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In many sports, you can tell who's serious by how much fancy gear they're decked out in. Among runners, the opposite is true. It's a simple sport in which having a bar and beverage service strapped around your waist is purely optional.

My greatest gear moment came in 1994, when I bought my first ultralight, quick-dry T-shirt. Since that day, I have not run in a cotton T-shirt, because the difference in comfort is so significant. They now cost less than $20.

Lightweight running shorts are also a big step up from denim cut-offs. The make-or-break feature for me is a small pocket that can carry a key, a $20 bill and, as my mother has been reminding me for 20 years, a piece of identification.

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Completing the summer wardrobe is a hat and non-slipping sunglasses.

The same principles apply for winter clothing: Layers of lightweight, breathable material are infinitely more comfortable than cotton and waterproof shells. Personally, I wear enormous fleece mittens to keep my circulation-challenged hands warm and a very thin balaclava under my tuque to cover my neck and chin.

Tech-wise, I wear a low-end digital watch. I have a heart-rate monitor, but haven't used it in years. No GPS for me - if I want to know the distance of a loop, I check it on Google Earth.

And, despite the recent hype about going barefoot, I wear a good pair of running shoes.

Alex Hutchinson is a former member of Canada's long-distance running team.

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About the Author
Jockology columnist

Alex Hutchinson writes about the science of fitness and exercise. A former national-team distance runner and postdoctoral physicist, he is the author of Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise. He is also a senior editor at Canadian Running magazine and a contributing editor at Popular Mechanics. More

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