Running, the Minimalist Sport?

Shirts Shorts and Shoes

Shirts Shorts and Shoes

Running is the ultimate minimalist sport. Shirt, shorts, shoes…sorted!

Once outside your front door you put one foot in front of the other and repeat until you have done as much as you want, or until you reach home again. And that is all there is to it.

This quote neatly sums it up.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.”  John Bingham.

Running really is that simple, even a 3 year old can do it. We don’t need a club, or 14 other teammates, or a special pitch or court. We don’t need an opponent, a coach or an umpire. We just run.

Some people, like Barefoot Ken Bob ( don’t even bother with the shoes, they just go out barefoot, and I suppose if you lived in a nudist colony you could dispense with the clothes and still run!

Surely it has to be the ultimate minimalist sport.

And maybe it is when we start.

But soon the rot sets in. At first my running kit consisted of an old cotton T-shirt, too old for regular use, a pair of knee leggings and a pair of all purpose running shoes. The shoes were the only real expense as I bought them from a ‘proper’ running shop. Then, as I got a little fitter, I wanted to run even if it was raining. Up until that point I stayed home if it was wet. So I bought a running jacket.

Then the weather started to get cooler, winter was setting in. I tried an old cotton sweatshirt but that, together with the cotton T, just soaked up the water, both sweat and rain. So I added a dry-fit running T and a merino thermal top to the kit.

Soon I was going out on consecutive days so I could not get my kit washed and dry between runs. I gained another pair of shorts, a running skirt, another T-shirt and another merino.

Then I started running on the trails, so I bought some trail shoes. I noticed I was ruining my road shoes by using them on the beach, where they got damaged by the salt and sand, so I kept them for beach running and bought another pair for the roads.

And then I started going further on the trails. I bought a waist belt to carry my water bottle, snack, phone and car keys. I started going further and put on my old rucksack. It jogged and jostled and got in the way of my arms, so I bought a Salomon specialist running rucksack.

And THEN I entered some trail races. These have kit lists. I have just entered the Mount Oxford Odyssey. And this is what we have to carry…..


This is a true mountain event so you are exposed to the elements, changing conditions and unstable terrain at any time of year. We will be gear checking EVERY competitor at the race pack collection as well as having random gear checks at the start line. You may be asked to show your gear at marshal points along the track. Do not take any gear out between gear check inspection and the race start. This is for your own safety!! 

You MUST carry the following with you in your pack:

* at least 1.5 litres fluid

* survival blanket

* whistle

* thermal (or equivalent) hat and gloves

* thermal long sleeve top and leggings 

* waterproof jacket

* basic first aid kit (The first aid kit must contain as a minimum : adhesive strapping tape, 4 band aids, 2 gauze pads, a crepe bandage and some Panadol)

* enough food for up to 6 hours 

* Any medication you will need for while out on the trail i.e inhaler, antihistamine

We recommend that runners wear trail running shoes with a good grip on them as the descent is reasonably technical. 

And here it all is laid out on the kitchen table.


And then there are the costs. The new shoes when your old ones wear out, special clothing for extreme weather conditions, and, once you start competing, you can add race fees, travel and accommodation expenses, gels and hydration drinks, ‘body glide’ for chafing and special plasters for blisters!

So where did the minimalism go? How did this stop being such a simple sport and end up a monster requiring its own budget and storage space?

The simple answer is…I don’t know. Somehow slowly and stealthily it has crept up on me. I am now reviewing the situation. Some stuff is necessary if you are going to do anything more than just run on the streets around your house, and I think this is the problem. To remain a minimalist runner, you need to minimize what you actually do.

So it is back to the basic plan, as usual. Check…do I really need this? When and where would I use it? Have I got something else that would do this job? And if you find you do need it, nothing else will do its job and you are in fact going to use it…trail shoes are unnecessary if you really don’t run trails….then go ahead.

Just try not to feed the monster too much!

This entry was posted in Minimalism, Running, Slow Living and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Running, the Minimalist Sport?

  1. mtbader says:

    Great (and oh so very true) points!

  2. Dylan says:

    Thanks for sharing your running pack! I love your point: We just run. So true. It’s universal. I recently started run commuting to work and have had to struggle with making decisions about what I absolutely need and don’t need – similar to the decisions you are making. I’m in the trial-and-error stage right now, still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t!

  3. riverkatie says:

    It is quite eye opening when we need to pare our things down to what we do absolutely need. My husband bike commutes regularly, and started leaving things at work to make life easier, like a warm jacket, and a spare pair of shoes.
    Congratulations on run commuting. It must be doing wonders for your fitness!

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