How I Became a Runner

Running my first half marathon this upcoming weekend is kind of a big deal for me. You see, I’m a self-proclaimed non-runner. Even when I ran cross country in high school, I was a non-runner. I was the second slowest yet still Varsity thanks to a super tiny school.

I’ve always struggled with running – both physically and mentally and those are probably related.

Rhody Run Official Picture

{Rhody Run 12k May 2011}

Any time I’ve tried running in the past, I’ve been susceptible to shin splints (constantly plagued me playing soccer and trail running) and plantar fasciitis, not to mention my cardiovascular system has never really been on par.

Part of my issue with running was that I would (and still do) constantly compare myself to others. I really beat myself up over running; I just don’t know what it is about this sport. But I’ve seen it as a challenge – a hurdle that I greatly wanted to overcome. Over the course of the past 5 months that I have started running, I’ve found what works for me and what has gotten me to the point where I can (almost) say, “I am a half marathoner.”

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{Run Wild 5k Sept 2008}

1) Limit running to 3-4 times a week. Disregard any running program that has me running more than that. It just ain’t gonna fly with my body. Maybe this will change as my body adapts more but I’m not ready to test it.

2) Have good shoes. Getting properly fitted running shoes made a world of difference. Also, not wearing heels to work and wearing good walking shoes has helped immensely.

3) Slow down. Learning to pace myself so I could actually run for longer was really difficult for me – especially since a lot of the time I am running with super speedy husband. If I just take it down a knotch, I find that I am quite capable of doing longer distances. It’s hard to ignore the stopwatch but it has to be done.

4) Run outside. When I first started running, I hit the treadmill. And I was miserable. I could barely get through a mile. The stagnant gym air is awful and steady pace and incline are incredibly boring and tedious. I’d rather be hitting the hills in my neighborhood – what goes up must come down so there is always a fun downhill to make up for the atrocious uphill.

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5) Gradual increases. This pertains to weekly mileage and the weekly long run. I generally stuck to the rule of thumb of not increasing weekly mileage by more than 10%. And with my weekly long run, I started out early on by only increasing it by half a mile each week. Going from 4 to 4.5 miles was much easier to chew than 4 to 5. But once we completed Rhody Run (7.46 miles), we jumped by miles – 8 to 9 to 10.

6) Stick with it. Our 9 miler (I think) was disastrous. I was an emotional train wreck and was sobbing and hyperventilating half the time. It was one of my slower long runs but I still managed a 12:20 pace but I was convinced during the run that I had made a huge mistake by signing up for the half. There is no way that I could do this. The following week, we did a 10 miler and it was fantastic. We hit a great trail and even though it was pretty hilly for a couple miles, I was really positive and enthusiastic and feeling great and managed an 11:27 pace which is right around where I was hoping to be at for the half, pace-wise. Moral of the story? You’ll have shitty runs. But they won’t all be shitty.

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{Original training plan, probably followed 80%. Click to enlarge.}

7) Rest up. This goes hand in hand with #1. I had to take a full rest day after a long run. Sometimes two days. There ain’t no shame in that game. I even took a full week off and skipped a long run to ward off my plantar fasciitis. I could tell I was having a flare up so I stretched, iced, rolled my feet, and kept off my feet as much as possible. By the time my feet were ready to rock and roll, I was itching to get back out to run. Who am I?

8) It’s ok to walk. I walk a lot. Especially at the top of big hills that are rampant in our area. And sometimes I walk even when there isn’t a hill. I walk for water. I walk to catch my breath. I walk to take in the scenery. And I’m okay with that. I’m not racing anyone but myself here. At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t even run a mile so I started with intervals. I’m not rigid with intervals anymore but I do understand the benefits of stopping to walk a bit. It reenergizes you and can actually make you faster.

9) Cross train. I’m not a cardio queen so my cross-training entailed of pumping iron. It made me feel strong and I knew that I was strengthening my knees and back and that would make me a better runner.

10) Don’t take it too seriously. If you aren’t enjoying it at all, it isn’t worth it. I liked getting outside and challenging myself and spending time with my husband and dog. The actual running itself? Not my favorite thing. But that feeling of accomplishment after the first time you run for an hour or the first time you run a sub 10:00 mile or the first time you hit double digits? Yeah, that’s worth it.

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12 Responses

  1. I love this post. Your right about everything! Excited for your half this weekend! You will love it.

  2. I just completed my first half at the end of May after unsuccessfully training last year. I totally agree with all your points! We are not all born runners, but these steps make it possible.
    It is really hard not to compare yourself to others, I struggle with this all the time. My pace is still all over the place and I feel slower after training for distance – but I always do the best I can on any given day. That’s all you can ask of yourself.
    Good luck this weekend, you are going to love it. It’s kind of surreal when you realize what you are doing!

  3. Such good advice! I totally agree with all of it. Good luck this weekend! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  4. Great post. I am a new(ish) runner and agree with this. Best of luck this weekend!

  5. Good luck on your first! How exciting!

    I have to be careful with how much running I do. I am prone to injury. 😦 Swimming is my first love and cycling is slowly nudging running out of second place.

  6. I’m excited for you! This has motivated me to go out for a run. I like it but really struggle with it and have been putting it off for awhile.

  7. Good luck this weekend! This post really inspires me. I’m trying to run more too and I’m struggling with shin splints and learning to better use a foam roller and all that jazz. It’s tough but it’s worth it, I think. I can’t wait to see your follow up post after the run!

  8. I love these tips and reminders. You can never hear them enough!

  9. Good luck this weekend. My sister in law started with halfs then full then tri`s and has now added the ironman to her resume. She just loves it. I am on a path to a better lifestyle and end goal is running. I used to run alot but never competitively. I admire those of you who do. It takes some serious dedication. Can`t wait to hear how it goes.

  10. Good luck this weekend! It sounds like you’re more than prepared, and your advice is spot-on, so I’ll just offer one other piece of advice: remember to thoroughly enjoy the race. You’ll never get your first half marathon back, and it’s such an accomplishment, so drink it in! 🙂

  11. Loved this post. I usually try not to run unless someone large is chasing me, but this post made me want to get back into it. Can’t wait to hear your follow-up post about the half!

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