The No BS Christmas Gifting Guide for Runners

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Whenever I am asked “What do you want for Christmas?” I usually respond with, “I don’t know”. This year I thought I’d make it easier for my wife and mom by putting this comprehensive guide together based on social media responses to the question, “Christmas presents for runners: What are your wishlist items and fantastic finds?”

You can use this list to shop for the runner in your life and / or give it to your present-buying friends and relatives to ensure you get the running boost you need for 2024.

Socks

Socks were the number one most mentioned item. As many runners noted, “You can never have too many socks.” For specialist running socks, you’re looking at R80 to R250 a pair (which makes for fairly cheap option and a great stocking filler).

Balega, Versus and Falke were the most mentioned brands. Falke are generally a bit cheaper and I’ve done many happy miles in them but recently I’ve found the quality to have dropped and my socks are getting holes after just a few runs. I’ve been very happy with he Versus socks I’ve got but have never run a step in Balega so maybe I’ll add that to my own Christmas list.

When Marthinus Stander gets serious, he likes to talk about socks.

Things to consider: does your runner prefer thin or thick socks? For training I have no preference but like my marathon socks to be thick as this provides some additional cushioning (but maybe I just need to lose a few more kilos).

Lerato Ntsele recommends these Injinji socks for long distance travel.

On the top end of the sock range, Lerato Ntsele dropped me a note about her fantastic find in the socks department, “I received a pair of Injinji socks for my 50th Birthday – I ran my 60km Comrades training run and Comrades Marathon itself in these socks… No chaffing, no blisters whatsoever. I recommended them to a friend and he came back with praises as well. I think every runner should at least have one pair.” It looks like the best place to buy Injinji socks is at Trail Busters at R219 a pair.

If the shoe fits and the sock slips… Some good advice from Heidi Dinan to avoid horrific socks.

Shoes

An average pair of shoes costs around R3,000 and you’re breaking the five grand barrier if you want to increase your ‘carbon footprint’ (the most expensive pair of takkies on Sportsmans Warehouse is currently the Saucony Endorphin at R6,600).

If your partner is prepared to buy you running shoes for Christmas, you’ve probably married for money! However, if you are buying shoes for your loved one then make sure you’ve got the right make and model before you make this kind of investment. Shoe colour should not be important for authentic marathon runners but might be a consideration if you are buying for a triathlete or a cyclist looking to make a move into endurance sport.

If you don’t have the budget for a new pair of running shoes, then Nyambeni Nefale suggests a pair of “Crocs (for before and after the race).”

Supplements & Nutrition

If your runner is fussy or has a sensitive disposition, it’s important to find out which brand and flavour of supplements they are partial to. If they’re less fussy about what they put in their mouth, then shop around. Having said that, December is a great time to ‘buy and try’ new products for Comrades runners as this gives you enough time to experiment on what works best before the final examination in June.

Some recommendations from runners are the Tailwind starter pack which includes a taster of all eight of their in-race fuel flavours as well as the chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel and coffee rebuild recovery flavours which is available online for R580. As an added bonus you can make lots of fart jokes if your runner subsequently produces a lot of tailwind.

Tailwind is a great option for flatulent runners.

I’d also personally recommend the Maurten range. I usually just fuel with potatoes and Coke during a marathon unless I’m running in KZN where local Maurten distributer (and frequently featured special guest on this blog), Campbell “The Great” Nel, dishes out a supply of his gels. The executive package on the Maurten website is the Mix Box. At R1,200 this is fairly pricey but there’s a good chance that this will knock minutes off your marathon time. If you spot Campbell at an expo, ask him about his Green Number and maybe he’ll give you a discount.

The executive package from Maurten.

Safety

The unfortunate reality is that runners, especially females, need to be safety conscious on the roads and trails. A lightweight, easy to carry stun gun or pepper spray canister is a must.

