Run Like the Wind

On Sunday I decided to step up my “July is Knit Month!” activities and finally break into the world of high-performance sports gear. I started running to lose weight a few years ago and, along with sewing, it’s now become my favourite way to both unwind and start the day. I really do get cranky and irritable if I don’t get my regular runs in!! Over the years I’ve amassed a good collection of wicking tops and trousers I wear in rotation until they fall apart, but recently I’ve been having a hard time finding good wicking sports gear under £30 a pop, and especially in the trouser style I prefer – long length and slightly boot cut. Everywhere I look it’s always either skin-tight leggings, capri length, or both! UGH!

So I was very happy to discover that Pennine Outdoor stock wicking sports fabrics, both polyester teeshirting AND Meryl cycling lycra! So in one shop I got supplies for both my tops and my trousers! Now, you may be excused for cringing at the mention of polyester, but in running circles it is well known that polyester is the preferred fabric as it doesn’t hold sweat or chafe like cotton does. If you ever get blisters from a run or long hike, switch to 100% polyester socks and you’ll never get them again. So while I shun polyester in regular sewing, I positively seek it out in running gear, especially when I find the exact same two-sided, slightly waffled weave that is used in all the official race shirts! Bamboo is even better than polyester, though, as it doesn’t hold the stink or microbial nasties either and is softer by a factor of ten, but that’s another discussion entirely…

Anyway, on to the sewing! Since I know my running habits I also know what I definitely do and don’t like in running gear – I need my tops to be close fitting and sleeveless, for starters. Shelf bras never offer enough support for me so I always wear a sports bra underneath even if there’s one built in, so I didn’t bother picking a pattern with an integrated bra. I liked the look of this running top from the February 2007 edition of KnipMode magazine, and for the running trousers I went back to the yoga trousers in Burda WOF 11/2007 (#122) that I’d made in fleece last winter.

I made some stylistic changes to both to suit my running penchants, however. I have a RTW Nike top that has all the seams serged in contrast woolly nylon thread on the outside, and I thought I’d give this a try instead of the piped contrast seams that KnipMode suggest. I also was itching to try out my black lycra FOE (also from Pennine) so I used this to edge the neckline and armscyes. On the trousers, I slimmed down the legs so they weren’t so boot cut, and halved the width of the waistband so I didn’t have to fold it over (and fiddle with it while I’m running!).

I wore both of these out on my favourite 10k river circuit on Monday morning (I really am spoiled – I run past the Mayor’s office, HMS Belfast, Tate Modern, the South Bank, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the Victoria Embankment, London Bridge, the Tower of London, and finally cross over Tower Bridge on my usual jaunt out) and I’m really pleased how they held up! I was concerned in the first kilometer that I hadn’t made the waistband tight enough (though I’d stretched it as far as I could) but the “oh god they’re slipping down!” feeling passed after a bit as I got used to the fact that they’re just naturally less constrictive than my RTW pairs and there’s actually no danger of exposure!

The top I’m really happy with, too, though I think my next version will be more scooped under my arm and maybe just clear elastic serged onto instead of the FOE. Neither chafed enough to be a problem, but they just felt slightly close to me. Luckily, the running tops take up so little fabric that I can easily get another one out of the one metre I bought, so I really will be able to make another, though I think I fancy buying more woolly nylon to get a different contrast…

Next up are a dress and top I also made this past weekend (and I still need to photoshoot!), and I’m going to gingerly dip my toes into the swimwear waters, too…

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