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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