I'm nothing if not resourceful, and particularly like to get my money's worth from things. I'm stingy to a fault so will use things until they break, and have to rely on my wife to tell me when the holes in my shorts are getting a little too indecent. I'm especially happy when I can squeeze out extra use from some of the bits and pieces that I have hanging around in my box of random running crap, particularly when it's far and away from the initial usage intended by the manufacturer. So here are 5 things that I find incredibly useful when I run, but whose use was never the intended purpose:
1: Golf balls are great for injuries
This one isn't a particularly novel one, and I'm sure that we all do this regularly. Golf balls are handy little buggers for getting into those hard to reach areas for a bit of self-massage (ooh er missus). In particular, they work well at getting stuck into the hard-to-reach plantar fascia inside your arch when it's tight, but can also serve as a surprisingly brutal alternative to foam rolling tough to reach tissue like your IT band. I haven't played golf in a while, but you can usually still find a couple of balls hanging around our house (although that might just mean that my shorts need replacing...).
2: Compeed makes a great nipple guard
If you're a runner, you've probably used Compeed before. It's like a puncture repair kit for runners, and can be slapped onto a hot spot or blister to offer a bit of protection when you've still got miles left to go. They're pretty darn sticky, and I've ended up with the damn things stuck to my foot for weeks after an event before (if you've stuck it over a popped blister, I recommended getting it off as soon as you're done, otherwise the smell when you finally do take it off can be a little pungent). I don't often get blisters these days (see number 3), but still keep them on standby for emergencies. Plus I have found an alternative use for them.
Their incredible stickiness lends themselves perfectly to covering my nipples on long runs. I've never had bleeding nipples from running (although I have come close before), but it certainly doesn't look like a barrel of laughs. The problem that I have is that under my running gear I am basically a slightly less groomed version of Chewbacca. Hairy nipples (if ever there was an argument against intelligent design, it was nipple hair...) do not lend themselves particularly well to the bonding of moderately adhesive things like plasters. However, the iron-like grip of Compeed can deal with even the most bouffant of chest wigs, and will easily last me over a 100 mile race. And the following week or so. I get funny looks at the swimming pool.
3: Kinesio tape is great for blister prevention
Kinesiology tape like RockTape is essentially like those wide rolls of sticky bandages that you can buy from chemists, but about 10 times the price (they do come in lots of pretty patterns though). It was actually invented in the 70s by a Japanese chiropractor, so isn't actually that new. But recently it has seen a real resurgence as many sports personalities can be seen strapped from head to toe in the stuff at high-profile sporting events. As well as the entirely provable claim that it is indeed a roll of tape, there are also some less-well substantiated claims such as that it can actually alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. I can't be bothered getting into the science behind this (another time maybe), but no matter my own views a lot of people find it to be incredibly helpful (plus I confess that my physio whacks the stuff on me every so often). Even if it is a placebo effect, that can still be a very powerful positive influence on recovery.
However, it is very well designed for sticking to skin and stretching around body parts, so I have recently started to use it to strap up my feet before races. I don't usually get too many issues with blisters, but this holds off any hotspots that might otherwise creep in while racing. If I do get hotspots, they are usually either along the inner edge of my arch, or on the balls of my feet since I typically run on my forefoot. I therefore put one long piece stretching from my toe to my heal, and a cross section across the forefoot. Typically it holds very well (even survived 100 miles along the Pennine Way at the Spine Challenger in January), and hopefully will last 145 miles along the Grand Union Canal next week.
4: Dead trail shoes make great road shoes
Am I the only runner that doesn't have a shoe fetish? Everybody else I know buys shoes all the time, always excited by the new models coming out and wanting to have one of each (probably best to have two of course...). I find a shoe that I like and stick with it, then wear the damn things into the ground. My main go-to shoe is the Salomon Speedcross, although since my running style has moved more to a forefoot pattern, I have also experimented with the lower drop Salomon Sense Mantra. I'm nervous to try new things if I already know that something else works, and the fact that if you shop around you can get both of these shoes for about 60 quid is perfect for me (remember; stingy). I had a play with the New Balance MT110s, mainly because they were only 30 quid, but they are a little too minimal for most of the stuff I do. And I also tried out the Salomon Fellraisers for the Spine Challenger as they offered up better grip for the conditions than the Speedcross. But really that's it, I don't have many shoes.
Well, that's not entirely true. I do have a lot of shoes, because I refuse to throw old ones away. I wear them until the tread wears out, and then they become my road shoes. I can always find a use for an old pair of shoes, and unless my foot is literally coming out of the bottom, I will keep using them. When racing I prefer a pair that are more intact, so I do replace them every so often. The rest are sat there for my day to day running. About half of my weekly runs are done on road commuting to work, so rather than look for a pair of road shoes that I like, I just wear the trail shoes which I know fit well but which are no longer suitable for trails.
5: Buffs are great in an emergency
Buffs are incredibly versatile. They are essentially a balaclava with the top cut off, and can be worn in various ways depending on how you wrap it around your head (my personal favourite is the ninja scarf). Because they are quite lightweight, you can wrap them around your wrist when not in use, and I will pretty much always have one with me on my wrist to use to wipe my face if I am sweating.
But that's not the only thing that they are good for wiping. As I found out recently at the South Downs Way 50, if you're caught short in the woods and need to have a (ahem) papal visit (is a bear catholic?), but didn't think ahead and bring any loo roll with you, a Buff will work perfectly well. Desperate times and all that. I don't think that anybody ever claimed that ultra running was particularly glamorous! They're not particularly biodegradable however, so be sure to have a suitable disposal method arranged.
So that's a bunch of things off the top of my head that I have found alternative uses for. Anybody else got any good ones I can try?