Going the distance means getting some goodies. And no, we aren’t talking just the sense of accomplishment you feel at the finish line. We are talking freebies, treasures, and swag—whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t matter when it’s free. At these races you will find the best, the worst, and some of the weirdest stuff in your swag bags.
Nike Women’s Marathon; San Francisco, California
Sorry guys, but the 15,000 runners who come together in April to take on the roads of San Fran are ladies only. Lottery-only entry makes the Nike Women’s Marathon even more exclusive. But you have to be selective when you are doling out Tiffany & Co. necklaces at the finish line by the hands of firefighters in tuxedos. The beginning is just as extravagant as the end, with pre-race festivities including a four-day expo chock full of free vendors giving out boutique and spa products. For all the ladies who are always multitasking, here is a way to pound the pavement while getting pampered.
ORRC Garlic Festival 10K; North Plains, Oregon
The ORRC Garlic Festival 10K does feature some pretty vanilla race goodies. Finishers get a medal and can win running gear at the raffle. Winners get plaques and ribbons. But that’s where is the blandness ends. The ice cream at the finish line is garlic flavored. So is the celebratory beer. So is the shape of the medal. In the past, “secret” prizes for the winners have included giant bags of garlic bulbs. Don’t expect to get any kisses in the winner’s circle at this event.
Hershey Half Marathon; Hershey, PA
Well if you are a running lover of dessert with a child-like love for theme parks, the Hershey Half is a dream come true. Along with chocolate-filled swag bags, a Chocolate Aid Station at mile 12, where volunteers hand out Reese’s and Special Dark like it’s well, candy. The finisher’s goodie bag includes two tickets to Hersheypark amusement park. After running 13.1 miles, and eating an equivalent amount in ounces of chocolate, we dare you to take a spin on the Sooperdooperlooper coaster.
London Marathon; London, England
You would think that a World Major marathon would be handing out some pretty legit stuff but in the past, London swag has been a little swag-less. Not only do they hand out one mish-mash, but two. The pre-race bag contains the common and expected nuts, nutrition bars, and leaflets. It’s post-race where things get really weird. That one includes everything from Mars Bars, a beer, a single prune, a sachet for a pasta bake, chewing gum, and a one-size fits all shirts the size of blankets.
Le Marathon du Medoc; Bordeaux, France
With a 2014 theme of “The Countries of the World and Their Carnivals,” you can bet the Medoc is going to be a party. Before you even get to the start line, the marathon oraganizers a proper carbo-load, called “Soiree Mille-Pates,” complete with fine china and a twenty-piece band. The pre-race celebration seems to carry right through the race, where 23 different red and white wines are offered at drink stations along the course in the middle of France’s vineyards. Wine serves as hydration and gourmet foie gras, entrecote steak, pain au chocolat, fruit and oysters at pit stops serve as fuel. Put all this together you have yourself some world-class swag. After the race, and downing nearly six bottles of wine, winners are given their weight in even more wine. All finishers are rewarded with a rose, a kiss gym bag and a bottle of vintage Medoc to go.
Hoka’s trademark giant foam polarized our test group. Some loved it, especially the way the rockered sole felt on long downhills. Others hated it.
But all noted how light, responsive, and stable the new rubbery injection-molded midsole material is, considering its elevator-shoe proportions. “There’s more bounce than squish in these Frankenstein midsoles,” one said, although the foam is firmer than you might expect. The upper drew similarly mixed opinions: some found it comfy and secure, while others found it underpadded and boxy.
Try it—you might love it, especially if you’re a hill climber or a long hauler. 12.3 oz; 4 mm drop
Who doesn't love Mo Farah? The current Olympic and world champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 ran a 2:08:21 in the 2014 London Marathon, coined the Mobot, and—thanks to his huge smile and wide eyes—inspired one of the most hilarious running tumblrs ever.
And now you can run in his shoes.
Well, kind of. This weekend, Nike released the Air Zoom Pegasus 31, designed specifically with Farah's input. "They listen to [elite runners] and work with you," Farah told reporters at a Nike Zoom media event. "I pretty much wear a neutral shoe, and the Pegasus gives me what I need."
