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The Gift of Speed

Although I have never competed in a running race myself, I know at least a dozen people who have.

Just last weekend I made my way to Manhattan's Central Park at 9:30 a.m. to watch a friend compete in a 10-kilometer race. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but considering it was mid-December and 36 degrees outside, I did not anticipate more than a couple of hundred people.

So as I stood there in my hat, mittens and large overcoat and saw almost 5,000 participants race by me, I realized how wrong I was.

With the holidays fast approaching and numerous friends who enjoy running, here's a list of gifts any runner would love. Who knows, they could even inspire a dormant marathoner or two.

A Running Buddy

While some people run for a cause, others take part for the experience and thrill of racing with spectators cheering them on. And still there are others who take such competitions more seriously and run to win or challenge themselves physically.

Running partners help athletes achieve their goals more quickly by pushing them and helping them to become better racers. If you are unable (or unwilling) to fill this role, here's the next best thing.

Garmin (GRMN) recently upgraded its Forerunner training device. Retailing for about $350, the Forerunner 305 , dubbed a "personal trainer" and "running partner," has the capability to calculate a runner's speed, distance and pace with the help of GPS technology.

The Forerunner 305, made to be worn like a wristwatch, enables runners to train against preset personal goals and features a graphic "running buddy," which embodies these goals and offers the spark of competition.

And thanks to its GPS satellite link, the device has outstanding navigational capabilities and can easily direct athletes back to their starting positions.

In addition, it comes equipped with a calorie-burner calculator and a heart-rate monitor.

Oakley's Thump 2 Sunglasses

Singing Shades

An accessory almost any runner would enjoy is Oakley's (OO) Thump 2 Sunglasses .

Retailing for $299, these aren't your ordinary shades. Rather, they come fully stocked with a gigabyte of storage (enough to hold 240 songs) and adjustable speakers.

While providing full UV protection, the sunglasses serve double duty as a MP3 player but without the hassle of wires or cords. The player, along with a rechargeable battery, is snugly built into the frame of the glasses and hidden from view.

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