work together for the balls-out portion of the race.

I kept my sights set on Caren for miles 6 and 7, which were 7:09 and 7:10 respectively. Although I did not seem to be gaining any ground on her, she didn’t seem to be putting any distance on me either, and this kept my optimism for catching her alive.

At mile 8 I came across some nice, chatty marathoners and clicked off a 7:04 thanks to their pleasant company. The power of a little friendly distraction never ceases to amaze me.

But wait, where is Caren?! We’re getting dangerously close the “Beast Mode On” phase of the race plan, and I haven’t caught her yet! Balls! Time to focus. I downed Hammer Gel #2, the espresso flavor this time for good measure. At this point I realized that all I really needed to do now was run 4 miles at 7:00 min pace. This was precisely the tempo workout I ran last week and it went particularly well for me.  Just the confidence boost I needed. That, and oh yeah, THERE’S CAREN and I am starting to close the gap!

I very nearly yelled as loud as I could “HEY CAREN, WAIT FOR ME!!!”, but then it occurred to me that this was a totally selfish/ ridiculous thing to do and that Caren probably wasn’t especially interested in throwing her own ballin’ half marathon time out the window in the name of getting me through the last 3 miles of the race. As I rolled through mile 9 in 7:01 and mile 10 at 6:58 I rejoiced at the realization that I was totally rocking the execution of the game plan and feeling strong. It also crossed my mind that I had cleared the mile marker that had been my digestive system’s demise in my last half marathon without one fleeting sign of GI distress.  Then I prayed that I had not jinxed myself by patting  myself on the back for making it this far without digestive issues. Thankfully, my prayers were answered.

By mile 11 I was definitely gaining ground on Caren. “Perfect!” I thought to myself. “Since Caren is the Master’s Mile Champion of North Carolina I am so gonna draft off of her for a super-speedy final mile.” Near the end of mile 11 I encountered the Official BCTC Cheering Section again. I had to chuckled to myself as Jason yelled at me “ELLEN, THERE’S CAREN! GO GET HER!!!” Yeah, no kidding dude.  I have been stalking her as “Every Breath You Take” by The Police plays in my head the entire race! And then with the help of a 2nd round of free high fives from the cardboard wolf pack aid station, something magical happened. Just like that, I CAUGHT CAREN! This time  I actually did yell her name to make my presence known, and as  Mile 11 popped at 6:51 we I kicked it into high gear for a big, glorious BCTC teamwork finish. Then somewhere in my shockingly speedy 6:29 (at least by my standards) mile 12 I lost Caren again. Except this time she was behind me.

As I charged into the final mile that bad feeling of impending vomit set in.  I channeled the wise and profound final-kick mantra of the amazing Bigs , “Don’t shoot your wad. Don’t lose your lunch.” (She really said this to me repeatedly last year in the last 800m or so of the Napa Valley Marathon as she paced me to a big ol’ Boston Qualifier.) It got me to the finish line barf-free that day in Napa, and it did the same  for me on Sunday in the home stretch at Wrightsville Beach.

Speaking of Bigs, where were all the BCTC fasties who had surely finished way ahead of me and why weren’t they out here cheering for me? I had reached the point where I could really use some encouraging words and familiar faces in my world. I breathed a tremendous sigh of relief as mile 13 flashed up at 6:35 and not any slower.  Then I graciously  turned the final corner for the remaining  .1 portion of the race to the tune of the very enthusiastic cheers of Bigs and our teammate Rachel.

I crossed the finish line with 1:32:59 on the watch and the lovely girl who very barely out-kicked me and I celebrated our matching sequined shamrock hair clips and our nearly matching new half marathon PRs (the first time breaking 1:35 for both of us) with some serious high-fiving. The celebrations continued as I learned that the aforementioned  BCTC fasties, Rachel, Jen, and Bigs had swept the podium for the women’s half marathon and that every single runner in our group had run a phatty new 13.1 PR.

BCTC fasties Rachel, Jen, and Bigs sweep the podium. (Podium not pictured.)

