(Note that I'm not saying you *can't* run without these things. Many of these items are luxuries, but I'm saying that if you have the money and are wanting to spend it on running gear, this is where I'd personally focus - I'm sure you could ask 10 runners and get 10 different answers, though.)
1. Shoes - Period. Hands down. No question. This is not the place to skimp. Go to a running specialty store, have them watch your gait, and get a good pair of running shoes. Heck, if you can afford it, get two different styles of running shoes so that you can alternate them (I love this because different shoes will activate your muscles differently and have different pressure points - varying that can reduce some potential for over-use injuries... plus it allows shoes plenty of time to decompress before you use them again). Popular brands: Brooks, Asics, Nike, Saucony, Mizuno, and New Balance. But there are also other brands out there, like K-Swiss, Adidas, Pearl Izumi, and Etonic that might work for you. I happen to be a huge fan of Brooks, but it really is about what works for you.
2. Race - I know, most people would put this down the list a bit, but you have seen the title of this blog, right? A race is a goal, a tangible day and distance set to accomplish. For me, this is what keeps my running on track. Even if the race is a long time off. Pick one, sign up, and write it in stone as your goal! Racing a lot can be very expensive - so plan ahead, sign up early for lower fees, and shop around for one that works for you in terms of cost, location, etc.
3. Moisture-Wicking Clothing - I see it all the time... runner shows up for his/her first race and receives a cotton t-shirt in the race packet, and then promptly puts it on and runs in it. Moisture-wicking clothing is important for many reasons - when it's hot, you need to move the moisture away from your body so it can evaporate and your body can continue to sweat in order to cool itself down; when it's cold, you want it to pull the moisture away from your body so you can stay dry and warm; lastly wet cotton will chafe your skin, badly, it's not pretty. And go ahead and add socks into this one too...
4. ID - Safety, safety, safety. I personally use Road ID, and recommend them highly, but there are a few other companies who make IDs for your wrist, ankle, or shoe. These are uber-important in the case of a medical emergency. Don't chance it, spend the cash and get some proper identification!
5. Sports Bra - Alright guys, you can skip this one, but supporting the girls properly is worth the price tag. Personally, I love Moving Comfort - great support, and I get to still have TWO instead of an uni-boob. Find what works for you, but do not be afraid to spend a few more dollars on something that will really work and last (besides, if you have to double-up on cheap bras, it ends up being just as expensive as one good bra!).
6. Garmin - Yes, you can live without the super-sleek watch that tracks your pace and distance using GPS, but it can also be an amazing tool. Especially cause one of the things that plagues beginning runners, in my opinion, is pushing too fast and not pacing properly so that he/she can go the distance. The good news is that you can find some pretty good deals on older versions of the Garmin.
7. Hydration - I prefer the Nathan Handheld water bottle, but some prefer hydration belts (iFitness has a great one), and others prefer hydration packs like Camelbak. Find what works for you, and give it several runs - it takes some getting used to, but it's important to keep hydrated, even in the cooler weather.
8. Anti-chafe Cream - There are several brands of this, but I cannot live without Mission Athletecare's Anti-chafe cream. I don't care what size you are - things rub when you run. And when you start pulling double digit distances, parts attempt to start fires. Don't be a chafed runner, lube up and get out there! (And while you are there, pick up some sweatproof sunblock and some muscle rub.)
11. Compression Socks - OK, yes, I said that I would give you my top 10, but I can't leave out my beloved compression socks. I am a big believer in compression, especially for recovery... I'm a huge fan of CEP socks - I think they are the most compressive of the brands out there, and my calves love me for wearing them, but they aren't cheap... definitely a luxury!
What would YOU add to the list???