What’s Your Gear? Marathon Runner Don Kardong

For most runners, finishing a marathon is a goal of epic proportions. Don Kardong, a competitor in the 1976 Olympic Marathon, founder and race director of Bloomsday, has run about fifty of them. He’s currently training for the Seattle Marathon, and running around 40 miles per week. If he runs fast enough in Seattle on November 26, he’ll qualify for the Boston Marathon and a whole winter’s worth of marathon training. Here’s what works to keep him running through the colder weather.

Shoes: “If you get the shoes right, everything else falls into place,” Kardong said. Shoes are especially important when running greater distances: “Something that might not show up when you’re running four to five miles per week will make a difference when you start training for a marathon.”

Currently, Kardong is running in Asics, but he also commented favorably on old pairs of Nike and New Balance shoes. Keep in mind, though, “one person’s favorite shoe is another person’s poison. If you stick with well-known brands, you’ll have plenty of choices.” Kardong replaces his shoes about every 500 miles.

Clothing On Top: Early in the fall, Kardong only adds a long-sleeved shirt, but as the weather gets colder, he’ll wear at least two layers: a turtleneck long underwear top and a nylon-type jacket. Be careful with layering, though, he warns, because if you have to take something off, you won’t have anywhere to put it.

“People tend to put on too much-when you head out the door, you want to feel a little cool. Then, around ten minutes in, you should feel good.”

Clothing on the Bottom: Kardong prefers running tights that are soft and warm, with a little stretch to them. “A Lycra and synthetic blend works pretty well for just about any winter running conditions.”

When it comes to cold-weather gear, “I don’t look so much at the brand as the kind of fabric, along with fit and function.”

Watch: A Triathlon watch by Timex.

Hat: “If there’s actually rain or snow, I’ll wear a baseball cap-something to keep snow and rain from coming directly into my eyes.” Some people will tell you to wear a wool hat, but “typically I’m interested in radiating the heat, rather than keeping it in.” Instead, he recommends wool socks. “Wool is kind of underrated as a fabric for socks.”

Water Bottle: On a long run, Kardong will sometimes carry a water bottle, usually in a small fanny pack that sits on the lower back.

Additional Accessory: Access to a treadmill, for when the slush, snow and ice make the winter roads too difficult to navigate, and some music to pass the time on said treadmill.

Kardong recommends either running with a partner or making a plan and sticking with it in the colder months. “It’s very easy to just roll over and go back to sleep, but don’t be afraid of the winter. I haven’t found anything that makes me feel as good in the winter as getting out for a run just to be outside. It’s a great feeling – don’t be afraid of it.”


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