BCTC fasties Rachel, Jen, and Bigs sweep the podium! (Podium not pictured.)

The whole gang sporting our shiny new half marathon PRs!

The whole gang sporting our shiny new half marathon PRs!

The rest of the day was pretty much a non-stop fun-fest complete with finish line beers,  the best post-race DJ dance party I have ever experienced, a beach trip, and Irish Car Bombs for lunch.

Free Beer: The real reason we paid money to run 13.1 miles.

Free Beer: The real reason we paid money to run 13.1 miles.

In addition to winning the race, Rachel (left) DOMINATED the after DJ Dance Party. Rachel is my running AND my dance party hero.

In addition to winning the race, Rachel (left) DOMINATED the  DJ Dance Party afterwards. Rachel is my running AND my dance party hero.

It just wouldn't be a trip to the beach with out the obligatory synchronized jumping pic. Also, no small children were harmed in the taking of this phot0.

It just wouldn’t be a trip to the beach with out the obligatory synchronized jumping pic. Also, no small children were harmed in the taking of this photo.

Irish Car Bombs, because it's St. Patrick's Day and we all just ran half marathon PRs. As if we really needed a reason...

Irish Car Bombs, because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and we all just ran half marathon PRs. As if we really needed a reason…

A Few Words of Gratitude, Oscars Acceptance Speech Style…

First and foremost, I would like to thank Caren.  Caren, know that I mean this in the most sincere and non-creepy way possible when I say that I could not have been more grateful to get to watch your backside for the majority of the race if you had been Matthew McConaghey wearing chaps. Seriously though, having you there gave me focus I needed to stick to the game plan and saved me from being sidetracked by my race day nemesis; self-doubt and negative inner dialogue. Cheers to you, your tremendous new 1/2 Marathon PR, and the loss of your Irish Car Bomb virginity!

The Wrightsville Beach 13.1 experience was a huge testament to the power of teamwork in my opinion. I really believe that being a part of something bigger than myself and just knowing my friends/ teammates are out there running the same course and working towards the same goal improves my running, or at least my outlook on racing. I feel like I say this a lot, but can really never say it enough, so here I go again… Thank you to all of you wonderful people out there who race and train with me on a regular basis. Your energy, humor, and all around aweosomeness are the things that get my out of bed and running nearly every morning. All of that great stuff I just mentioned, plus the motivation, training expertise, and accountability y’all supply me with have made a better runner and a better person, and I am oh-so-grateful for that. Sometimes I wonder if I would run at all without you people. I also really appreciate how all of you are still friends with me even though I am nearly always late to our scheduled runs, even when I am the one who insists on an obscenely early start time. Y’all are the best. Thank you.

So very grateful for awesome teammates like Bigs, who is pretty much the most awesome running BFF a gal could hope for!

So very grateful for awesome teammates like Bigs, who is pretty much the most awesome running BFF a gal could hope for!

I would also like to give a big shout to the nice people who put on this lovely event. I found it to be among the most congenial courses I’ve run  recently, and after a trying training cycle of long runs in Umstead State Park,  its flatness felt particularly luxurious. To all of you out there who are on the lookout for a fast, fun, well-organized race, I highly recommend the Qunitiles Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon. Furthermore,  Kudos to the Official Bull City Track Club Cheering Section, and to Bull City Running Co. for giving me the weekend off work so I could take this little get-away.  And extra-special thanks to you, NCSU Alumni Association of the Greater Wrightsville Beach area. I doubt this new half marathon PR would have been possible without your cardboard wolf pack and your free high fives.

Oh, and I almost forgot, thanks to Shwings, which are wings for your shoes. OMG Shwings, where have you been all my life? So glad I finally found you.

This half marathon PR was brought to you by Shwings, which are wings for your shoes.

This half marathon PR was brought to you by Shwings, which are wings for your shoes.

And last, but not least, thanks to all of you for reading, and may you all be lucky enough to have a spring racing experience as fast and fabulous as mine at Wrightsville Beach! Next stop, Boston!