I've had a problem on every marathon I've run: nutrition.
Whether it's not carrying enough (hello, Brighton 2019), or struggling to carry enough of it (later that same year in Berlin), gels are a necessity over 26.2 miles, and a massive pain in the ass to carry comfortably.
Enter SOAR Running, and their Elite Marathon Shorts. I'm already a huge fan of both their Elite Race Shorts and Elite Speed Shorts (my two favourite pairs of shorts on the planet), so given the opportunity to drop a fresh wad of cash for Marathon Race Day ... I couldn't resist.
My first impression is that these are the Elite Race Shorts with three changes:
- There is a small zip pocket at the back
- There are two other pockets at the back ("cargo pocket"?)
- There are two double-loops at the front
The notes from SOAR indicate that this setup is meant to hold up to six gels - one in each set of loops up front, two in each pocket at the back. The zip pocket is there for "valuables", although I don't tend to have any with me when I race.
All in all, I'm pretty excited to take these out - they're basically my 5k/10k race short choice, but with space for enough gels to get me through a marathon.
Run Number One
The first attempt at using these shorts was a ten mile steady run. Sure, I might not need any gels at this distance, but it's long enough that I can not feel weird about using both the front and back gel storage, but not so long that I'll be out there for ages if it all goes wrong.
Needing zero gels, planning to take two, I load up the shorts with a full set of six Science in Sport isotonic gels - two in front, four in back. Maximum loading, as per the spec.
As I get started, there's a bit of discomfort - there's just enough weight that I need to tighten the drawstring or risk a wardrobe malfunction, and the gels in back poke above the waistband uncomfortably ... but this is easily adjusted, and soon everything is fine.
But it doesn't last long - while the back is fine, the front is suffering from two problems:
- The waistband isn't wide enough: as you can see from the photo below, the gel is wider than the waistband, which means that the plastic corner rubs against my skin. I hardly noticed in the first ten minutes, but as I ran further, it became quite annoying.
- The loops aren't tight enough: as I ran, the gels up front were bouncing around, and slowly escaping from the loops. Although I tried to stay on top of this, one of the gels up front managed to break free at one point.
One of these two issues would be understandable; maybe I have unusual gels which are too large for the waistband, or too small for the loops. Together, they represent a design flaw. Either chafing or losing a gel are unwelcome - together, they make the front loops pretty much useless.
That said, I ate one front gel early, and stuffed the other in with the gels in the back pocket so it wouldn't escape - and things were fine. I definitely noticed five gels together in the back more than four, but it still constituted the best solution to the race-day-gel-supply that I've seen.
The early verdict (after one, short, non-race) is that, while flawed, these are still a comfortable pair of top-end racing shorts that can hold four gels comfortably on race day - along with room to bring a fifth to the start line to consume pre-race.
On that basis, they're currently the best thing on the market, and my choice of shorts for the London Marathon in October - although there are more setups to test before the day.
This review is expected to be updated twice: first, after a trial run with six gels in the two back pockets; second, after race-day, or the decision not to wear these while racing.