Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's hilarious when I try to give advice

First - the current exciting training news:

Friday morning I desperately wanted to stay in bed, but dragged myself up to run 7 miles. 

Saturday morning I also wanted to stay in bed, but I was meeting friends so that got me up. I was supposed to do 10 miles, but I got there a little early and its suddenly cold out, so I ran around the block until everyone was ready so I ended up with 11 slow, easy miles. 

Chatting and running with these guys gets me out of bed

A few friends have asked me about beginners tips for runners, so I thought I'd share my thoughts in a post. Before I begin, I'll state the obvious: I'm a simple schoolteacher, have no business giving advice, you should see a doctor, etc, etc. 

As with anything else, a simple Google search will get you tons of expert advice on how to begin running, train for a 5K, or whatever you need, so in the interest of not saying the same thing that's been said a million times already, I thought I'd share how I got into running, and some Dos and Don'ts that I learned along the way.

I credit two close college friends for getting me in to running, and luckily these are still two of my best friends today.

My roommate and BFF Amanda was (is) a runner. 

Moving out, sophomore year
One night, sophomore year, I randomly asked her to "teach me how to run" because I "didn't know how". It's not in her nature to blatantly call someone an idiot, but she somehow nicely got across that there wasn't anything to teach, you just do it. 

She took me on a run around campus, maybe 10 or 15 minutes, probably something around a mile. I could barely walk for days. 

Even back then, I knew how to refuel.
 Apparently I liked it, because I went on to meet a friend for 7am runs (the equivalent of 4am, college time) on the indoor track for the rest of our sophomore year, as well as run around our notoriously hilly campus.

Junior year, I started running with my friend Carolyn  She asked me to run a 5 mile race with her. I'm pretty sure that up until that moment, I had no idea that "races" existed, other than maybe in the Olympics. At the time, 5 miles seemed incredibly far, and I referred to that race as "the marathon". I was terrified, but I survived.
Carolyn and I, sophomore year
 Senior year, Carolyn convinced me to run a 10K (6.2 miles). We decided about a week prior to the race, went on five mile runs twice that week, and then did the race in the freezing temps and snow (racing in upstate NY in February is fun!).
I also ran my entire first marathon side by side with her!

Up until I started training for my first half marathon, five years later, that was the longest distance I ever ran. 

So, I started running at age 19. Up until I was 26, when I got into racing, I did it entirely for exercise and for fun. I had no idea there was any running "equipment" out there, other than sneakers and an Ipod. I didn't know there was special "moisture wicking" clothing. I didn't wear a watch, and the closest I ever got to pacing was to occasionally glance at the clock when I left and when I returned, and if I was running a common route, try to see if the time was any faster than usual. To increase my distance, I'd add a loop through a new neighborhood or run further out on a street, if I felt like it and had extra time. 

If DailyMile existed back then, I honestly don't know if I would have ever stuck with it. My point is, I ran entirely based on how I felt, and just built speed and distance when it felt natural. I wasn't comparing myself with anyone, because I really didn't have anyone to compare to, and even if I did, I had no idea how far I was running anyway!

Fast forward to age 26 - Carolyn mentioned she was running a half marathon (are you noticing a trend here?). I decided if she could, I could, so I signed up for the Baltimore Half Marathon. The two year anniversary of that race will be in two weeks, when I run the full Baltimore Marathon for the second time. In those two years, I've run 5 half marathons, 2 full marathons, 2 ultra marathons, and a bunch of other various distance races, including my first triathlon!

There are a lot of great programs out there for beginner runners, like the Couch to 5K program. My husband started with that, and he's running his second half marathon this month. Personally though, what worked for me was just enjoying running on its own, with no goals, until I felt comfortable with it. I did that for 7 years, obviously, I'm sure a few weeks would be sufficient for normal people.

Although my actions may not show it, I have learned a thing or two in my running. Here's some Dos and Don't.

DO go immediately to a running store and get fitted for shoes. Not Dicks. A real, specialty running store, staffed by runners, where they don't work on commission. 
DON'T run until you make that trip and buy the right shoes for you.
DO take it easy. Lots of people think they "can't" run because they think running = sprinting. Start out running slow enough that you can easily talk your running buddies' ear off. 
DON'T worry about speed. Every new race distance I've trained for, I've only worried about finishing the first time around. Start by building mileage. 
DO find a running buddy. When you buy your shoes, ask about local running clubs. Check Check Facebook. I literally have friends that show up at my house at 5am before work to run, only because I met them in a running group.
DON'T be afraid to meet new people, or think they will all be hardcore runners. Groups vary like crazy in speed. The only reason I heard about and signed up for my triathlon was because I randomly accepted a Facebook invitation to join a bunch of girls that I barely knew to run. 
DO hydrate! Dehydration is a huge fear of mine. Make sure you are drinking water if you are running more than an hour or so.
DON'T think this means you need pricey apparatus. I trained for my first half marathon by driving the routes before I ran them and hiding water bottles in the bushes, because that's how the cool kids do it. Carolyn planned her routes around water fountains.  You can also stick close to home and take water breaks.
DO warm up before your runs, and stretch after. Runnersworld has great stretching idea, and they give visuals!
DON'T run every day. Personally, I run 4-5 times each week, and I used to do cross training before the 50 Miler took over my life. 
DO invest in some moisture wicking clothes, once you decide you love running and want to stick with it. I didn't get my first moisture wicking shirt until the expo before my first half marathon, but if I'd known they existed, I would have long before. 
DON'T run in cotton. It's just gross. Trust me.
DO use Map My Run or Googlemaps pedometer to plan your routes, so you can see how far you are running. For example, if you training plan says run 2 miles, you can put in your address, and plan a two mile loop.
DON'T expect it to be easy. A lot of people seem to think I have a magical power that enables me to run. I don't. I started out barely able to run a mile, and built up slowly over time. Even though I'm training for a 50 mile race, there are plenty of times where I think I'm going to die on a five mile run. You will sweat. You will suck wind. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, just keeping it real. Running isn't easy, but it's great because if you stick with it, you are guaranteed to see progress. And that's a good feeling.
DO listen to Ke$ha. 
DON'T listen to country.
DO sign up for a race! Use or RunningintheUSA to find a race near you - 5K (3.1 miles) is a good distance to start with. 
DON'T wear the race shirt to the race. It's lame.


