The Dumb Runner Gear-Free Gift Guide

Consumption—it’s the new national pastime... The only true lasting American value that’s left—buying things... People spending money they don’t have on things they don’t they can max out their credit cards and spend the rest of their lives paying 18 percent interest on something that cost $12.50. And they didn’t like it when they got home anyway.
— George Carlin

The stuff you usually find in Holiday Gift Guides for Runners is... stuff. Gear. Jackets, vests, hats, socks, tights, foam rollers, watches, packs, and various other gizmos,  gadgets, and gewgaws.

This is fine, if you know someone who really and truly needs and wants more stuff. But maybe—maybe!—the runner on your list has enough running stuff? Maybe instead of another piece of mass marketed merchandise, he'd appreciate something a little different, a little more personal?

If not, that's OK—we love a nice pair of socks as much as the next runner. If so, however, read on. We have a few ideas.

You could consider giving...


A Custom Coupon



Hokey? Perhaps. Well received? Almost certainly.

The beauty of homemade coupons or gift certificates, of course, is that you can make them redeemable for anything. For a runner, consider a coupon for a foot rub (if you're feeling brave); bike support for a month's worth of long runs; chauffering, cheering, and postrace beverages for a local race; or whatever.

If you know your way around Photoshop it's easy and fun to create these yourself. (If need be, you can even design "coupons" in MS Word. ) Or you can use a website that offers free templates—I created the sample above on a site called


A Gift Certificate for a Massage

Not a homemade one. A real one. I promise you, this will be deeply appreciated. Possibly so deeply it will hurt. If you don’t know your runner friend’s favorite local massage therapist, ask some mutual friends or get a recommendation from your local specialty running store. I can't think of a single running friend who wouldn't love a free professional massage.


A Tree


Does your runner friend have a favorite park or trail for running? If so, there’s a decent chance that you can have a tree planted there in his or her name. Google the name of the park or trail, find its official page, and search for a button or link that reads “Donate.”

You can also make an online donation to the National Forest Foundation. For every dollar you give, they will plant one tree. (You can’t specify where, but it’s still pretty cool.)


A Donation to “Back on My Feet”

Courtesy Back on My Feet

Courtesy Back on My Feet

In its own words, Back on My Feet is “a national, for-purpose 501(c)3 organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change that results in employment and independent living.” 

How cool is that?

Back on My Feet, which Runner's World wrote about a few years back, accepts donations of any amount and they’re tax-deductible. Here's what gifts at various levels will provide, according to a Back on My Feet spokeswoman:

  • $25: Summer running gear
  • $100: A new pair of running shoes to a member
  • $250: Race entries and milestone incentives to a member
  • $500: Housing or employment support to a member (paying a security deposit on an apartment, purchasing equipment and clothing for work, etc.)

Go to to get started.


Something Delicious (Consumables, Part I)



It doesn’t have to be pie. It could be anything tasty. A nice ham, for instance. Or the World’s Largest Gummy Bear. But, yeah. Pie would be a very good choice. (The apple pie pictured above is from, which will ship homemade pies "anywhere in the U.S.")


Booze (Consumables, Part II)



Assuming your runner friend partakes of alcohol, it's hard to go wrong with this option. Particularly if your friend likes to share. You'll want to put some thought into your choice, of course—a case of Miller Light isn't what we have in mind here. (Well, unless that's really what your friend loves. To each his own.)

Maybe some Champagne is in order ("To another superb year of running!"), or a nice bottle of Scotch. If your friend is a beer lover, it's never been easier to find really good (or at least really interesting) craft beers, from hoppy IPAs to maple bacon coffee porters, in six-packs; growlers; or tall, 22-ounce or 750 ml bottles.

For something even more unusual, check out the UK-based website There you can find everything from a Bourbon Advent Calendar to Drinks by the Dram tasting sets, such as the Antique Spirits and Liqueurs Tasting Set ($48), pictured above.


A Thoughtfully Chosen Framed Photo

Mark Remy

Mark Remy

A few years back, a close friend ran 40 miles on his 40th birthday. I joined him for several miles of it, and took some photos along the way, including one of my friend passing an amusing sign. (See above.) A week or so later, I presented him with an 8x10 print of that photo. Better gift than another tech shirt? I thought so. I think he did too.

Search your photo library and see if there isn’t something there that might work.


How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, by the Dalai Lama and Jeffrey Hopkins

OK, we'll admit it. This book makes the list because we're currently reading it. 

From its description on

“Divided into a series of distinct steps that will lead spiritual seekers toward enlightenment, How to Practice is a constant companion in the quest to practice morality, meditation, and wisdom. This accessible book will guide you toward opening your heart, refraining from doing harm, and maintaining mental tranquility as the Dalai Lama shows you how to overcome everyday obstacles, from feelings of anger and mistrust to jealousy, insecurity, and counterproductive thinking.”

How to Practice is, essentially, an introduction to Buddhism. Buddhism, it turns out, has a lot to teach us—particularly as runners, and particularly where suffering is concerned. We must acknowledge that life is suffering, Buddhism tells us. We must learn to live with suffering, to manage suffering, to make peace with suffering. Buddhism is big on suffering. And what is running, if not one big exercise in suffer management?

Oh, and there's the emphasis on discipline and daily practice, on helping others, on pursuing wisdom and kindness and compassion. It's good stuff. Find a copy at your local book store or at Amazon.


A Subscription to Dumb Runner Magazine

Mark Remy

Mark Remy

Just kidding. Dumb Runner doesn’t exist as a print magazine. Yet.

We do, however, have a delightful weekly newsletter. Ahem.

Happy holidays, everyone.