Most of the time the reward for being a father...is simply getting to be a dad. Or, in the words of my late father, “Don’t get me anything for Father’s Day, just try to be a better son.”
But if you must get your dad something that money can buy—you best hope he’s a runner. Because, you know, running dads always need running dad stuff.
Recently, after a morning trail run through the dry creek beds and poison oak-lined single track of San Luis Obispo’s Irish Hills, I took a straw poll among my favorite trail dads as to what they’d like to find under their pile of shoes out of the rotation but they still can’t bring themselves to throw away — a running dad’s Father’s Day version of a Christmas Tree.
Below, a few of the answers I got. Some may surprise you, others not so much; hopefully any would be a pleasant surprise for him:
Gu or Nuun Hydration Tablets
A couple of my dad runners swore that hydration tablets are the thing saying they were “better than a kick in the butt” before a race or during a long run. The decision was split between Gu and Nuun with a majority consensus that a Nuun Kona Cola tablet (only $4!) is the next best thing to an ice-cold Coke mid-run. One also mentioned he’d like to have any Gu product that he doesn’t have to buy for himself. “Getting the gift of Gu is magical,” he said. “It’s like someone reads your mind before you even think it.”
lululemon Surge Short
My brother-in-law, a speedy age-grouper and a family practice doctor, swears that he never met a pair of running shorts he liked, until lululemon. “I always thought running shorts were just supposed to be a little uncomfortable,” he once confided. “Riding up here, finding the wrong crack there until I tried these.” He admits he was a little leery to rock the official brand of yoga-pant-wearing moms everywhere — not to mention he cringes at the word: athleisure — but running in ‘em was believing. “I won’t put on anything else mostly because it feels like I’ve got nothing on — but in a good way.”
Garmin Forerunner 235
This watch was the one thing that topped every dad in the group’s list. Granted, this is a big-ticket item and probably only fitting if dad did something extraordinary this year like drove the 2002 Sienna filled with goldfish cracker shrapnel and the ridiculous amounts of dirty cups — to take the kids to Legoland, while mom got to roll the new Subaru to Napa for a weekend of wine tasting with her girlfriends. But this is the watch that’s got everyone pinging with a smile each mile. Its giant circle face display is attractive on trail and in the boardroom (is “in the boardroom” still a thing?) and the functionality is next level. The wrist-based heart rate monitor is a revelation for the many who have long since ditched the chest strap. The watch’s algorithms also suggest how long to rest before the next workout — which can all be uploaded to your Android or iOS device. Maybe this is the future...of Father’s Day.
Feetures Elite Graduated Compression Socks & Elite Mini-Crew
OK, so everyone’s got to have a lengthy and specifically described item on their list, and these compression socks happen to be mine. I call these my feet treats mostly because I only wear them on two occasions: 1) for a long run/race or 2) after a long run/race when I’m enjoying a beer or...several. The compression keeps my legs turning and the circulation moving — and I don’t mind the look of them either. Moms who really want their man to be a conversation starter at the trailhead or starting line should opt for pink. This is the 2020 version of a La-Z-Boy recliner for the dad who runs. Comfort, in these socks’ case, is king. The Elite Mini-Crew are also not to be missed. They are perfect for the trails because they prevent any trail debris from getting into my socks.
New Balance Men’s Minimus 1010v2 Trail shoe
I. Love. These. Shoes. Period. (But don’t take my word for it.) Warning: Be sure to try them on before you order ‘em up...if you have super wide feet the narrow toe box might not 100% be what you’re wanting. These kicks are like amped-up dwarves on a quest to find a ring or will roll over rock and shale and stone with zeal. Like a pair of faithful mailmen, they’re not afraid to get muddy, rainy, snowy or wet either. No matter how hot you’re running they seem to keep the cool in. No “hot feet” here. Oh, and they’re made in the U.S. too so you can wear them like the proud ‘Merican dad you are.
Run MD Rollers
Something about this one, its divots and spikes, just seems to roll out the bad and keep in the good. If dad doesn’t have a foam roller yet, this might be the one to start him on. The rollers are extremely durable, made of ABS plastic, not PVC and at the same time compact. It will even fit in a carry on. A perfect gift for dad who has been having IT Band issues or general tightness and hasn’t yet auditioned the runners’ secret weapon.
…And last, but very much not least: Give your running dad the most precious gift of all...No, not that one…the gift of time, silly. Yes, set him free for an afternoon of rolling up and down switchbacks, stomping over bubbling creeks and summiting to greater heights.
Meet him after at the trailhead with a fresh shirt, a cold beer and a big old hug.
What could be better?