I have been a runner since what...2005? Whenever I stopped being a sick little l.ame duck. I used to go for big-time distance runs though I've noticed as I focus more now on building muscle and lifting weights, I tend to opt for sprinting distances instead. Either way, it's a lot of fun.
I do races and participate in group stuff. However, I don't get too worked up about winning or even doing moderately well against others. For me, it's just all about setting personal records and enjoying the company of other runners, who are usually very positive and enthusiastic people.
Allawayr, as far as running apparel is concerned, I typically just shell out the big bucks at Sports Authority/Copeland/Big Brand X. Sometimes, if I'm hurting for a top or something, I'll pop into a Ross or Marshall's because they occasionally have quality stuff at fantastic discounts and it's worth a peek. I wish I could offer more in the way of good shopping advice...I know what you mean about the mysterious disappearance of running clothing. My activewear vanishes, too. Especially, of course, the socks.
We can process Paypal again! Kinda!
Not sure if you should post that? This slightly-nsfw-flowchart