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Product review: Thermolactyl top

December 16, 2013

As anyone living in the UK will know, winter’s here. This means several things: wind, rain and cold, and spending more time in the pitch black than would be considered normal by non-runners.

So it was particularly good timing when the kind folks at Damart sent me a base layer to test out. Especially as, the day I chose to take it out for a spin, the frost had set in hard and there was a lingering pea-souper coating London.

Base layer

Base in the place, London – the base layer is very light, but also very warm

Now, before I go too much further, I have some non-running news. So, a month ago I started working in Cambridge at a new job – it’s exciting, challenging and I’m working with a great bunch of people. I am, however, now acquainting myself with the world of having a sturdy commute – 90 minutes door-to-door. I’m still working out my running routine within these new constraints, but I’m fortunate enough to have an on-site gym equipped with treadmills and easy access to off-road paths around Cambridge. But lunchtimes make for some slightly rushed runs, and several times over the past weeks meetings or deadlines have scuppered the best-laid plans.

However, with a bit of planning and some thought to logistics, I can get off a station early at Cheshunt and take a 10-mile trip down the Lea Valley.

Getting changed at work, I paired the black long-sleeve base layer with black running tights, black shorts, black socks, black gloves, a black beanie – by which point there was a distinct air of the Milk Tray man about me – and a luminous yellow t-shirt and boil-in-the-bag luminous yellow jacket. This all suited me well for the inevitable standing around at Cambridge station, but by the time I got to Cheshunt I had decided the boil-in-the-bag would be a bit much as the base layer was actually much warmer than I’d thought it would be. A promising start.

There’s something soothing about running along the towpaths in the dark, seeing the canal-side lit by the moon and the beams of a headlamp. That is until, inevitably, you remember the Blair Witch Project. It may have been an over-hyped low-budget film more likely to induce motion sickness than panic attacks, but running through the sparse tree-lined nature reserve with occasional movement in the periphery of your vision and intermittent rustles of movement in the undergrowth isn’t the greatest combination with a fertile imagination.

After about seven miles, I was feeling warm – but not too warm. The base layer had been doing a good job of regulating my temperature, and that – I thought – was about all you could ask.

The towpath goes through a small industrial estate, marking a relatively well-lit stretch of the canal. A canal boat was moored alongside the path, and its occupants were standing on the path discussing something or other, clutching cans of beer. They saw me coming and parted, so I could pass along the path—

And before I knew it, I was down. My hands, elbows and left knee lit up in agony as my subconscious reflexes had cushioned my fall before I even knew I was falling. I picked myself up, not sure what the damage was, but well aware that there was some damage.

I looked behind me; the guys at the canal boat hadn’t noticed my spectacular fall. But they were still standing right by the rope the idiots had stretched across the towpath to moor their stupid canal boat. ‘Guys,’ I called at them, ‘you going to do something about this rope?’

One of them started remonstrating that their boat had broken down. In truth, I can’t remember exactly what my response was – I know I managed to keep my temper, and that I didn’t swear too much (only for emphasis, you understand – but quite shortly they started apologising and attending to the rope. (It’s not just a footpath they had effectively erected a tripwire on – it’s a cycle path, and things could have been much worse.)

Conscious of the fact I had a few miles left to go, I hobbled off in the direction of home. It took me a few minutes to walk off the absolute worst of the fall, but eventually I felt like I might be able to run slowly. And so I did.

And so I eventually made it home, somewhat slower than intended, and in somewhat more pain than I would have liked. On getting into the house, I inspected the damage with trepidation. A few cuts, and possibly some bruising. A hole in the knee of my running tights (towards which my toes will now gravitate next time I put them on), but no damage to the elbows of my base layer. Clearly, made of some sturdy stuff.

So, in conclusion, some people don’t know their responsibilities to path users when tying up their canal boat, but some people do know how to make sturdy and warming base layers. Which is probably why Damark is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

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