Thursday, 22 April 2010

getting started

My friend Julie asked me how to get started running. I gave a cheeky answer:
Lace up your shoes. Go out the door. Run.
I forgot the first step actually, which is to believe in yourself.  I started running regularly in the late fall of 2008. In what seemed like a fit of madness at the time, in December 2008, I signed up for a  10k race through my gym, which was offering a weekly group run to train for the race over three months.  I could not have imagined that I would run a marathon. Ever.  I enjoyed the 10k race so much, I continued to set bigger and bigger goals.  Every time the schedule called for me to run further than ever before, I had to break down a mental barrier and open my mind to the possibility and then the reality that I could do it.

Need help finding a race?  Check out the Guide to marathons.

My friend Tom put together a great list of tips for beginners on his blog, Running my way thin.  Some other resources I found helpful:

Jeff Galloway's website and books offer a wealth of information, training schedules and advice.  I have enjoyed Jeff's e-coaching program over the last year. Jeff teaches a philosophy of enjoying every run and trains runners conservatively to avoid injury.

Hal Higdon offers a free learn-to-run course with instructions delivered by email.  Here's his website.

I run three times a week. In the beginning, I was suffering from knee pain. Jeff recommended limiting the frequency of my runs. I've eliminated the knee pain by increasing my leg strength (squats, lunges, weight loss) and taking regular walk breaks.  I also prefer running barefoot on hard-pack trails.  However, when the weather got cold, I put my shoes back on. I went through 3-4 pairs of different brands before I found some that worked. I really like Mizuno Wave.

Keeping a training log helped me watch my progress.  Gmap pedometer can tell you how far you ran. Map My Run is also a great free resource and offers an on-line training log.   I treated myself to a Garmin GPS watch last fall. It's helped my training a lot, since it provides me with pacing information.

The last point I wanted to offer is to keep going.  Often I find the first 20  minutes of a run are uncomfortable. Walking 5-10 minutes first seems to make the transition from sitting still to running easier.  But sometimes it seems like my legs forgot how to run during the first 15 minutes.  I think a lot of people quit running too soon. When I press on, my body adapts and I start to really enjoy it.  I've found the sweet spot for my running is longer than 45 minutes. 90 minutes is even nicer.  If you decide to train for a marathon, I recommend following Jeff Galloway's advice and running the full distance at a much slower than race pace.  I think it would have made my marathon easier if I had been able to complete the last long run (42). Every time I've run further than ever before, my body knew when I stepped into "new territory" and that part of the run is easier next time.

Good luck and enjoy every run!

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