Training for an ultramarathon can put a lot of strain on your wallet and your sustainability aspirations as well as on your body.
Running and exercising several times a week for several months on end means two things – having plenty of kit available to wear, and putting plenty through the wash. Neither are great for sustainability or for affordability.
Here’s 6 tactics we’ve used over the last few years to help save both the bank balance and the planet.
A quick note: we aren’t working with any brands – these are just a few things that have worked for us. Take the general principles and run with it!
Do you really need new kit? Have you got something that could work just fine, or could be fine with minor repairs? If you really really need a new or extra thing, would second hand do? Buying used extends a garment’s life by about two years, and significantly reduces the carbon footprint of an item of clothing. There is really no need to buy much of your kit new. Race packs and vests in particular are great to pick up second hand. Spend a bit of time on ebay and you’ll soon pick up some bargains.
For the last couple of years I have been buying training tops that I can use for two or three things. Well designed shirts such as Iffley Road‘s Hove long sleeve top, or Tracksmith’s Fells Layer, look great with a pair of jeans. Because they are made from quality fabrics, you can wear them for a couple of days without them getting whiffy. I will then wear them for a gym session, before finally setting them to one side to wear for my next run (I use a tiny habit to stay on top of this – see our short piece on tiny habits). So I get four wears out of one garment. Whilst these items aren’t necessarily the cheapest, if you can get that amount of wear from them on each washing cycle it ticks both affordability and sustainability boxes. Top tip: look for merino wool if you want to try a routine like this for your clothing.
Research brands that are eco or ethical and then look for kit they produce that fits your budget. Odlo‘s Seamless Element T-shirt was just £30 at time of going to press. I’ve worn it on a long mountain day and it lived up to its chafe-free bill. Odlo is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation.
You can spend a little more on a product that is really designed to last and be repaired – brands such as Patagonia provide lifetime guarantees and increasing numbers of outdoor sports brands are offering repair services. Inov8 now offer links to repair services and shoe recycling services on their site.
A lot of kit can be repaired if and when the time comes; especially if it is kit for the gym or the midweek run. However, you should also think about tailoring race vests and or pack to your requirements if it is not quite right for you, rather than looking for and procuring an alternative. For example, are the straws from your water bottles not sitting quite right, and irritating you a few miles in? Try sewing an extra loop of elastic to secure them better before investing in a new pack or different hydration systems.
Towards the end of the season football shirts generally go on sale as teams prepare to release their new kits for the season ahead. They are great for running in, you get them very affordably at times, and you get a chance to show your support for your team (if you have one). Many second and third kits are more neutral colours suitable for wearing with other running kit. So far so affordable, but not necessarily sustainable. Once you have got full use out of your shirt (including point 6!) donate it to one of the charities that provides football kits to teams in Africa such as Kitaid, so it gets a second life after the full running life the garment has had with you. The local clothes bank will also be very glad of any donation.
This works best on days when you might have back to back runs, one day after the other, and acts as a multiplier to all of the above. If you’ve worn some kit to run in, hang it out to dry and air and wear it again for your next run. It may not feel great but if you’ve dried and aired it you should have limited the chance for any bacteria to multiply. What’s more, it will start to prepare you for how for how it feels to pull on worn kit on day two of a multi-day event… Importantly though, doing this will save you money in energy costs, extend the life of your garment, and reduce the amount of microfibres released into our ecosystems by the washing process.