I won’t profess on here to know any great secrets. I’ve been a casual runner as long as I can remember, but really only started increasing my distance and training in the last two years. With that caveat – here are a few tidbits I’ve learned along the way:
1.Become a Groupie
Running is generally thought of as a solo sport. However the longer you run, the lonelier the miles can become if it’s just you and Mr. Garmin everyday. Throughout my early running life, and while training for my first half marathon, I was a solo’er. It was during my first real race that I noticed this magical thing: everyone was running with a buddy. I wanted in on this. After that race, I went looking for running friends (it was as desperate as it sounds). I signed up for the speed and tempo runs with Nike Run Club, and also discovered a local running group that ran an hour long out and back every Saturday morning, ending at Starbucks with coffee and talk of training plans, negative splits (wtf ?!), goal races and how to master the inevitable snot rocket. The more I learned, the more I realized there is so much more to running than simply putting one foot in front of the other. Having a couple groups to join has meant flexibility with more options for runs and workouts, and motivation on those cold 530 a.m. mornings to bundle up and hit the pavement with a (sometimes forced) smile. I’ve become a faster and better runner because of my new found friends, been out to trails I never would have ventured to on my own, and it keeps this whole running business fun.
2. Non-runners are going to think you’re a bit *off* and that’s ok
In the early days, when I mentioned that I was heading out on a jog (a term I now realize is running sacrilege) no one thinks twice. But once your runs start creeping up in distance – 8k, 10k, wait you are going to run 21k?! People start giving you that look with the scoff followed by the inevitable “but whyyyy?” Just know, that once you sign up for a marathon, you’re a goner, my friend. It’s really, really difficult to convince your non-runner friends and fam that you actually look forward to your long runs and that eating only squeezable slimy sugary goop after 20k in 100 degree weather followed by a swish of luke warm water that tastes like BPA is refreshing and gives you the boost you need to finish your final kms. Don’t worry. Stop trying. Go chat with your new found groupie friends.
3. Don’t force your non- runner boyfriend/friends/co-workers/family to join you for a run
Even if you swear it will be a short, slow one (because don’t they know you’re tapering?!) – just don’t. You can ask once, non-chalantly, as if you haven’t secretly been hoping for the day they’ll see the running light, but if they are anything less than absolutely thrilled that you’ve asked them to join you on your most soul-searching of daily events. Peace. Out. See number 1 above re finding your own running squad who you don’t have to spend the whole time convincing them how much fun they’re having and save your breath for your next tempo run.
4. Running may not have the weight loss effect you expect
Before I get into this to much I will admit that I have never really struggled with weight (although of course I complain from time to time) and have been the same weight give or take 8lbs since highschool despite the daily exercise and different torture routines I’ve subjected myself to over the years. When I decided to sign up for a marathon, I thought I would instantly have the waif-like Taylor Swift’like physique. Once I started logging longer distances I became hungry ALL. THE. TIME. Co-workers have noticed I am snacking all day, my lunches are buffets and my stomach groans are border-line inappropriate. Be warned, and be ready. I had to up my healthy, power-packing snack game big time. Not surprisingly, the number of pizza slices I consume on a weekly basis is increasing directly with my weekly distance totals.
5. Running ain’t cheap.
Those spiffy watches displaying your pace/cadence/distance/heart rate/number of hair ties you’ve lost, new shoes every few hundred kilometers (and different ones of various cushioning for long runs/short runs/trail runs), hydration packs, sunglasses, running socks, warm winter wear, cool summer wear, race entries, snacks for your race crew, running magazines, gels, clif bars, electrolytes…. that $$hit adds up. Whoever said “running is cheap’ let me in on your secret.
6. There’s more to running than just running
A strong core (not just your abs, but your back, butt, thighs etc) is all necessary to avoid injuries, stay strong and keep improving. I used to do a lot of body-weight exercises, and the more miles I log, the more these exercises fall to the wayside. Making an effort to incorporate both makes a big difference. I try to do at least one full strength exercise with plyometrics, ab and strength work once a week, and I do find stretching (dynamic before, static after) really helps keep me from turning into creaky Old Lady Bell. Also, to run well you need to rest well. It sounds counterintuitive, but laying off your legs on your scheduled rest days and catch your zzzz’s totally pays off.
7. Despite No. 5 – Invest in your feet
Without fail, every time I go to try on new running shoes, I actually just have to pick the ugliest ones on the wall, and those will WITHOUT A DOUBT be the ones that are suggested for me. This is a True Fact. As I (slowly) transition from a stability shoe to a more neutral shoe, my options are getting better, sort of. Lesson: DO NOT BUY A SHOE BASED ON LOOKS ALONE. Get your foot assessed, don’t assume your real-life shoe size is the same size your running shoe will be ( I am typically a full size up, making me a ski-sized 9.5). Try them all on, don’t be intimated. Run with them on a treadmill and return them if you have to. You are going to spend a lot of time in them – so spend the time making sure they’re just right. Goldilocks those babies.
8. I don’t love it every damn time
I am a completely happier person and what I assume a delight to be around during and after a run. Most days. Other days, as I’m warming up and taking those first few steps, I can’t actually imagine how I will move my feet any faster, or run longer than a few hundred meters. That’s ok. I’ve learned running is hard, and each run can feel like a completely different animal. On my hardest days, I bargain with myself- “just do 3kms, if it is as absolutely horrible after 3km as you think it’s going to be, pack it in.” Guess what? I can’t remember a time I turned around at the 3km mark. It may not have been my most enlightening time on my feet but I ALWAYS feel better when I’m done, than if I skipped it. That old cliché about the hardest part is getting started? Totes true.