Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings: Keri’s Running Gear Review


From the upper room of our favorite restaurant at Rothenburg ob der Tauber, we flung open the windows so we could watch some dancers in the market square. The cowboy hats and boots should’ve been a warning, but we stood helpless, as if watching an impending train wreck, as the German group began line dancing to a song that contained the refrain “God Blessed Texas.”

“Achy Breaky Heart” broke the spell, and we hurriedly closed the windows before 90s flashbacks compounded my deepening culture shock.

By the time we left, the group had changed, and some adorable Mädchen and a guy in a bear suit were dancing to songs from the Sound of Music.

I wonder how the Austrians in the audience felt?

Despite the odd moments of cultural confusion, I do enjoy living in Franconia, Germany–especially now that I’m a runner.

The weather is usually cool, there are plenty of nice trails, and the scenery is spectacular. The only hard part about being a runner in Germany is that most of the running apparel for women is downright dowdy–and forget about finding a size 12 women’s running shoe.

Thus, I order most of my stuff online.

The packages, sadly bereft of brown paper or strings, still give me a little thrill. When I receive a package, I scurry away to my room before the kids can catch me. Running gear must be protectively guarded in this house–especially since my eldest daughter can wear all of my clothing, including my SHOES! And I have often caught, red footed, if you will, my younger kids wearing Mama’s Special Running Socks to PE class.

To quote from a famous movie about a talking llama:


Now with sounds of music bouncing around in your head, join me in a hum-a-long, as I present a few of my favorite things:

Raindrops on toeses…

Socks mean the difference between life and blisters. My favorites are the SmartWool Phd Running Light Micro Socks. These always keep my feet dry–even if it’s raining. If I see these on any of my children’s feet, I am provoked to rage befitting a Cinderella step-sister.

I am in love with Sir Isaac Newton–the inspiration for the Newton running shoes, which are a transition sort of shoe for those wanting a forefront running style with a bit of cushion. You can even insert your orthopedics, if you want. The 20 percent military/firefighter/police discount absolutely inspires customer loyalty, and was a huge reason I bought a second pair for trail running (which I’m currently testing).

Pictured below are the Newton Distance U (Universal) Trainers. They are very lightweight and flexible–though, you really do have to spend some time transitioning to a minimalist shoe. Now, I can wear these on runs of any length (and these will be ‘toeing’ the line in Füssen in July).

My leg (pictured above) shows my favorite winter running pants. Again by SmartWool, these are the TML Light Tights.

The only drawback is that these do not come in Talls. Also, the pants in the picture are an XL, which are sadly (or perhaps, happily) WAAY to baggy for me now. Second favorite is the Smartwool TML light pant, which I purchased in a size Medium–and again, is now too baggy (and a touch too short). [For reference, I am 5’9,” currently 143 pounds, and wear a size 6].

My favorite pants for spring or fall have got to be the Kickbooty yoga pants by Athleta. Not only do I run in them, but I live in them. Ring my doorbell any day of the week, and unless they are in the laundry, my Kickbooties will answer.

They also come in happy Dr. Seuss sizes, like a Small Tall (*see Hop on Pop for reference), which, to my amazement, fits me now. I have these in dress blue & black–though the black ones are getting ragged after 2 years of nearly constant doorbell answering.

For those days that are coolish-warm, I like the Pearl iZUMi Women’s Aurora Splice Knicker. These are cute and functional, but they do tend to get warm in direct sunlight.

The Presto Bermudas, by Athleta, are quickly becoming my favorite short for warm weather long distance running. They cover the last remaining bit of fat on my legs, which makes me (and anyone running behind me) incredibly thankful.

Working our way up…I’ve always hated the cheesy, constricting, flimsy sports bras that you have to layer with a running shirt; so the Athleta tank tops with built-in bras are a dream come true.

I’ve got the Wildcard in two different colors. If you ring my doorbell any day of the week, the Wildcard will answer with the Kickbooty–if it’s cold out, it will have a shirt tossed over it.

The fabric on the Wildcard is a little thicker than the fabric on Athleta’s Vee Neck Racerback, which I also like, though it is second place in my book simply because it doesn’t look as cute as the Wildcard.

I realize it’s not all that ‘athletic’ to worry about cuteness; but just because I’m a runner doesn’t mean I have to dress like a man–or the other extreme I often see, which could accurately be described as ‘hoochy mama,’ which too frequently seems to be the only other option.

Athleta provides a nice middle ground for Marathon Mamas who want to look feminine without horrifying the spectators.

So, maybe I did a little too much investing in Athleta this season…

For those cooler mornings, I’ve got Athleta’s Longsleeve Wonder Wick-it Tee in white. I put it over my white WildCard, and off I go, perfectly color coordinated, which does not happen too often.

I’m thinking Athleta should sponsor me.

But I wanted to invest in a few quality pieces that will last, rather than a bunch of cheap workout gear that leaves sores on my body, like the Nike running skort I wore in my second marathon, or shirts that feel like bees are stinging my armpits, like the Adidas neuron-neutro-or-whatever tee shirt (I can’t even remember the name of it, since I ditched it after it bit me repeatedly on a 15-miler last year).

Adidas isn’t all bad. I do have one shirt that I love for colder weather, which the kids call my ‘Tron’ shirt because of the glowing piping on it. I LOVE walking through the house at 5:30 a.m. in the winter, glowing in the dark and feeling like I’m from the future.

Naturally, I had to purchase a Mens shirt because the Womens department only had frumpy or garishly trampy things.

Above is a picture of me this past winter staying cozy and tractor-resistant in the Adidas Supernova Half Zip top. 

On my head I wear Athleta’s burnout headband (pictured over my disheveled post-marathon hair above). It doesn’t keep out marathon sweat, but it keeps my hair out of my face. Headbands that are too tight give me headaches, but the burnout doesn’t dig in and fits well with my Oakley Flak Jacket sunglasses. While the Oakleys do fog up from time to time, they are indispensable when running through the buggy countryside or on windy days.

I do not dare step foot into the sunny German countryside without my Bug Block, by MadeOn Hard LotionThis stuff is the best! Since it is all natural, you don’t feel like chemicals are seeping into your body, PLUS, it endures the sweat and miles of a long, hard, summer run. In winter, I use the BeeSilk hard lotion on any exposed skin, as it creates a sort of wind barrier and keeps my skin soft.

And finally, I could not live without my Nathan Hydration Race Vest (1.5 liter). It is very lightweight and has room for my chia gels, apple slices, and my cell phone. I’ve even been known to stuff rain jackets, gloves, and hats into this thing.

It’s perfect when you’re on those really long, solitary runs. I’ve had to purchase a new bladder for it each season (this is the third) but it is a small price to pay. Hydrate or die, as my husband says!

The Nathan is certainly preferable to death.

Plus, I get a lot of really funny stares from farmers when I wear it.

For now, those are a few of my favorite things. There are bound to be more in the future. And if I can figure out how to get Lululemon to ship to an APO, I will give them a run for their money as well. I currently have more gear that I am testing thoroughly before giving a recommendation.

So remember…

When the run bites, when the tee shirt stings, when you’re feeling mad, simply remember your favorite things, and then you won’t feel so bad.

What are your favorite things for running or other activities? 


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