Running is great. But! It took me three years from zero to running half marathons. These were my hurdles and how I overcame them.
Running hurts. No surprise here. When running, your legs endure more pressure than they are used to. Knees hurt, ankles hurt, pelvis hurt. Pain galore. One option is to give up, and conclude running is not for you. The good news is, that this pain is temporary. I’m not advocating to push through. Listen to your body, run less, walk more, run slower.
Everyone can run a few kilometers. You can even run a few times a week. The problem is, that your body can’t handle this stress a for weeks in a row. During running your body breaks down, and without enough time to recuperate, there comes a moment when your body has had enough. Without warning, all of a sudden something snaps, and you’re injured. Running is for the patient people. That’s probably why it took me a long time to get into it.
How I did it: I joined a running club. They had an excellent group for newbies like me. With proper warm-up & cool-down, training schedules, a fun trainer and to top it off: a masseuse.
My first run was an embarrassing 1.5 kilometer. Half way, I walked twice. Not good, not fun. Especially in comparison to a friend of mine who ran 5 kilometers out of the blue. I was not a couch potato. I would even say I was sporty.
People who play soccer, or other running related sports have an advantage. I played recreational volleyball with some 50 year olds, and went to the climbing gym twice a week. Getting to 5 kilometer took me three whole months. I am actually fine with that. Not being able to run far is ok. Running is an endurance sport. You need to build up endurance slowly. If you have never played chess before, you will lose every game too. Same principle.
How I did it: I got a copy of Evy’s Start to Run (similar to C25K). This running program has audio motivation and music at the right pace. I printed the training schedule and taped it to the refrigerator door.
There is a lot of debate about shoes. Some even promote run bare foot. Although the consensus is, that bare-foot-running is only for the more experienced runners. And even they need to start over again: taking it slow, like a beginner.
So many people, so many feet, so many running styles. The right shoes supports you the right way. And this can only be tested by actually running. Not in the store. If you buy one pair a year, it is virtually impossible to buy the right shoes without expert advice. The difference between the right and the sort-of right shoe can be the difference between pain and no pain. Trust the experts and keep in mind that the experts know everything about the average feet, but nothing about your particular feet.
How I did it: I always go to a proper running store with experts and have my running analyzed on video. I had my feet measured, and got a special inner sole. Since then, I run injury free.
Once you get to that magical 5 kilometers, it’s time to go further and faster. This however takes practice. And a boat load of it. Some people only run one 10 kilometer per week. Others need more practice, like two or three runs a week. Certainly when getting to 10k, or going for 15k. Running consumes a lot of time. Three to five hours a week, easily. Apart from that, running for 1,5 hours can be really boring.
Running needs to fit your schedule. For parents with young children, or worker bees with demanding jobs, training can be hard to fit in. The great thing however is, that running is very flexible. You only need yourself, your running shoes, and a shower afterwards. If you want, you can make it work!
How I did it: I use RunKeeper to track my runs. I compare them with previous runs, and get motivated by my friends. Fortunately my girlfriend is a runner too, so in the weekend we do the long runs together.
I have friends who run more than an hour on merely a cup of coffee. I can’t. When running long distances I meet the man with the hammer. And he hits me hard. I get cranky, want to stop running, go home, and eat hamburgers for the remainder of the day. For proof, ask my girlfriend. While running, the body consumes energy. So you need to stock up before the run. And replenish: after, but also during. The effects of adding energy while running can be dramatic.
Eating something fat before running can also be dramatic. Shoot me an email if you wish to hear some gore stories. To cut a long story short: no fat right before of after a run. They giving you pain in the side of your body.
How I did it: I am experimenting a lot with food: pre, during and post. During long runs, I bring supplements from a brand called SIS. I plan long runs along water taps.
In my grandfather’s days, running was easy. You just ran. Perhaps you looked at the church clock to check your time, but that’s it. Nowadays, that’s hopelessly detached from our digital life. We ‘need’ to bring a phone, headset, water belts, supplements, heart rate monitor, watch, reflective clothing, and what more. All this gear is not necessary of course. And as a matter of fact, it gets in your way.
That being said, it is great fun to track your run on a GPS, and add the measurements of a heart rate monitor to RunKeeper. The reflective shirt is a must when running in the dark. And here we go. We turned our run into a happening.
How I did it: I got a good tight fitting pair of running pants (long and short), with pockets to hold my phone and supplements, and a reflective t-shirt to wear over my running sweater. I don’t wear a vest.