Other safety related gift ideas are a Ice-Tags (‘In Case of Emergency’ – containing your name and medical details) and an Apple Airtag. The latter is especially useful if your runner has a habit of getting lost on the trails or disappearing within the urban jungle.

Sunglasses

Personally I like to buy my own to make sure I get the perfect fit for my face but if your runner has a more flexible face then this is an excellent gift.

Other than avoiding shady deals, the main considerations are UV-protection (a must) and whether your runner wants polarised lenses. I also like sunglasses that can be used for driving and casual use so that I need just one pair when travelling.

Subscriptions

With Modern Athlete being 100% free, there no reason to subscribe to a running magazine unless you are really desperate for additional content but there are some other running related subscription options.

Most running club memberships are around the R500 mark but some go up to R1,700 (there are added services and benefits that different clubs offer so no judgement on club subs – if they weren’t providing value no one would be a member). Gifting a license renewal is even better if you also fill out and fax the stupid ASA license form for your runner.

For someone that wants to run their first marathon, Two Oceans or Comrades or drastically improve their time on any of these, a coaching subscription is a good option. There are plenty of coaches available but I would check out referrals from other runners with goals similar to yours and look for someone that offers a personal touch rather than just providing a generic training plan.

Sports Massage & Physio

Test your partner’s pain threshold by buying a voucher for a sports massage or physio session (or two). The added bonus is that you’ll probably escape having to do lengthy massage sessions yourself (unless you get pleasure by inflicting pain on your partner).

When your husband is about to run his 50th Comrades (on top of organising a couple of marathons), you need a sports massage to ensure you stay fit and flexible enough to support him along the way.

For those that want to take things one step further, Naomi Janse van Rensburg suggests a “pamper voucher at a spa after a ultra” which I know would certainly be a very popular present. A couple of people also requested pedicures (you’d better tip well, marathon feet are urgh!).

A deep tissue massage gun is another good gift idea – Hyperli and OneDayOnly seem to regularly have this available at a discounted rate on their site. A percussion massage gun allows for private self-flagellation or a romantic, “Is that a massage gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” session.

For those that are really devious, you could buy your partner a massage course and then get them to practice on you all the time. This would be a gift that keeps giving back (like the ice-cream maker I bought my wife a few Christmases ago).

Råkgådi is looking for a running partner / masseur. That would be a good way to get an upper body workout after a long run.

Medal Hangers & other Bling

These are excellent gifts in my opinion. Runners quickly collect a large medal booty. The question should not be how to store them but how to show them off. Two of the local providers that came recommend from social media connections were SA Medal Hangers and Lynda Honey Designs.

They both offer standard and customised medal hanger options. Most of the standard hangers are R450 and the large R725 on SA Medal Hangers with a customised design costing R100 extra. There are also many other cool running products on the sites like motivational shoe tags and jewellery.

GPS Watch

Another frequent request was a running watch – with Garmin being by far the most popular option. An entry level running watch will set you back R3,000 and the Fenix range is pushing R20,000. There are even Garmins selling for over R50,000 (but only Fat Cats Athletics Club members can afford these watches which is probably why their members have to run races under armed guard).

I have been running with my free (I now have about 420 consecutive Vitality fitness weeks) Apple Watch for the last 8 years (which I can upgrade every two years) so know very little about watches and which one is best. However, if I were to buy a new watch, I would make sure it can last the duration of Comrades (which my Apple Watch never has).

It should also noted that if you keep buying watches because you constantly change your mind about which one is best, you might be Buy-Polar.

There is however one fantastic lifehack for those wanting a fancy watch without the fancy price tag – get a pre-owned device from Cash Converters.

I was bemoaning the price of sports watches at the Fourways gazebo after Tough One this weekend when clubmate (and Cash Converters COO), Trevor Locker, flexed his biceps before deftly presenting his second hand sporting a second-hand Garmin Forerunner 935 and gave me a “Guess how much this cost?”. The answer was R3999, a big drop from the lowest price I could find online of R8,500. There are indeed some great deals on their site and the devices all come with a 6-month guarantee (I understand most of the devices arrive at Cash Converters via failed cyclists and triathletes).

