You have to know that I am not a “got to have all the gear” kind of gal, but from the very beginning of my running career I did know that running socks make all the difference. A friend of mine bought me a pair of genuine “designed for running” socks, before I was even running. It turns out that good friends believe in you, long before you believe in yourself. I have to say that I really thought… “Hmmm, what difference could these really make?” particularly to my fledgeling running. Well when it comes to running the choice of sock you use I quickly discovered is actually going to be critical.
Two years ago I couldn’t run, literally could not lift my feet off the floor, and a year ago I was a beginner runner. What difference, really?!?, could socks make to my running… My very slow, gasping for survival and loving it when it is over, kind of running… the answer is simple. All the difference… My running still feels like very slow running, gasping for survival and loving it when it is over… but I have never ever had a problem with my feet.
Since I started running the Parkrun, which is my weekly “Rain or Shine 5K” I have only ever worn Balega socks… I was drawn to them for their funky design. Running socks that looked totally and absolutely cool, could only encourage me on days that I really didn’t want to step out of the door, but knew that I must. Turns out… there is much more to funky running socks than… looking cool. They are designed for running and comfort!!!
The Anatomy of the Perfect Sock…
Balega socks are made in South Africa, I love the “local is leaker” aspect of them, and each pair of socks is hand inspected before they head out to the stores… you can meet the Sock Inspectors here. The point is, by the time you get your socks, you can literally take them out of the packaging and run. Run problem free… so you can save brand new socks for race day, and you can run inspired confident that your socks are protecting your feet and comfortable at the same time.
So these are the Ultra Glides:
- They have extra cushioning in hot spots, which are the places where one could traditionally expect blisters, and are definitely the places that need a little more comfort.
- The socks are really lightweight and friction free… I have all the extra kilograms I need, I certainly need the lightest equipment out there.
- They have moisture management yarn, which means when you run in the rain, your feet stay dry and they are not going to chaff. This was the winter that I relished running in the rain, and literally jumped in all the puddles.
- There is ribbing in the design so that the sock holds your foot snuggly.
- That V over the foot arch is not just for prettiness, but helps to keep your socks in place.
- One thing folk often ask me about the “hidden socks” is what if they fall down… they absolutely don’t, they are designed to fit around your foot, there is a place for your heel and so the “cuff” of the sock literally can’t fall down.
- And finally, I really appreciate that these socks have a L and R on them… because really there have been a few 4:30 am starts for our long runs, and the fact that my socks know which foot they go on, really helps!!!
I can say that I have never ever ever had a blister… and I have run far… not by ultra marathon runner standards… but I have just recently finished my third half marathon and the training for those I have discovered is not actually as little as any beginner runner might have hoped. The thing is whatever your race, a 5 km Park Run, or an ultra marathon… you have to train, and the more you train the better it will all be on the day!!!
It’s Not Just About the Socks…
It is not just about having the coolest laundry pile in the world… Balega socks have very cool team players, called impis. They are a group of runners ranging from super elite athletes, to Parkrunners… From 100 milers, to just surviving half marathons… I guess what unites this team , apart from their obvious love of running, is their passion for adventures in the great outdoors and huge hearts… they are almost always doing projects and a little more… They have been the most fantastic support and encouragement… checking out how my races went, even before I had finished (!), helping me out with running tips… there are right and wrong head torches out there… This team has quite literally been my running family, in every sense of the word.
Sometimes you can spot Impis out in the wild… and you can always spot them at races for a worthy cause.
Not only do Balega socks go on some crazy adventures, but…
Balega are socks with good intentions, and Balega Impis love to run for a worthy endeavour.. I did a beach-beach cleanup, but they also raise funds for schools in need, they support kids at a grass roots level in so many ways, their beautiful Grit and Grace socks, have a story behind them… and so many, many more. And we love nothing better than giving socks away…
My Grit and Grace Story
What started off as a fit and active life really down-spiralled into sedentary when I began having kids, getting out the door with small children and being active is almost impossible without a really good support system. After several years of sitting on the couch and reading stories and after eight kids, we lost a baby. I thought I would never get off the couch again. Part of me realised that if I didn’t make some drastic changes then I would never move again and health wise, I would probably never meet my grand-children. I had to make a change and started getting myself and my kids outdoors as much as possible. We hiked and hiked and hiked… always easy walking at toddler pace and learning to love the great outdoors and adventures.
That was great for my soul, but my body needed much more help than that. I joined the gym and at first could not even walk around the track with my class. My goal was to get moving, but I dreamed of running the Two Oceans. Honestly, I could not walk around the track, I could not sit on an exercise bike… but I could row for a minute or two and that’s where I started. I began walking the ParkRun with my kids… they all dashed away from me…but I kept going back week after week. It took a year and a 20kg weightloss, before I could run/walk the Parkrun and then I entered the Two Oceans 5,6km Fun Run. A year later I ran the Two Oceans half marathon.
Honestly, it has been tough. I run from the back and every race I wonder if I will finish before they pack up… I am slow, but I go… running is very instagram friendly for elite athletes, but I am not that runner… I represent thousands of runners at the back of the pack, who don’t actually know if they will finish the race… but once they are on the road they just won’t give up either. We aren’t winners in the sense of front page of Runner’s World, but we are winners of our own races… the trial to get out the door and just keep going is real.
This was my year to run and I have run, I have run my heart out. What began as getting to the start of the Two Oceans, became well… just one more half marathon and then just one more of those. I am running and running, but more interesting than that is that my whole family is running. I needed my husband to run next to me on the dark mornings through winter, and he started entering races alongside me… he is way better than I am, and that’s okay! The funny thing is we have never told our kids that they have to get up and run, ever… and yet they often join us on our Sunday long runs. What used to be just him and I plodding along has become us and a whole bunch of kids. This is the stuff people dream of, family adventures where the kids follow along. We never forced it, but it has happened… and with five “Hundred Park Runners” in the family we could very well reach 5000km of family Park Run kilometres before the year is out… we are on 4560 km as I write this… it can be done!!!
Running has opened up opportunities that I could never even have dreamed of. I dreamed of the Two Oceans and got through it, but I have secret dream to do a triathlon. To that end I have started Open Water Swimming as well. Swimming my miles in the ocean and in a dam, through the winter, it has been fantastic. I love it. I have entered a mile race, and I am planning a two mile race in December… and in time maybe a relay to Robben Island with friends. I think I have the run and the swim sorted for a triathlon, I still don’t have a bike… and even though I have spent hours on a Watt bike, it’s not the real thing. I am just keep going and keep at it… this could be my year to crack open a triathlon. But in the meantime, I am moving, I am off the couch… I may be at the back of the pack, but I am winning my race. My race is to move more every day, whatever the weather, however I feel… get up, get outdoors and get moving.
We do have a Balega sock adventure to finish out the year, and it has gotten so crazy around us as we head into the busy season. But, I have been dropping hints to my kids for weeks now… we are going to be hiking our year out… and I have a fairly massive hiking challenge waiting for them as soon as they are done with all their end of year events. Like most huge projects… all together it is daunting,, but we will tackle it as we tackle all projects: Together and one step at a time.
And since you have read this far… I thought I would reward you with the truth behind all those fancy sock photos you see on Instagram…
They are not always as easy to take as you might think!!! Have a lovely weekend and enjoy all those adventures…