Anytime you take up a sport/hobby/exercise, there is a ton of gear that is considered essential. Everything from outfits to equipment to personal devices. It can be rather intimidating, to say nothing of downright expensive.
My own personal philosophy is to start with the basics until you've stuck with it for a while. Then you aren't investing tons of money into something that you won't be doing tomorrow.
This includes running. In my opinion there are 8 running essentials. But, if I was going to narrow it down even farther, I'd say there are two. Shoes and (if you are a girl) bra. Everything else is fringe benefits. Though, the other 6 things I have listed make running a whole lot more safe and comfortable.
So, if I had been on my A-game when I was watermarking the photo, I would have numbered the shoes and bra numbers 1 and 2. But I wasn't. And I'm not re-doing it now.
Here's my list of 8 Running Essentials...number by number...
1. A wicking top. Whether a tank for the summer or long sleeved for the winter-wicking is infinitely better than cotton. It wicks the moisture (i.e sweat, weather) away from your skin, keeping you conversely cool (in the summer) and warm (in the winter). More and more events are going to sports wicking shirts in leu of old-fashioned t-shirt. So, just sign yourself up for a race that is offering one and you'll own a wicking shirt for practically free. Otherwise, Burlington Coat Factory and Walmart carry them for between $10 and $20.
2. Bike shorts. I wear mine under a running skirt, and I wear bike shorts for the simple reason that they keep my legs from rubbing together...aka chaffing. (chaffing=not cool, btw) I also wear them because running skirts like barely cover booties. So, this adds a level of modesty to my outfit.
3. Running bra. Full figured or not, as a girl, this is your most important purchase-next to shoes. Proper support keeps the girls where they belong, as well as prevents shoulder and back pain. Seriously. I ordered mine online to get the size I need. I paid almost $60, but I also have had it for 2 years. It is absolutely worth it!
4. Running shoes. Good shoes will make or break your running career. You don't have to buy the most expensive, but you can easily shovel out $80+ for a pair of shoes. The important thing is to get running shoes (they weigh less than other athletic shoes, which is a good thing in the long run-pun intended) that fit your feet well. Personally, I like Asics. They fit the wide parts of my feet while still holding my ankles snug. Buy your shoes from someone who knows how to fit shoes. Your favorite brand will probably be different than mine.
5. Anti-chaffe. This is essential for mid to long runs in the warmer weather. Sweaty flesh tends to stick together. The resulting chaffing is painful. Really painful. Apply wherever you tend to get rug burn.
6. Hand held water bottle. Mr. Hippie bought me this for Christmas and it has been wonderful. Formerly I had to plan my runs around available public drinking fountains (bathroom sinks) and the BFF's garden hose. Now I carry this with me. It hold 8 ounces, which is not much. But it is enough to prevent dehydration. The design allows me to carry it on the back or in the palm of my hand. The velcro strap keeps it snug. I don't actually hold on to it-it is holding on to me. Thus it can't be dropped. It cost less than $15. Definitely worth every penny.
7. Hat. I don't have a perfect coif when running. (you've seen those girls with gorgeous, shiny, long ponytails. Not me. I look like a porcupine that stuck it's finger in a socket. No joke.) My hair is rather scary. I wear a hat in order not to scare anyone else. (It just wouldn't be fair to them.) And to keep the sun/rain/branches out of my eyes. And to sort of catch the torrent of sweat from my head. This hat has been with me since my very first race (almost 5 years ago). It is looking a bit ragged, but that's okay.
8. Phone. I always carry my phone so I can call someone if need be, or so my family can get ahold of me. This is a safety thing.
There it is. My 8 Running Essentials.
I would add my watch to the list also. (it was on my original list, I just forgot to take a pic of it with everything else.) A watch helps you keep track of pace/time. Very helpful.
Noticeably absent from my list is iPods, etc. I don't run with them because they are distracting. Listening to music with earbuds makes it harder to hear traffic and people around you. There are scary stats of women running and listening to music and attacks. (google "running earbuds women attacks") It isn't worth it to me.
What do you consider essential to your running gear? Anything I've missed?