Tog Bag

A former schoolmate of mine, Ryan Charton, popped up on my Twitter profile with the suggestion of a duffel bag. For the travelling runner, a good quality “one bag to fit them all’ is a must have (and I was the grateful recipient of a new togbag last Christmas which can fit all my running stuff plus a six-pack of beer). These days many airlines charge you extra for checked-in baggage so a carry-on togbag that can fit everything that’s needed for a running weekend away is a must (plus you don’t have to wait for your bags on the other side or have to worry about baggage handlers rifling through your underwear).

A consideration should be carrying comfort. I once picked up a luggage injury lugging a heavy togbag around various airports on an international trip. Something that allows good weight distribution and allows over the shoulder carrying is preferable.

Ryan recommends the Sealand duffel bag range. I was not aware of this Cape Town brand but they definitely tick all the right boxes – their products are handmade from recycled waste material. The duffels range from R2000 to R4000 and the backpacks from R1,500 to R4,000.

Gloves

There are two types of running gloves.

  1. Cheap & Nasty – a stocking filler to keep your hands warm at the start of a winter race and throw away on the route as things warm up (these also work well as emergency toilet paper).
  2. Expensive – not just to protect from the cold but also to protect one’s hand from rocks, thorny shrubbery and ropey descents on races like Mont Aux Sources. See a nice innovation from Stephany Evans below.

Clothes

If your runner has gaps in their wardrobe then popular items on the wish list are running tops, waterproofs, skorts and leggings – and if they’re planning an overseas marathon then South African flag running pants or a vest is a pre-requisite.

Remember that the most important criterion when buying pants or leggings is the number of pockets.

Dean Wight, who (quite literally) runs Beloved Long Runs in KZN, has an excellent site that was endorsed by a number of runners. Dean will be lining up for his 31st Comrades in 2024 and is normally the person who raised the most money for charity at Comrades (he has raised over R2,5million over the last 6 events). Dean’s site is full of the Wight-stuff, really well priced and I particularly loved his Christmas range: https://blrshop.co.za/collections/christmas

Headlamp

Not only is a headlamp (or chestlamp) vital for nighttime running when the days get shorter, it also provides some recourse during load shedding.

Neil Massey (a recent winner of South Africa’s oldest marathon, Jackie Gibson, and 5h51m Comrades finisher) sells his range of headlamps on Takealot – check out some options below ranging from R769 to R1,769.

https://www.takealot.com/jetbeam-hp30-headlamp-black/PLID90018702

https://www.takealot.com/jetbeam-hr10-700-lumen-usb-c-rechargeable-headlamp/PLID94212953

https://www.takealot.com/jetbeam-hr30-950-lumen-headlamp/PLID71642069

They are also excellent for hands free illumination whilst braaing. I’ve got the Jetbeam HR30 950 Lumen and can confirm that it’s powerful enough check whether your steak is done without cutting into it as well as seeing what you neighbours ten houses down are up to.

Bottles and Flasks

One of the things that I learned recently whilst running the Cheetahs Marathon in Mthatha is that ‘titi’ is isiXhosa for a baby’s bottle. Therefore, it’s totally acceptable to embrace diversity, buy a couple of bottles and tell your significant other that you’ve “bought them a new pair of titties”. This would also liven up the family Christmas dinner conversation.

Unfortunately none of the bottle recommendations I received are available locally but there are many options at retailers from under R100 to R900 (for a Salomon soft flask). If you want to get your runner something special then I’d invest in a collapsible flask that can be easily stored once the water is done.

Race Entries & Running Experiences

Race entries was one of the most popular choices. However, it’s surprising that none of the race entry sites offer vouchers as there is a definitely a demand out there for this option.

