A couple of questions I get asked all the time are: “How did you get into running?”, and “How can you run so far?” While I wish there was some incredibly inspiring story behind it, the truth is that it was a completely random decision. I simply declared to my husband that on August 1st, 2013, I was going to start running. It wasn’t an entirely foreign activity to me, but I definitely started from zero and worked my way up, all the way to 13.1 miles- a half marathon!
As promised, I started running on the first day of August, and it wasn’t pretty! I didn’t have the right shoes, my lungs burned, and I kept having to stop and walk. The promise I made to myself was one mile per day, and that’s what I did persistently, slowly adding distance along the way. One week later, I surprised myself and was able to run a mile without stopping, which gave me a big confidence boost.
Two weeks later, I conquered a big fear: I went to the running store to be fitted for proper shoes. My mind was racing and my heart was pounding- What if I look like a fake? I’m not a real runner. They’re going to judge me. None of these fears ended up being true. In fact, it was just the opposite. I made a new friend in that visit who really encouraged me to keep going!
Four weeks into my new running journey, I signed up for my first 5K race (3.1 miles), which I completed on September 28, 2013, just eight weeks after I started running. Now, just over one year later, I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible. In 2014, I completed four half marathons and countless other 10K races and 5K races. In 2015, I am signed up to complete my first full marathon.
After participating in the Ugly Sweater 5K with my dog, Quincy!
Not everyone will have the same experience as me. You might take to it more quickly than I did, or it might take you a little longer to build distance. What really matters though, is sticking with it! Here are my top tips for starting and keeping up with your new running journey:
1- Track your progress: I downloaded a free app to track my progress when I started running. Eventually I was gifted a running watch, but you truly don’t need any fancy equipment to keep track of your training, especially if you have a smartphone. I downloaded the Nike+ app, which is free. Other popular running apps include RunKeeper and MapMyRun (both free). Even writing it down in a notebook will work! Seeing your progress is incredibly motivating.
2- Get fitted for the right shoes: While it’s true that running is one of the more affordable activities out there, investing in a pair of running shoes helps to avoid pain and injury. A knowledgable running store will be able to analyze your gait and pick the right shoe for you.
3- Sign up for a race: For me, races serve as a form of “insurance” against quitting. If I’m signed up, I know I will follow through. This was especially useful when I first started. Knowing I had a 5K just weeks ahead of me made me keep going.
4- Don’t worry about time: If there’s anything to note about runners, it’s that they come in all speeds! Don’t fault yourself for being slower than people at the front of the starting line, especially if you’re just starting out. I started out slowly and am quite a bit faster than I was when I started running.
5- Read about it: This might be a given already if you’re reading this, but when I started running, I devoured literature on the subject. I read books, blogs, magazines, and web articles. Pinterest is a great resource for finding articles quickly.
6- Walk: …And don’t feel bad about it. If you want to start distance running and if you can’t run a mile just yet, walking is necessary. Set a goal to run the length of two telephone poles, to a street sign in the distance, or to a landmark that you can see. By using the run/walk/run method, you will be able to build endurance and strength. The key is to keep pushing yourself a little farther with each run!
7- Take rest days: Be sure to rest, and don’t feel guilty about it. Too much running too quickly will fatigue muscles and possibly lead to injury.
8- Embrace the bad days: Not every run will lead to “runner’s high”. There are days when it’s going to be rough out there and you’ll struggle through each mile. These runs don’t mean that you’re a bad runner; they’re just part of the territory. Think of it like a bad day at work: they come and go!
Do you have a running story to share, or tips? Leave them in the comments below!
*Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.