  1. Nice collection of tips!

    I started out in cotton clothes. They were ok, until we did our track series in the summer when triple digit temperatures hit. We moved to synthetics; that was definitely an improvement.

    I'm hoping to bring Tostitos in the morning. Your appetite for them seemed kind of weak last time, so I'm giving you more lead time to get ready.

    Oh, here's one tip I might add to that list: It's ok to walk! :)

    (I've actually been asked if you are disqualified if you walk during a race -- no, that's absolutely fine.)

  2. I agree with you - don't wear this year's race shirt in the race - it is lame! Previous years' shirts - yes.

    I particularly love the one about when you run a distance for the first time - don't worry about time - just completing it!!! That's been my mantra for the marathon that will happen TODAY!!!! :)

  3. definitely DON'T listen to country. I would also say "DO buy body glide."

    My beginning distance running was the same as you, just running around campus for the heck of it.

  4. I started running at age 54. You young pups can do it if I can. :-)

    My running started after a five-day stay in the hospital with a perforated ulcer. After that I was sucked into the claws of the medical system (before that I never went to the doctor unless I had an ear infection or something), and I decided it was time to start taking care of my self.

    I bought an exercise bike, and being the compulsive engineer type that I am, I got a heart rate monitor and made the whole thing into a project. At one point, my exercise bike broke, so I decided to run some while figuring out whether to repair or replace the exercise bike. To my surprise, it turned out that even slow running (barely more than a brisk walk) raised the heart rate way more than using the exercise bike.

    Once I was running, I signed up for a race so that I'd have a deadline and it would be harder not to run when I didn't feel like it (and believe me, there will be times when you don't feel like it). Being an introvert, I was very surprised to find that I enjoyed the whole race experience! The energy and adrenaline from the other runners is amazing (although be careful, the adrenaline can make you run faster than you should).

    I started running at the end of May 2007, and ran my first race in October of 2008 (the half marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival). I went on a binge running lots of halfs, 10-milers, 10k's, 5k's, etc.

    I ran my first full marathon in Baltimore in October 2010 (I think this was Alyssa's first as well, but I might be mistaken). I ran my second full in March at the National Marathon in DC. I'll be running my third in Baltimore in two weeks. And in a display of questionable judgement, I'm signed up for the Fire On The Mountain 50k two weeks after that in Green Ridge State Forest in Alleghany County.

  5. Woah, I'm with you on everything except no country! If you ever lose a bet with me, I'm making you go on a run with my iPod. Hahahaha!

    I loved your running backstory, especially the old pictures. :)

  6. I enjoyed this post! & the old pics of us. Wow- I looked like a chipmunk! I also listen to country at times while running- a few good songs about honkeytonk are good for me sometimes. Also, another tip- don't say you're thinking of doing the marathon when you just want to do the 5K (often heard for the Baltimore running festival). Do a little research on the distances before you start to tell others you're training for the longest one. Not trying to sound mean, just helpful. I miss running with you- we need a running date! one day this week?

  7. Great tips! I wish I would have read something like this when I started running.

  8. OMG!!!! you made me laugh so hard my abs hurt1!!!! You are the best running buddy I could have found---dont even remember how we started talking, but best day ever---you keep it real, you motivate me in at 5 a.m., like how I met your mother and have an awesome blog! I hate to be lame for you but my play list has country in it...LOL

  9. Thanks for sharing these tips with me. I need to look up a 5K training plan and get my ass in gear. I have a pair of Asics running shoes I bought a year ago and wore like twice... so I think I will start with those and then if I decide running is gonna be something I do more often, I will do as you suggested and head to my nearest running store.

  10. I like your Dos & Donts, especially this one:
    "DON'T expect it to be easy. A lot of people seem to think I have a magical power that enables me to run. I don't...." etc.

    I did a 3k as my first race! With my husband! (1 of only 2 races we have ran together) My plan was to do that one to see how this whole "race" thing worked before my big first 5k 3 months later.


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