Comrades, Ultra Trail Cape Town and Ultra Trail Drakensburg were the most common choices (but if your spouse does enter you in any of those it would be worthwhile checking whether they’ve recently taken out a new life insurance policy in your name).

A really nice option would be to pay for and arrange a bucket list race and then join them to make it a weekend of memories like Pogcrazy suggests below.

Another top suggestion is to buy your runner a ConSports Comrades Runner’s Package. For R900 you get three dedicated support points on route, nutrition, private toilets and massage therapists. As a runner, you can also buy your long-suffering supporters a package which provides a business class spectating experience. Consports is run by Mike Taylor (Green #10557) who has 16 Comrades finishes under his belt – so he knows how to make the day as pleasurable as possible for runners and supporters.

Gifts of Time (& Understanding)

If you’re the spectating partner of a runner then consider an empathic gift to help your runner achieve their running goals in 2024. Pepsy Chivhere Nyazvivanda had a nice simple present idea for her husband, “Showing up to support at a race.” whilst Masika Gama (below) just wants a peaceful 25km on Christmas Day.

Personalised running vouchers could probably be an article on its own but some voucher examples and ‘get out of jail free cards’ would be lifting to the start of a point-to-point race, run as much as you like on the weekend, invite your running friends around for a braai, an anytime foot massage, post-marathon afternoon nap while I take care of the kids, the Triple-B experience (that beer, bath and bed) and sit on your arse and drink beer vouchers.

Other Stocking Fillers

The following items were mentioned at least once by runners and would make for good stocking fillers: Epsom (or other bath) salts; Voltaren; sunscreen; resistance bands; cold/heat pack; refreshments cooler, peanut butter, honey, Vooma, fastfood, Energade, Rehydrat, recovery protein shake, Slow Mag, Threshhold, yoga mat for stretching, foam roller, running journal, hydration pack, running belt.

A great idea from well known running East London based photographer, Dean Venish, is to make a giant gift box. You can see what his fiancé has got to look forward to below.

Miscellaneous Items

What to get for the runner who already has everything? Below is a list of other items as received by runners…

  • Books (see recommendations below)
  • Personalised Time Map: Nyambeni Nefale put me on to this fantastic memorabilia service that will produce a high quality, customised route map poster of your favourite race. You can also include your race results and photos into the design. The Time Maps range from R360 to R500 and there are plenty of different options: https://timemapsza.store/
  • AR Gaitors to stop stones and gravel getting into your shoes. They can also double up for gardening (and it looks like Stephanie’s well-worn trail shoes will become gardening shoes in the near future).
  • A ‘wheel’ realignment
  • Cool stuff
  • From top to bottom, Andrew’s list below contains some interesting items. I had no idea that you could buy a cap for R1,000 but that’s the going rate for Ciele headgear – and if you want full shaded coverage, the hats sell for R1,200. I see that most of the range is sold out on Sweat Shop’s online store so they are obviously popular (perhaps they promote hair growth whilst wearing them?). His last item is slightly ambiguous, I am not sure whether this shoe cleaner is poor quality or for use if you are prone to stepping in dog poo. He also has a pedicure voucher on his list so he’s got from head-to-toe covered!
  • Race Photos
  • Pain relief. Another dad called Stu recommends the BioSoothe range whilst Marieza Vorster has developed her own product marketed under Marvolous Creams.
  • A Festive Fourpack: I really liked what X user Leg Spaghetti did below – four great gift ideas with complimentary photos.

Afterword

This is an unsponsored article. I’ve tried to list local businesses (especially those of fellow runners) as much as possible. Thanks to all the runners who commented on the source post and provided input into the article. A special call out to those who provided detailed lists of ten items of more: OdwaF, Nyambeni Nefale, Nkululeko Mzantsi and Ciska Elston.

If there’s anything missing (or you have better ideas) let me know and I’ll update the article.

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