"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
What were you thinking?! If feels like you’ve been doing this for hours. That stupid stopwatch MUST be broken because it says it’s only been 10 minutes. Lies! Your heart feels like it’s trying to escape your chest. And your lungs? They might have imploded by now actually because they don’t seem to be working anymore. The ER is going to have a field day with you. Don’t trip over your own feet in your exhaustion, you might face plant and the we’d have to add broken nose to your list of injuries. Welcome to the wide world of running!
Sometimes it’s hard to get started with a new activity, or to restart an old one. As of last summer I was a newbie to running. I don’t think I had run more than a mile at one time and felt as if I might expire in the attempt. If you’d asked me to hike though, I’d be happy to knock out 12+ miles in a day. My lack of ability to run was all in my head obviously, since I run 5ks on a regular basis these days. Not the fastest or an expert by any means, I’m sure I’m not alone in this mindset though so I wanted to throw out some tips for the newbie trying to get started.
Get the right gear for the job. If you want to trail run, get a pair of trail running shoes. If you’re going to run on the street, find some road runners. I didn’t have the right shoes when I first started trail running: I tried my hiking boots but they were so heavy and exhausted me, and my street runners attempted to sprain my dainty little ankles on the rocky terrain. Find shoes that fit well and have the right tread and style for what you want to do. Ask around when you go into shoe stores if you aren’t sure what you need.
Find a friend. Running with a partner has a way of pushing you beyond what you thought you could do. Let them encourage you to make it another quarter mile when you feel like quitting. Make sure your friend is patient and willing to help out if they’re a more experienced runner than you are. And that brings me to the next tip…
It’s not a competition. When you first start running you have to keep in mind that it’s not a contest. It’s not. This especially applies if you’re a competitive person. You’re new to this, cut yourself some slack, don’t compare, and don’t beat yourself up. That’s self-sabotage and it won’t get you anywhere. I used to compare myself to my running partner, BF. He’s taller, stronger, and faster. And he’s been running for much longer. I’m a work in progress and I have to give myself a break. I’m 5’1″ and have a 28″ inseam (i.e. the leg length of a dachshund), I’m NOT going to be as fast as him. When it’s time for a race, you can compete all you want. Right now though, the only person you have to beat is yourself. When I first started running my favorite loop it tooks me 35 minutes to knock out the measly 2.6 miles. Speed walkers could outpace me. I’ve got it down to 27 minutes now. Other people are still faster but I’m beating my old records.
Find your pace and your pace will find you. I’ve heard runners talk for years about their “pace” and never could understand what the heck they were talking about. That’s because it’s something you’ll discover over time. You’ll find a stride and step speed that is unique to you as you continue to run. You may not see this for the first few weeks but it will emerge. And once you’ve found a pace you can maintain, you’ll notice that your pace changes. Your stride will lengthen, you pace will pick up. Your pace finds you when you run consistently.
Push it. Not to say that you should push yourself to injury – listen to your body. But there is something to be said about pushing through those barriers of what you think you can do. Set a goal and stick to it. You want to run 2 miles, don’t stop and don’t walk – run! Go that extra half mile just to see if you can. This is the time where you’ll really grow and see progress. Those mental barriers, that voice that says you can’t do it? Don’t listen to it! Does it feel like your stomach has disconnected from your intestines? That’s normal, that’s ok. Don’t stop. Don’t think about the pain, think about the goal and how good it will feel to finish strong.
Find places where you love to run. One of my favorite spots is along a gorgeous lake. There’s a 2.6 mile loop around the lake, some of it flat, some of it in woods with mild hills. It’s beautiful, peaceful, and encourages my imagination to wander as I run. If music helps you run, use that to keep your head in the game. Do what it takes to make running an enjoyable experience – soon enough you’ll fall in love with it on it’s own merits.
Most important tip: Smile!