Back in 1995, my then-husband of 12 years came home one day and announced he was leaving. Like forever. (Insert horribly heartbroken year here.) At the end of that extremely sad year, I decided I needed to go on an adventure that was bigger than me. Bigger than my sorrow. Something so big and all-consuming that it would push me forward into a new life.
I decided to backpack through South Africa. Alone.
The experience was incredible and intense and scary and beautiful and everything I wanted. I wish we were all sitting around together having coffee so you could lean in and I could tell you all the intimate details. For now, I’d like to tell you about a little accessory I carried with me to African that turned out to be ever so handy then…. and made an even more handy re-entry into one of my future lives as a trail runner.
The exact bandana, in fact. I took a brown and blue paisley-patterned bandana through South Africa’s sand and safari and used it for countless things, including an accessory to “dress up” the collar of the only nice shirt I brought.
Fast forward 20 years and I wrapped that same bandana around my wrist at the start of my first 50K. I’ve used it 6 ways from Sunday, but I’m going to give you 12.
the TIP: My favorite accessory 12 ways: the bandana
First of all, while this is a great tip for trail runners, road runners can obviously use a bandana in many ways, too. There’s just more opportunities to be more “Mcgyver” with it out on the trails.
THE SET UP: To start, take an ordinary bandana–nothing fancy–and fold it corner to corner to make a triangle. Then simply roll it up until it’s a long band and tie it around your wrist. Here’s a dozen ways to use my favorite running accessory:
- Leave it on your wrist for an excellent summer day sweatband.
- Pony tail rubber band snap? Use it for a scrunchie.
- Take a tumble or get caught in a blackberry bramble? You’ve got a band aid or a wound cleaner.
- Chilly morning? It’s a scarf.
- Hot, exposed trail? Soak it in the creek or water from your pack and wrap it around your neck to stay cool. (I put snow in mine once on a mountain trail. The BEST.)
- Need a place to stash a Gu or gel on a short run? Roll one up in your bandana and wrap around your wrist.
- Rain or sweat getting in your eyes? Sport your bandana headband like a retro pro.
- Drop your water bottle in a mud puddle (or head plant in one like me?) Clean it off and keep on truckin’.
- Need a spot to spread out your picnic at the top of a climb? Placemat!
- Air so cold it chills your lungs? It’s a face mask.
- While I’m a big fan of the farmer’s nose blow, it does make a good hankie.
- Of course, you can always just wear it around your head… like a bandana!
the WHY: Because practical and pretty can co-exist
Seriously though, that old bandana does look sporty-cute and it has saved me in cold days, hot days, muddy days…. and those days in Africa when I traveled across the world to find a new life.