It's that time again: for the "12 Days of Run-Mas." So if you haven't found something for the favorite runner in your life, I've got you covered with these 12 options, from running jackets to a new twist on coffee. I don't take free samples or products, so rest assured that this is based on my research and preferences - and nothing else.
12 Clif Bars
These are my go-to fuel during marathons, and the variety pack, which includes 12 bars, will match any runner's palate. My favorite flavor: oatmeal raisin walnut.
11 Caramel Macchiato Gus
Every year, Gu releases a limited-edition, special seasonal flavor for its running fuel. If you're a Gu and/or caramel fan, get these now before they're put aside in favor of Valentine's Day hearts.
10 Running ornaments
Every running store has them: little running shoes, 26.2 signs, runners in all colors. A set of 10 will make the whole tree seem like a champion.
9 Sleeves of Shot Bloks
Yes, I recommended Gu above, but that's because I know so many runners love it. I can't stand the consistency myself. I'm more of a Shot Blok person. They have almost the same taste and consistency of Dots candy and are easy to carry. My favorite flavors are black cherry if I want caffeine and mountain berry if not.
8 Pairs of running socks
I recommended the same thing last year, and for good reason. Good socks are hard to find, especially when lost to the dryer, your running bag, or just to wear and tear. I'm still stuck on Nike's Performance No-Show socks, but if you want something that provides a little more warmth, check out options from SmartWool.
7 Buttered coffees
"Bulletproof" coffee, as it's also called, is all the rage with professional runners, with super professional running couple Ryan and Sarah Hall extolling its benefits. It's coffee but with unsalted butter added (the recipe is at bulletproofexec.com). Don't give your runner seven at once - maybe make one a day for a week to see if the claims of its providing energy and staving off hunger are true. (If not, at least you can say you tried it.)
6 Compression calf sleeves (2 sleeves per pair)
While I sometimes still wear compression socks, I've switched to calf sleeves because I found compression socks lead to more black and disappearing toenails. Sleeves are also much easier to put on and take off. CEP makes sleeves in a rainbow of colors. I favor the orange because they match my current favorite pair of running shoes.
5 Pairs of running tights
One for every weekday. I'm partial to Nike tights that hit just above or below the knee. The new thing this year is patterned tights, but I'm not so sure that I'm game for them. I'd rather go with black or purple than a herringbone pattern that gives me a headache.
4 Winter running tops
For cold days, shirts that cover your palms and have thumb holes - so you can make sure the shirt stays put under your gloves - are key. Bonus if it's a half-zip, so you can keep your neck warm, or unzip if you heat up. Under Armor's Qualifier meets all of these requirements, and comes in bright colors in case that's your thing and/or you run in the dark.
3 Sweat-wicking ear bands
The tips of my ears are always the second thing to freeze (after my fingertips), so I have both a heavy ear band for those really cold days, and a light ear band for those that aren't so frigid (with a backup in case both are dirty). My heavy ear band is from Target. My light one is by Sporthill.
2 Running jackets
One for the cold, and one for the rain. I run hot, so I don't don a jacket for cold. But I do have a rain jacket, one from Dansko bought on the last day that Strawbridge's was open (RIP). I like the look of the Brooks PureProject jackets, which skip the garish neon colors, so they are also items I'd wear out with a pair of jeans. (Some of the styles are half off at Brooksrunning.com.)
1 Pair of racing shoes
These don't have to be as light as a feather-weight racing flat, but something with less heft than a normal training shoe. I'm loving the Adidas Adizero Boost Tempo 7, which I picked up at the New York City Marathon expo. I've been doing speed work in them and hope to bring them to Florida for my next race.
If you don't know what your runner wants, a gift card to a local running store will pay his or her way to a faster pair of shoes.