Recreational running requires little equipment, especially compared to golf, tennis, fishing and cycling.
All the runner needs are shoes and maybe a watch with a timer on it.
Yet when it comes to gear, runners will go the extra mile.
The Rock ’n’ Roll Savannah Marathon Health and Fitness Expo offers a bazaar of running equipment, from shoes, socks, shirts and wristwatches to specialty earphones, no-slip headbands, light-up safety armbands and even jeweled charms for sneakers.
“The running demographic is an affluent one, somewhere around $85,000 in household income,” said Suzanne Dougherty, founder of BeeCause Charms, a company that can turn a runner’s sneakers into a charm bracelet. “And when you run in an event, you want to celebrate it. You put a lot of hard work and time into it, and you want to buy something to mark it.”
Few of the 17,000-plus participants in Saturday’s Rock ’n’ Roll Savannah Marathon will pass through the expo in the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center’s exhibit hall without putting a few miles on their credit cards. And the quirkier the gear, the greater the interest.
Runners put Dougherty through the retail version of the four-minute mile at her sneaker charm booth, and the Nite Beams tent was overrun. Nite Beams makes armbands, shoelaces and dog leashes and collars embedded with brightly colored, strobing LED lights powered by watch batteries.
One of the company’s co-founders, Mike Alexander, came up with the idea several years ago after nearly running over a pack of marathoners practicing on the road after dark. Alexander, a car salesman, teamed with a friend, Doug Malecki, to start the business in 2010.
The lights are visible from a quarter-mile away and are water resistant.
Nite Beams products are used not only by runners but also BP employees working on oil pipelines in Alaska and Department of Transportation road crews.
“What a smart idea,” race participant Meredith McPherson said before buying a pair of Nite Beams armbands. “Drivers will be able to see you from a long ways off when you are wearing one of these.”
Another popular roadside attraction at the expo is the Sport Hooks display. The company puts a spin on the wall-mounted key hook rack of yesteryear. Its hook racks are designed for runners to display their medals from completed races and are decorated with inspirational or witty slogans like “Believe” or “26.2” or “1/2 Crazy.”
Among the most innovative traditional gear being peddled is the Silver Edge Gear, better known as the “no stink zone stuff.” The North Carolina-based company makes shirts, bags, shoe inserts and pads made from silver-lined fabric. Silver kills odor-causing bacteria.
Founder Katy O’Kennedy began working on her product five years ago after driving her two sons home from soccer practice. The smell from the backseat was overpowering, she said, and she knew they would “only get stinkier” with age. Her husband, Eddie Ingle, works in the textile industry and helped her develop the fabric.
She launched the company in April.
The equipment every runner has to have these days, at least judging by the expo, is running earbuds. Seemingly every runner listens to music or audiobooks while exercising in the iPod age, and four different earbud companies rented space at the expo. All claim their earbuds won’t slip out while running and are designed to allow for ambient noise (like the engine of a car approaching from behind).
One earbud salesman said his product rivals shoes at running expos.
“These,” he said while holding up a set of earbuds, “are basic equipment for runners now.”
ON THE WEB
Check out some of the more unusual products from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon expo online.
BUSY THURSDAY AT REGISTRATION
Hutchinson Island will again see a crush of runners on the eve of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon, but the crowds should be more manageable this year.
Approximately 3,500 of the 17,000-plus registered participants for Saturday’s race picked up their race packets Thursday at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. The early turnout is 600 more than last year and was largely made up of local runners.
Organizers hope the out-of-towners who arrive today will use the river ferries and minimize the traffic going across the Talmadge Bridge. A year ago, a crush of Friday afternoon arrivals gridlocked the bridge and parts of downtown. Traffic started backing up around 1 p.m.
The Competitor Group, which operates the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, has a plan to handle a similar run on Hutchinson today. The organizers will utilize the paddock area of the Hutchinson Island race course and shuttle buses to handle any overflow.