Welcome to On the Run, a Strategist column in which we ask discerning runners to tell us everything they wore and brought on their most recent run, from shoes and socks to headphones and energy gels. Running-gear preferences are very personal and change depending on the season, so instead of declaring one pair of shorts or one sports bra the categorical best, we hope this series captures what works best for one particular runner on one particular run — and that maybe you can find something in it that works for you, too.
For this edition, I spoke with pro runner Mary Cain. After breaking records as a high-schooler — and becoming the youngest American athlete to make a World Championship team — Cain made headlines in 2019 for leaving the prestigious (now-defunct) Nike Oregon Project over the coaches’ alleged emotionally and physically abusive practices. Since then, Cain has become a powerful advocate for female athletes, founding Atalanta New York, a nonprofit that supports a team of professional runners and provides mentorship and training to girls in underserved parts of the city. Here, she shares everything she wore during a long run on a cold day in Central Park, including compression socks that prevent shin splints and the device that helps her practice self-compassion.
Before discovering the Koala Clip pouch, Cain says she would just shove her keys and phone into her sports bra, which, she admits, “looks very unprofessional for a professional runner.” She started using it during the summer when she’d run in just shorts and a sports bra and didn’t have lots of storage options, but she’s still using it in the cooler months, finding that she prefers it over storing stuff in the pockets in her tights. “It feels nice to not have uneven legs,” she says, “with my phone on one side and nothing on the other.” She wears hers with a Tracksmith sports bra. (Cain is the NYC community manager for Tracksmith, and the brand sponsors Atalanta.)
“I started using GPS so my coach could make sure I wasn’t running too fast on my easy runs,” says Cain. Uploading her workout data from her watch to Strava makes it easy for her and her coach to keep tabs on her training. She explains that she chose the multisport Garmin 945 because “if I want to go for a swim, or bike ride, or do another kind of non-running activity, I can still get the information I need.”
Along with her watch, Cain uses the Oura ring, which measures respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature, and sleep, to track her progress. Specifically, it helps her monitor when she needs more rest between activities. “It’s easy to forget how going on a walk with the dog while on a phone call and carrying groceries is still stressful even if it doesn’t come up on my Garmin as a long run,” she says. “It helps me be nicer to myself because I believe the data.”
Compression socks serve a dual purpose for Cain. As a runner with a history of shin splints, she likes the extra support on her lower legs; plus, the long length keeps her warm during the winter. “With Bombas, I like the brand ethos and how they donate one pair of socks when you buy one,” she says. While some compression socks are extra-tight, Cain says these give a light-to-medium squeeze. “If I just wanted a little extra support while sitting on the couch, I could put them on and it wouldn’t be weird.”
Cain keeps a number of running shoes in rotation, including pairs from Adidas, but these are her current go-to for easy long runs. They offer some cushioning but aren’t so structured that her feet don’t have to do any work. “They’re a pretty neutral ride,” she says. “Because of the nature of track racing and the sort of shoes that you do a lot of training and racing in, I wouldn’t want to have an overly built-up shoe and then risk hurting myself by transitioning to [track] spikes. That jump is pretty aggressive.” (As a coach with New York Road Runners’ virtual program, Cain was given a pair of these shoes to commemorate this year’s NYC Marathon. The limited-edition marathon colorway is mostly sold out, but you can find other colors here.)
Cain says it’s easy for her to overdress in the winter because she tends to run cold, but this Tracksmith half-zip helps her strike a good balance between warmth and breathability. She especially likes the extra-soft merino wool that’s comfortable enough to wear for post-run errands. “I always recommend people to take off your running clothes as soon as you’re done,” she says. “You don’t want to sit in the sweat, but we all have those days when you just roll right into a call.” She pairs it with Tracksmith tights that she says are stretchy and flexible enough to move with her if she wants to pick up the pace for some strides at the end of a long run.
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