When I started running in 2012 I knew nothing about running. I didn’t even know I wanted to be a runner. I wanted to run a 5k, because that was impossible and no one could possibly run that far without stopping. (As you can tell I also didn’t know any runners). I downloaded the Couch to 5K app, because I did have one friend who had done that once (Hi Tricia!) and that is where I started. I had a pair of shoes, I won’t even call them running shoes, but they resembled running shoes, and I had some cotton shorts and a cotton t-shirt and off I went, run-walking my way around the neighborhood, desperately hoping no one could see me. Which brings me to tip number one. Get a fitting for proper running shoes. I ran in those awful shoes for months and had so much pain in my ankles and knees that I almost gave up running all together, until I found out there are different kinds of shoes for different kinds of runners. I got fit in a pair of Asics GT 2000’s by Wayne at the now defunct Luke’s Locker, and that pain went away on the first run in them. For the best shoe fitting in Texas go to the Good Times Running Co. in Katy, Texas (also, I now wear Hoka Cliftons, the best shoe ever made).
For my second tip, get some proper clothes. I live in the sweatiest place in the United States and cotton is the devil. Get some tech fabric shirts and tanks, a properly fitting sports bra, and some running shorts. These are essential. Doesn’t have to be expensive, Target has great affordable running clothes. If you live somewhere cold get proper outdoor weather running gear. Pick up some anti chafe product as well, trust me on that one. You won’t regret it.
So there I am doing the Couch to 5K app, following the plan and before you know it I can run for 20 minutes without stopping and the plan is over. Well, what to do now? I kept running, usually every other day, just going around the same 3 mile loop in my neighborhood trying to run it faster than the last time. I used another app on my phone to keep track, it would be about another 6 months before I got my first GPS watch, but every day I would push to be faster. Which is my next tip, number 3. Follow some kind of plan. Running yourself at puke pace every day is not a good idea. I didn’t know about aerobic base, lactate threshold, VO2 max or any of that. I didn’t know there should be variety in your paces and most running should be done a conversational pace. I was just hell bent on breaking that 12 minute mile barrier!! It felt impossible but I was determined! And it did work, I got faster. Soon I was under a 12, then an 11, then a 10, and so on…which is tip number 4. Don’t give up. You will improve, and what feels impossible today will be your easy tomorrow. Not actually tomorrow, but one day soon.
After a few months 5k began to feel pretty easy so I started running 4 miles at a time. And then on one beautiful October day I ran for SIX miles! WOW! Surely no one in the world had run further. You can see I still didn’t know any runners. Which is tip number 5. Find your running tribe! I found mine on the internet. I am what you call a lone wolf, I like to run alone, so I found my people virtually in a long distance runners forum. (I was not a long distance runner, but they didn’t know that). I learned an absolute ton from that group and made some really great friends, many of whom I am still friends with today. In real life! Not just on the internet. My husband started running about 3 months after I did, there was about 5 minutes where I was faster than he was. That was a good five minutes. He is a social runner, (although oddly, not a social person) so he found a running group to go out with a couple times a week. Whatever your jam is, find your people. Runners are incredibly supportive of other runners. They will pick you up when you’re down and celebrate all your PR’s with you. They also like to drink beer in parking lots on Saturday mornings after a long run, which is always fun. Pretty much all reasonably sized towns will have a running club, and big cities will have several to choose from.
In December of my first year of running I decided to run a 5k race. The Gingerbread Jog. I had done a 10K on Thanksgiving, which had felt like the longest run of my life, I was barely up to covering that distance and so just finishing was the accomplishment. But for this 5k I was going to try and “race” it. I didn’t know anything about racing. I was all about just finishing. So my husband, who I was still faster than at that time, said just go all out. As hard as you can. Then hang on for dear life. This was terrible advice. But I did just that. I think I ran the first mile in 7:30, the second in 8:30 and the last in 9:30. Probably the ugliest positive split you have ever seen. I was fairly sure the entire time I was going to die. At the end I nearly passed out. Which is tip number 6. Don’t go out too fast. Not on a training run and not on a race. And back to that point about impossible today is easy tomorrow, I think my average pace on that first 5k was 8:13. I almost died. 5 years later I ran 26.2 miles at almost that exact same pace, 8:19. Nothing is impossible.
Now it’s about 5 months into my running journey and I got this crazy idea to run a half marathon for my birthday which was a few months away. I asked around about a good training plan. If you get a hair brained idea to run a long race, get a good plan or a good coach. I was a very enthusiastic and motivated runner and I followed the plan to a T. Now I’m running probably 5 days a week. I ran my first half marathon for my 37th birthday and shortly after that figured well, I should maybe run a marathon? Because that is impossible. I put my name in for the Houston Marathon lottery and got in. (Spoiler alert, everyone got in). Now I’m running 6 days a week, following a plan, and going up to 50+ miles a week. Which brings me to tip number 7. Don’t overdo it! Like I said, I was very enthusiastic. However, going from literal couch to marathon in about 18 months is asking for trouble. I got injured. That was a painful training cycle. By SLOWLY building to long distance I think a lot of injuries can be avoided. Take your time. If you have a goal to do a marathon, give yourself enough time to safely build to that distance.
There have been so many other things I have learned over the years, how to hydrate and fuel properly for running is a big one. (I used to run up to 16 miles with no water, which is INSANE). I’ve learned about how to properly train and to balance the workouts so there are no wasted miles. How to incorporate strength training. How to pace races properly. But the biggest lessons I think were mostly learned in that first year. Since that first year I’ve now run 10 marathons and am coming up on my 14,000th logged running mile. Running has the ability to transform your life, bring you experiences you would never have have thought possible, and relationships worth their weight in gold. I am so glad I never gave up and never stopped. If you are a new runner stick with it!! It’s worth it.