If you didn’t know any better, it might seem that the only thing the thousands of runners at next weekend’s Kansas City Marathon will have to worry about is putting one foot in front of the other until they reach the finish line. Not so.
Before reaching the start line, most marathoners and half-marathoners have spent months pounding out hundreds of miles on training runs in all kinds of weather, watching their diets and nursing sore muscles, blisters, chafing and the occasional injury. Come race day, many of them will struggle with all those things and more.
No worries, though. There is a product out there to help runners tackle each facet of the long-distance race: Smartwatches. Fuel belts. Compression socks. And more.
To demonstrate the array of products on the market, we asked Ashley Wickman, women’s winner of last year’s marathon, to model some of the offerings.
Wickman was surprised as anyone about last year’s outcome. She was gliding along at about mile 7 when a race official sidled up beside her on a bicycle and delivered the news: Wickman was leading the women in the 26.2-mile race.
“Holy cow!” That was the first thought that popped into the head of the 28-year-old high school nurse from Lee’s Summit.
The marathon was Wickman’s first.
Oh, sure, running had always been a part of her life. She began running 5K races with her mom when she was 8, and ran track and field (including the steeplechase) at Missouri Southern State University, where she was also named a cross-country All-American.
So she figured she might place in the top three. But win? Come on!
“I was shocked and told myself to keep running the race I had trained for and let whatever happens happen,” Wickman recalls. “But I’m pretty competitive, so…”
The Kansas City Marathon is notoriously hilly. Wickman was ready for that. She didn’t let the adrenaline shot that came with the good news disrupt her steady pace. And she was feeling good until about mile 22, when she hit the wall.
That’s when the race became one of mind over matter.
“It feels like your body is shutting down and you use every last bit of energy to take every step,” she says. “I told myself to just keep pushing and hopefully I can still win.”
She crossed the finish line in 3:03:09, more than six minutes ahead of the second place woman.
Wickman says she’s old-school when it comes to running gear, yet rattles off a list of items she uses to help her during training and racing, including specialty running clothes made of wicking fabrics, Body Glide to prevent chafing, Gu every 6 or 7 miles to keep her fueled and a Garmin watch for pacing.
Wickman is taking this year off from the marathon to focus on her husband and 1-year-old daughter. But she plans to run a sub-3-hour marathon one day. On a flatter course, of course.
Kansas City Marathon events
The races: Full marathon, half marathon and team relay start at 7 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15; 5K race at 7:30 a.m. at 22nd Street and Grand Boulevard. Fees range from $40 to $130. Online registration ends Sunday, Oct. 9.
Race expo: Browse vendors and pick up packets 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 at Crown Center, 2323 McGee St.
To learn more: SportKC.org/marathon
▪ Run 816, 304 Westport Road, Kansas City, 816-569-0106
▪ Garry Gribble’s Running Sports, Ward Parkway Center, 8600 Ward Parkway, 816-363-4800; Independence Commons, 18810 E. 39th St. South, 816-373-1100
▪ Fleet Feet Sports, the Village, 6911 Tomahawk Road, Prairie Village, 913-403-0507
▪ The Running Well, 6106 N.W. Barry Road, Kansas City, North, 816-741-8800
▪ KC Running Company, 4760 W. 135th St., Leawood, 913-385-5633; 1555 N.E. Douglas St., Lee’s Summit, 816-379-3947
▪ Elite Feet, 5017 W. 119th St., Overland Park, 913-498-3338
Fun run facts
▪ Last year, more than 500,000 people finished marathons, and nearly 2 million people finished half-marathons.
▪ In 2013, consumers bought $3 billion in running shoes alone.
▪ David Babcock, an associate professor of graphic design at the University of Central Missouri, set a Guinness World Record at the 2013 Kansas City Marathon when he knit a scarf that was 12 feet, 1 3/4 inches long while running the 26.2-mile course.
▪ There is now a smartbra — yes, you read that right, a smartbra — for women runners. The OMbra ($169.99, OMSignal.com) measures heart rate, breathing rhythms and steps. It sends the data to the runner’s iPhone via Bluetooth to help her increase progress, burn more fat and reduce risk of injuries and unnecessary fatigue.