Back in July, I set out on one of the most unlikely adventures of my life to date: I decided to take up running. Don’t get me wrong — I didn’t want to do it, exactly. But modern medical science suggests a girl ought to occasionally flex some muscles other than her brain, and I figured even a fitness-idiot like me could manage to put one foot in front of the other.
Which turned out to be only sort of true.
After some online research, I decided to embark on the Couch-to-5K program. The program is a regiment of interval training, designed to increase your running ability over the course of nine weeks of increasingly jog-heavy walk/run intervals.
My first C25K session called for eight one-minute runs, separated by 90-second walking periods. “Tsh, anyone could do that!” I reasoned. “An infant could do that!”
Halfway through the fourth jog interval, I had to quit. I ended up trudging the rest of the way home, my face burning red from shame, not exertion.
Now, several months — and one mortifying lesson in not pushing your pace way too early in a run — later, I can happily declare the improbable: I am, gosh, kind of a runner. Four mornings a week at 6:30am, come rain, hangovers, or gushing nasal cavity, I strap on my running shoes and pound the pavement. And while I’m still absolutely awful at it, over the past hundred miles, I’ve learned a few lessons I wish somebody had told me before my ill-fated first run:
Other people really don’t care what you look like. Crimson face, fluming snot all over the sidewalk, jiggling’ out of your tanktop, run-dancing to Abba? Nobody cares. The only people who have ever talked to me on runs are other runners — who invariably just smile and go on their own way.
If you don’t know anything about running, make sure you buy shoes from someone who does. Turns out five-year-old generic “sports shoes” that are half a size too snug are just as brutal on your pace as they are on your blisters.
Push through muscle pain; listen to joint pain. For a few weeks there, it sounded like somebody was playing a game of Yahtzee in my left kneecap. No one wants that.
If you’re new to running, don’t push yourself too hard, too fast. Find your own pace and, when in doubt, save some energy for later, turbo. Probably the best advice I’ve ever read on a running forum: commit to spending the last minute or two of your run pushing yourself as fast as you possibly can. Budget your energy accordingly.
Music makes a difference. Both to your mood and, depending on the intensity of said music, your stride. Hellooooooo, showtunes!
You’re a champion for going out there and doing it. Sure, maybe elite runners find peace and elation through their daily run, but for an average dude just trying to go out and do something good for their body? Going out there’s the hardest part. So if you’re getting that much done, be proud of yourself.
I may be the worst runner in the northern hemisphere, but I feel reasonably confident that these few things are true. And I can’t wait to see what lessons I’ll learn during my next hundred miles — and the ones after that, and the ones after that. What running advice would you add to the list?