Psshh, I thought. Running isn’t easy. Then I read the article and realized that maybe Active.com just needs a better headline writer.
The ten steps are all reasonable and relatable. Some I wish I had seen when I began running.
Motivation: It’s the number one entry in the top 10 list. For all the runners I know the typical motivations include losing weight, pushing one’s limit, getting to brag endlessly about how badass distance runners are, developing a social network, or finding stress release. My motivations changed over time. When I started seriously running at 33 it was three years after I quit smoking, put on weight, and promised to get back into shape by the time I was 35. Somewhere in there I realized I was going to need a goal to stay committed to huffing it down sidewalks near my work on hot summer afternoons.
Goals: I made two concurrent goals when I got serious about running. The first was more realistic than the other. In August of 2010 I marked my calendar to run my first 5K in early October. The second was running my first half marathon two weeks after that. Looking back, for a guy who smoked for 12 years and was never athletic, the latter was a bit insane. Somehow though, with a Nike plus training calendar and a pair of old black-and-silver Nike tennis shoes, I met both goals with good results. I came in first in my age group for the 5K. (of course there was only myself and another runner in that inaugural Race for Shelter 5K’s 30-35 age group.) And I did better than just finishing the half marathon, another inaugural race that was pretty much just an out-and-back on a relatively flat course.
Getting fitted: This is really where I wish I had Active.com’s list when I started. Remember the shoes part? It wasn’t until after the half marathon that I went to the running store to get fitted for shoes. The salesman laughed when he saw the Nike’s I wore to run in. The soles were so worn, the shoes so non-running specific, the guy made me promise to never wear them again. The shoes I left with were Brooks Ghost 3s. I went through two pair of Ghost 3s as I trained for my first marathon and purchased Ghost’s 4s and 5s for marathons two and three. I’ve also tried other brands of running shoes with mixed results. Getting the right shoe may be the most important thing any new runner can do for themselves.
Getting a plan: I don’t see how anyone serious about running cannot have a plan. For years I would go the gym, get on the elliptical machine, or huff out the few occasional miles on a dreadmill with no real results. Having something written down to measure myself against, or adhere to is the only way for a guy like me to go and produce results. I know this because when I don’t have a marathon I’m training for, I’m typically struggling to stay motivated, and healthy. That’s where the Nike calendar came in handy during that first training for the half. And there is a ton of free training resources out there to get started.
Prioritize and let go of judgement: Reading these two steps makes me smile. There was a time where I had to prioritize whether to take a nap or a run. After running long enough, and having a plan, running becomes more of a necessity than a priority, which is a good thing. And I used to worry what others thought of me when they saw me huffing it down a sidewalk. Now I just accept I look really, really bad, like I look like I’m in a lot of pain bad when I’m out there running.
Finding company: One of the ten steps emphasizes finding company when you start. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see this one when I started out. For me, that first race training schedule, when I became a runner, I ran alone. I knew I was committed to my new fitness goal, not a group, or motivated by guilt. Granted, I don’t know if I could have trained for my first full marathon alone, but I don’t necessarily think groups need to be over-emphasized if you’re training for a 10K or a half. I find something peaceful about the solo run. Now I’m interested to see how well I do the weekly long runs this spring when work prevents me from going out with others to do them. Somehow, being away from the group from time to time removes the sense of competition I get running with others and let’s me just focus on me.
Listening to your body and eating for fitness: Well, I think I’ve covered the eating for fitness part earlier. I still need all the help I can get with that part as a sausage calzone sits heavily on my stomach as I write this. The one area I wish I received a stronger reminder early on was the one about listening to my body. I paid for that after my first marathon. Again, going back to the group thing and being stupidly competitive, even in practices, I wish someone would have said, “Hey, it is okay to slow down, and the soreness in those legs, well you might want to check that out.”
Determination: Of course, it was my determination that had me ignore my body in the first place. Determination is also what makes me think labeling a list with “Ten Easy Steps” is silly. There is nothing easy about running that practice run outside in the bitter cold in the dead of winter. No list or simple suggestion can instill the willingness to get out there, at least not for me. Determination has been one of those things I just sort of woke up with one day, or realized I had as I ran on a road where I initially had no desire to be. That’s when I knew I was a runner.