So what exactly does a world champion require? Keeping in mind that Farah is about five-foot five and 125 pounds, not a lot (although he does wear orthotics). He can get away with much less stability and cushion than many runners.*
Which is why the Pegasus works well for Farah. The 31st iteration of the responsive, lightweight shoe is designed to be a neutral runner's go-to trainer for high-mileage running.
"The Pegasus...just keeps getting better," Farah says. The improved upper is simple: snug mesh with subtle supportive layers that are built in (instead of stitched on) to reduce weight. The toe box can accommodate wide feet, or just cinch the laces for a more secure fit across narrow feet.
Where this shoe gets just the slightest bit complicated is the sole: Basically, a pocket of pressurized tensile fibers (Nike's "Zoom Air" unit) in the heel collapses when you land; as you toe off, the fibers snap back and push your foot off the ground. The result is super responsive cushioning, which is particularly awesome if you're a heel striker.
"I loved that snappiness," Farah says, "combined with the soft cushioning and protection that I need for my 100-plus miles a week."
Runners also feel that fast snap off the ground thanks to a 10-millimeter drop sole (lower than previous models) that incorporates a slight curve under the toes to propel through foot strike and toe off. A crash rail down lateral side further aids energy transfer through the toe.
So what's not to love about this shoe? If you're a forefoot striker, don't even bother. The Peg doesn't do a whole lot to protect the ball of your foot. Same goes for overpronators. No major arch support here. And if you're looking for a shoe for both roads and trails, keep on looking. The mesh upper is basically a sieve for dust and dirt. A five-mile run on Pre's Trail was enough to make fresh-out-of-the-box shoes and socks absolutely filthy—even on a sunny and dry Eugene day.
But, if you're a neutral runner, possibly with a bit of a heel strike, this is your shoe. Even if you're not doing 100 miles a week.
* If you're a fore-foot striker, try the Nike Air Zoom Elite tempo trainer, which has the air bag in the toe. Overpronators might try the Air Zoom Structure, which incorporates a medial post in addition to Zoom Air in the forefoot and more stability in the heel. Those seeking an even lighter shoe than the Pegasus might like the very minimal Air Zoom Streak racing flat, which is built on a midsole platform with Zoom Air in the heel. (Nike says the Streak has won more marathons than any other she in Nike history.)
Forget fitness trackers and smartphone mounts. The Runbell is currently the greatest fitness accessory on Kickstarter. Modeled after the classic brass bike bell, this mini finger dinger “solves the vexing problem of running in crowded areas where runners and pedestrians share the same path.”
I know what you’re thinking: “That’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist!” Au contraire, Shark Tank-educated investor, the problem most certainly does exist. Particularly in Tokyo, the birthplace of this invention, where courtesy is a cultural expectation and there are a lot of people on the sidewalk. In fact, the city of more than 13 million is home to the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection.
Tokyo is a polite place where people always stand to the left on escalators so others may walk on the right, and hollering “On your left!” or “Coming through” at strangers on the sidewalk is simply considered gauche.
“Absolutely rude! Would never do that. Runners always try to be ultra careful, slowing right down,” says famous Tokyo GPS runner Joseph Tame. If blocked by lollygaggers, proper etiquette dictates one must wait for a gap or find a way around. Runbell allows runners to scatter human roadblocks, with grace.
The United States could only hope to have such a dilemma of decorum. In our decidedly less courteous country—the land of non-budging escalator rogues and runners proud to announce their approach—the bell still solves the problem of removing pesky pedestrians from one’s intended path. And the added benefits are well worth the $25 Kickstarter price tag:
Fully adjustable, Runbell also fits over gloves for winter jaunts. As of this writing, it had $10,776 pledged toward its $20,000 goal, with 12 days to go in its campaign.
If you’ve considered investing in fitness technology, now’s the time to fork it over. Because nothing moves slowpokes and dawdlers out of the way like the charming sound of a tiny bike bell. And because wearing Runbell, with its “Runbell Tokyo” stamp, will connect runners in sound and spirit with their respectful brethren across the Pacific.