*Disclaimer* As I’ve finally taken the plunge and booked myself onto a Leadership in Running Fitness course, I decided to list the “things” that I wish I’d known before I started running. An hour later I had thought of more than 50 useful (?) hints and tips. Please note that all of the below are my personal hints and tips. Although I have been running for over 10 years I do not think that I’m an experienced runner*
1. Running can be inexpensive and simple. When I started running I bought a decent pair of trainers and a sports bra. I was kitted out for under £100. The obsession with having to own the latest GPS device came later. Luckily it didn’t take me long to realise that owning the latest gadgets and gear wouldn’t make me a better runner.
2. You don’t have to enjoy every run. As a runner it’s okay not to love every single run. I can guarantee that even the most experienced runners have the occasional crap run. It’s also okay to want to quit and to abandon a run after a mile. I promise that if you train consistently, running does eventually get slightly easier.
3. It’s acceptable to take walking breaks. The training sessions in the first weeks of the Couch to 5K training plan incorporate walking breaks. At the moment most of my training sessions incorporate walking breaks. If you feel you need to take a walking break during a training run, try slowing down slightly. If you still need to walk, then please take a walking break. Don’t feel like you have failed because you needed to walk.
4. Stay away from the hard stuff. Avoid running on pavements and roads as much as possible. I used to spend hours pounding the local roads and pavements. I inevitably got injured (hello shin splints). Be adventurous and explore local parks and run on the trails. I now believe that roads are for racing and trails are for training.
5. Ignore niggles at your peril. Although I still struggle to differentiate between aches and real injuries, I have learnt that if my foot/groin/leg is consistently painful, then it’s time to take a break from running. I have also learnt the importance of warming up before, and cooling down after a run. I took me a while to realise that collapsing onto the sofa immediately after a run was not very smart.
6. Rest is important. If you feel tired then take a day or two off from running. Please don’t feel guilty if you miss the occasional training session. It took me ages to realise that quality is more important than quantity of training. There are no prizes for destroying yourself and ending up on the injury step. Junk miles are just that; junk.
7. Comparison is the thief of joy. It took me a long time to stop comparing my running achievements to the achievements of others at my running club. At times it felt as if everyone else was running further and faster. Ignore the Strava and twitter feeds and concentrate on your own achievements. You are doing fine.
8. You don’t have to complete a marathon. Like many new and enthusiastic runners I was obsessed with completing the London marathon ASAP. Some of the best runners I know have no intention of attempting to run the marathon distance. While on the subject of marathons London isn’t the only marathon. I have heard that Manchester, Brighton and numerous other towns and cities offer great ballot-free alternatives.
9. Race photographs are generally expensive & unflattering. I paid £19.95 for the above extremely unflattering photo of me during a 10k in London. I have no idea what made me part with my cash. Race photos taken at larger events are generally overpriced and many, in my experience, are unflattering. Last October I shared some of my most unflattering race photos here. It took time, but I eventually reached the conclusion that it’s perfectly acceptable to look less than perfect in race photos.
10. Running is meant to be enjoyable. Although I sometimes struggle to leave the house when the weather is rubbish, I’ve rarely regretted heading out for a run. Running alone is great, running with other likeminded people is even better. So join a running club, I wish that I had joined my local running club sooner.
Have I missed out anything? What do you wish you had know when you started running?