The Penguin Chronicles: Call Me Gear Geek

Illustration: Neil Numberman

It’s true for all my favorite gear. They are my old friends.

I have, by actual count, 17 running watches—every Garmin model made in the past 10 years, several heart rate monitors and multiple generations of iPods.

Companies large and small send me products they think are the next must-have pieces of running gear. Some of them have been pretty cool, such as the very first speed/distance/heart rate/foot pod devices made by a company that I can’t remember. The shoe pod was huge and the wrist piece was right out of Star Trek. It was cool.

I have a bit of a gear weakness. When I walk around the big running expos, I wish I had a company credit card to buy the latest and greatest running-related products. I’d buy every kind of strange and wonderful shoe I saw. I’m one of those that would buy the shoes with springs on the bottom and the “shoes” that aren’t really shoes.

I’d buy every pair of socks—even those that have individual spaces for my toes. I’d buy the colorful socks, the stretchy socks and the socks that compress. Oh, and I love gloves—cheap throw-away cotton gloves that I never seem to actually throw away, gloves I can use with my iPod, gloves that convert to mittens, and even heavy gloves that I never wear because my hands never get that cold.

Running jackets are also my weakness—andI  I have at least 10 in my closet. There are older, smaller ones that I keep because I’m sure I’ll be able to wear them again some day. Red jackets, blue jackets, a bright yellow jacket, the jackets that convert to vests. I’ve got them all.

I live in Chicago where there are four seasons. So, of course, I’ve got every base layer I could ever need. Quarter-zips and half-zips. light fleece and heavy fleece. And I can’t forget my regular running tights and fleece-lined tights.

Now before you start thinking that all this apparel sounds crazy, let me remind you that these are not running outfits—this is gear. And the difference between feeling good and performing well is smaller than the difference between looking good and performing well.

The irony of having a closet overflowing with running gear is that I almost without exception reach for the same key pieces I know and trust. Such as a pair of 10-year-old-tights, or my two pairs of running shorts with the inner briefs cut out. I’ve got socks that are so gray (they started out white) I’m almost embarrassed to wear them.

It’s true for all my favorite gear. They are my old friends. I trust them. Even if there is something brighter and better out there, I’m loyal to the gear that has helped me succeed in my training and racing.

When it comes time to part with a special piece of gear—and it happens—it’s a solemn moment. I salute the tired warriors in my closet. Without them I could never have become me.

This column first appeared in the March 2012 issue of Competitor magazine. 


About The Author:

John Bingham, aka The Penguin, will share his running tales and experiences every month. Have a story of your own to share or a topic you’d like The Penguin to consider? E-mail him at

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