I don’t know why it took me 42 years to realize that I was a runner, but it did. Like many of us, I was busy with life, and it left little time for me. However, life has a way of settling down, and when mine did, I decided that I would run. I didn’t just want to go out for a jog a couple of times per week—I wanted to accomplish a goal that I had contemplated many times before, but was too afraid to admit. I wanted to run a half marathon. I had absolutely no idea how I was going to run such a long distance, but a good friend suggested that we figure it out together, and we did it. What I realized, the day of our half marathon, is that running a race isn’t really about just running. Anyone can run, if they find what motivates them, and overcome their personal obstacles—whether it’s their weight, an injury, lack of support, or time constraints.
If you are thinking about hitting the trails, there are a few things that I have learned that can make accomplishing your running goal a reality instead of just a dream.
Find your support
The first important thing that I learned is to share your goal with someone—a friend, a family member, or even a co-worker. Even if you’re just starting to run for the exercise alone and are not going to run an actual race, they will be able to support you by asking how it’s going. If you do sign up for a specific event, be sure to tell your support system exactly when your race will be. You will be amazed at how many people remember that you’re training for a race and will ask how you are progressing. I recommend going one step further and find a training buddy. My running partner and I met while we were volunteering at our children’s school. We were merely acquaintances back then, but our friendship has grown stronger with each training run and race we finish. It’s best to start running with someone that is at a similar level—that way you’re both comfortable with the training and will most likely have the same goals and expectations. Running with a friend is also an excellent way to have extra accountability. There are always going to be roadblocks: a family or work obligation, less than desirable weather, or just plain fatigue. It’s surprising what you can overcome when you know someone is counting on you to get in that early morning run.
Programs and apps
If you don’t have anyone right now willing to take on the challenge with you, it’s ok! There is an entire community online willing to help. If you’re a beginner and are looking to start running, you may want to consider a “couch to 5K” program. This is a program specifically designed to have you up and running a 5-kilometer race (3.1 miles) in about eight to ten weeks. You start out slowly, with a walk or jog warm up, adding a short run each time you train, which is usually three or four times per week. The remaining days of the week are for rest or cross training, which could be hiking, swimming, biking or lifting weights. The goal is to build up to thirty minutes of continuous running. One of the most popular online programs is called “C25K” (which stands for “couch to five K.”) You can access the information on their website or you can download the free app, which is a great tool. Each day of the program begins with an inspirational quote to get you started with a positive mindset. It gives you a specific workout for that day and talks you through it, from warm up to cool down. If you’re more advanced, you can use the internet to find a workout plan for the specific race you intend to run, and you can use an app that tracks that workout. Two highlyrated apps are “Nike+ Run Club” or Under Armour’s “Map My Run.” Both allow you to simply press ‘start’ and it will track your distance, time, speed, and calories burned. They also allow you to share your progress through various outlets on social media, such as Facebook.
Once you’ve decided that you are going to hit the road and tackle a running goal, you will need some gear. Just like any sport, there are many different items that you think you may need. But if you ask any runner what their most important piece of equipment is, chances are they will say it’s their shoes, and I couldn’t agree more. I have had lots of problems with my feet, including two surgeries, and I cannot run any distance without my orthotics. But a good pair of shoes can ease the impact of running on your feet and make it enjoyable, even if you’ve had problems in the past. I suggest going to a local running shop, where you can have your stride evaluated and shoes fitted specifically for you. It may seem like a bit of an investment, however there is nothing worse than sore feet during a run. And more importantly, a great pair of shoes will prevent other injuries to your legs, hips and back.
With spring on the horizon, you may be thinking about how you’d like to get fit for the warm season ahead. Or perhaps months of cold weather have given you “the blahs” and you need a boost of energy to make it through the remaining weeks. It could be that you just need to finally challenge yourself, like I did. Whatever the case may be, running could be the answer. There is rarely a day that I don’t come in from a run feeling better than when I left. If you are considering running that 5K, 10K, half or even a full marathon, simply grab your shoes and go. Don’t hold yourself back, and don’t let anything keep you from crossing that finish line!