In my mind, I officially became a runner back in December, 2000 when I signed up with Team in Training. From that season and the ones that followed, I learned about training, pacing, what to eat, drink and how to plan for, prepare for, and run a race. I also learned some race and running etiquette. This baseline training gave me the confidence to keep running, no matter my speed.
This training also taught me the importance of being a good “steward of the sport” and the peccadilloes that come along with training, preparing for, and competing in races. (I use “competing” loosely because I’ve only placed in one race EVER and that was in the old-lady 44-50 category and there were only 4 of us.) But you get my drift.
What I find lacking in my community is a good primer for runners who want to start running, as in, get off the couch and move their body, or take their running to another level and actually toe up to a starting line. Lots of questions come with each decision and then there’s the group that needs to stay motivated without ever wanting to do a race.
Today on my run, my brain looped on this concept and I’ve thought of some things that I think are important for people to know.
Yay you! You are ready to start running! Here’s what I tell all of my new runner friends.
1. Get thee to a Running Shoe store. Not Big 5, Sports Authority or ambling the aisles at Costco. Go in, tell the shoe expert at the Running Shoe store you are a new runner and need running shoes. Let them fit you, watch you walk or run around and then (this is important) tell them if they are too small, too wide, hurt or pinch. If they feel comfortable, cough up $100 or more and buy them.
2. Plan. Schedule 3 days that you are going to run. Aim to be gone for 20 to 30 minutes. Note: you are not going to be running for the full 20-30 minutes. Yet. You are going to walk 5 minutes to start. Then you will cycle through the following intervals 4 times: run 30 – 60 seconds, walk 3 minutes. Cool down with a 5 minute walk. Your “run” should be at a pace that is comfortable for you to talk. If you can’t breath, slow down. If you can only manage 5 seconds of running at first, not a problem. Run those 5 seconds, walk 3 minutes, repeat.
3. Slow and steady will win the race. Evaluate yourself in 2 weeks and see if you can start increasing the running intervals by 30 seconds. If not, stay the course and check back in another week. This, grasshopper, is patience. If you are not a ‘runner’ expect running to be hard. Even miserable. Do not let this stop you. I PROMISE if you stick with a consistent training plan you will soon develop a habit that will be hard to break.
4. Educate yourself. Go visit your new BFF’s at the Running Shoe store or drop in to a Race Expo (they are free and open to anyone) and talk to shoe people, race people, pace people, etc. Learn about running, read up about running to get educated and be inspired. I read Runner’s World religiously because it has a mix of hard-core stuff I could never imagine doing and simpler things that I can incorporate into training or diet.
Yay you! You are ready to sign up for your very first race. I could write pages on training for a race but I will keep it very simple.
1. Pick a distance with a training plan that you can manage. If you want to run a marathon (or have been roped into doing one with a very convincing and clever friend) you need to allow for at least 16 to 20 weeks for training with at least 4 runs per week to start, working to 5 or even 6. Mileage each week will climb heavily and a plan that I favor will max me out at 44 miles per week. And that’s a beginner’s plan. See what I am getting at? If you aren’t disciplined enough to manage a long plan, start with a shorter race. 5K’s are a great starting distance as are 10K’s. However – do not let distance scare you. If you have your heart set on a marathon for charity or because you want to run under the Eiffel Tower go for it – but plan for it.
2. Preparation is king! If you are scheduled for a 10 mile long run on a Saturday morning, it’s in your best interest to eat some carbs, a bit of protein and drink water the night before. It’s also advised to eat a breakfast that includes carbs (but nothing too fiber-filled), and again drink water. This is not the time to try a no-carb diet or restrict your food intake to lose a few pounds. The night before a long run is not the time to go wine tasting or do a few shots at the bar with friends. Sure, you can run if you are hungover or hungry but it’s not fun.
3. On race day there are a few things you should try and do to be a good racer.
a. Stick with your pace corral. Racers are assigned starting times (known as corrals) based on the time the runner tells the race he or she expects to finish. A 10K racer who can knock out the 6.25 miles in 45 minutes will be at the front while those who can manage to cross the finish line by noon are in the back. Proper race etiquette is that you stay where assigned so you are neither holding up faster runners or having to dart around walkers. I make this mistake almost every time because I often try and fit in one final potty break before the gun goes off leaving me in Corral 15 when I am supposed to be in 7.
b. Slower runners/walkers on the right, passing on the left. And if you have to stop running or drop from running to walking asap – move over to the right as quickly as you can.
c. Keep some room across the aisle. No judgement because I love to see people of all abilities on a course but walkers are more likely to take up the road with 5 or more people across. This is great for chatting but makes it a pain if we have to dart around them.
d. Keys that jingle jangle, change in your pockets and spitting. All should be banned from any races. Ok – I’ll ease up on the spitting. But if you must spit, do it when you are SURE there is no one to your left or right or directly behind you.
e. Thank anyone who hands you water, cheers for you along the course, throws an orange slice in your direction or otherwise is there for the sole purpose to entertain, smile, feed or provide drinks for you. And when that person drapes your neck with a medal, a space blanket and bends over to cut the timing chip off your shoe, give them a huge smile and try not to throw up on them.
General Rules – by Keli
1. Be joyful! Running is supposed to be a fun thing. The wind in your hair, moving freely through the streets. It’s a good thing. If you are cranky or miserable during or after your runs you are doing something wrong. I see a gal running a few days a week that looks like she’s eating horseradish. Miserable! I thought it was because she was wearing those silly Vibram shoes but she’s back to wearing regular running shoes and still looks angry. “Girlfriend”, I want to scream, “try yoga”.
2. If you run, you’re a runner. If you run fast, you’re a runner, if you run slow, you’re a runner. If you run in races you’re a runner and if you run to stay sane and have no intention of ever doing a race, you’re a runner. There’s no such thing as a jogger.
3. Encourage your friends to come with you. People freak out about pace. Or distance. If you ask your friends to run you’ll hear “I just started”, “I’m not that fast”, “I only run 2 miles”, etc. etc. etc. I like to invite people to go running and let them do their thing. We can run together or if they are wicked fast I’ll tell them to go ahead. Running friends are very good, loyal and entertaining people. Everyone should have a few.
4. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a runner. Run today, run in 2 days, run 2 days after that. Repeat.
5. Stretch yourself. We runners pick running as our #1 activity because you can do it anywhere, anytime, anyplace. But we often go for a run, come home, shower, eat, and go about our day. Running shortens muscles with the constant pounding which can lead to tight muscles and even injuries. Take a few minutes after each run to stretch your quads, hamstrings, hips, glutes and calf muscles. While you’re at it, drop into a plank for 30 – 60 seconds to develop a good strong core.
6. Only runners think running is interesting. My husband is a huge supporter of my running. But I can see his eyes glaze over if I start to get too deep about training, etc. It’s the same look I get when he starts talking about the back 9. “Did you have fun?” I ask. “Yes” he replies. “Great, help me set the table”. I don’t care enough about golf to care what he shot at the 17th tee.
Take from this what you need, throw the rest away. But please feel free to share this information with your runner friends. But only if they run because if they don’t, well, they don’t care.
Now go run!
PS – if you need more information or help planning for and training for an upcoming event please let me know!