Do you know a runner that you’ll have to buy a holiday gift for?  Are you struggling?  Let Santa’s little helper  Andrew McDonagh come to the rescue with five sets of gifts to fit all budgets.

It’s the eternal problem.  It’s Christmas Eve.  It’s late.  The shops are closing.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  And it looks like your choice of gifts for someone special is either a novelty cartoon mug or a pair of socks.

Now there is nothing wrong with that (especially if the runner you are buying for has a habit of forgetting to buy you cool presents!) but it doesn’t have to be this way!  You can sort out an excellent running gift weeks in advance and sit back and bask in the gratitude come Xmas morning.  Better yet you can exploit the guilt that your pet runner will be suffering from when they open your super duper pressie and realise that all they have bought you is a comedy calendar…

So, counting down what are the top five gifts for the holidays?

Number One:  A GPS watch

There are two types of runner.  Those that use a GPS watch and those that want to use a GPS watch. These pint sized treasures will have different features depending on the brand and model but all will accurately track the time, speed and distance run or raced.  They typically offer connectivity to your PC and the ability to upload your training to a website.  Many come with an accompanying Heart Rate Monitor and allow you to specify training sessions – for example you can set the watch to time a five minute burst above a certain speed and then time a recovery phase or even set it to count out 5*1000m reps with 400m recovery.

Features – and size – vary by price but among the best are the Garmin Forerunner 110 Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS Enabled Unisex Sports Watch or for the more serious athlete or multi eventer the Garmin Forerunner 310 Garmin Forerunner 310XT with Heart Rate Monitor.  Or for something that’s not a Garmin you could try a Polar Polar RS300X G1 GPS Black Heart Rate Monitor

Number Two: Physicool

What is Physicool?  Well you can think of it as the 21st century equivalent of a bag of frozen peas!  We all know that if you get a knock or strain it should be RICE’d – Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.  Traditionally this meant getting a bag of frozen veg out and plonking them on your knee.  Not any more – now you can simply wrap the Physicool bandage on whichever area needs cooling and let it work it’s magic.  You cover the bandage in a special solution before application and as it evaporates it draws heat out of the covered body part (rather than driving cold in).  Totally reusable you can buy top up bottles of fluid.

This really has to be tried to be believed – after pacing the Limerick Half Marathon last year off virtually no training I had sore knees, especially around my ITB.  I wrapped up in the Physicool and the next morning – despite my concerns – I was right as rain.  I also crewed a multi day Ultra event last summer and there is no way our athlete would have reached the end (in a record time) without regular rest stops where her battered feet were cooled with Physicool.  Read all about it here

Number Three: A race entry or club membership

Runners are generally pretty woeful when it comes to keeping our racing plans secret.  We tend to talk about the races we want to do pretty far in advance, especially if it’s a “big ticket” race like a half or full marathon.  So why not surprise them by getting them fully registered?

Another option is to pay your friends club subscriptions for the year.  Typically this will be a fairly small cost but it’s a gift that will do more for your friends running over the year than pretty much anything else on this list.

Number Four: A good book

There are more great books on running than I could mention in a dozen posts!

For training you can take your pick from Hal Higdon Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, Bob Glover The Runner's Handbook: The Best-selling Classic Fitness Guide for Beginner and Intermediate Runner or this one New Competitive Runner's Handbook (Penguin Handbooks), P&D Advanced Marathoning, Daniels Daniels' Running Formula: Proven programs: 800 m to the marathon and Noaks Lore of Running in pretty much ascending order of difficulty.  I have read every one of them and I can’t tell you how much vital information I’ve pulled out of them.

Or for more generic reading how about What I talk about when I talk about running  What I Talk About When I Talk About Running or Born to run Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen?

Number Five:  A personalised training plan

Nothing says “I put a lot of time and effort into this present” quite as much as getting someone else to put a lot of time and effort into the present…!

Many runners spend a few years making incremental improvements before reaching a plateau.  Breaking past that plateau is difficult as it involves changing your training habits.  The trick is to change the right parts – keep the good stuff but improve on the weak parts of your plan.  You can either do that through trial and error or you can get an expert to do it for you.  Step forward the world renowned coach Greg McMillan who will do a tailored training plan for roughly the same price as a new pair of trainers.  And it’ll probably last a lot longer!  You can contact Greg and the team through his website

So there you go!  That’s all I got but hopefully there are some ideas there for you to but that special someone (or for you to start dropping hints to that special someone!)  I’ve also put all the product items into the Running Reviews online shop so you can grab what you need from there (along with hundreds of other running related items)

Happy shopping!

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