Remember how Sarah talked me into doing Couch to 5K last spring? Remember how I did it and then actually ran a 5k? Yeah, that was pretty big. So big that I thought, “I ran a 5K. I have reached my running pinnacle. Why on earth would I ever run more than this?” It was the pinnacle of running for a non-runner like myself.
Well . . .now, I’m running more than that. In fact, last week I did 8 miles. Next week I’m supposed to do 9.5 miles. In the middle March I’m going to go a full 13.1 miles, in public, with a whole bunch o’ strangers and maybe even get a (participation) medal.
How did this happen? Like it did for Megan, it just kind of happened.
We moved and now there is a beautiful running trail right behind my house. My new home also happens to be in a place where I know virtually no one and I can’t reasonably call anyone I love until 10 am because of the time difference. To top it off, my kids are early risers and the men in my house leave at 7:00 am. Little miss and I had to find something to do. So we ran. Then we ran farther and farther. Then it started getting easier. Then I thought, “Hey, maybe I can actually do this thing.”
Through the course of the last couple of months I have learned a few things. Things that have helped my body that is still working to shed another 50 pounds. I would like to share a couple of very unqualified rules on running for non-runners.
1. The first 1.5 miles are rough. Like really rough. I still feel this way every day. Each time I head out, I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this. My body hurts, this is unnatural, and I hate it.” Once I excepted the fact that I was going to be uncomfortable for at least a mile, things got better. Now, by the time I hit 2 miles I’m in my groove. I’m breathing better and my body seems to have decided that I’m going to keep going whether it agrees or not. Now I’m to the point where I want to run at least 3-4 miles on a normal day because I know I’ll feel good at the end.
2. Ignore your pace. Not everyone will agree with this statement. If you have speed goals, by all means, keep track of your pace. However, if you are like me and you are just trying to make running happen, look for your own rhythm. As you continue, you’ll get faster. When I ran with the jogging stroller, my phone was mounted right where I could always see my pace. It was too much pressure! I worried that I was too slow. I constantly tried to run a negative split or maintain a certain pace. Once I let go of that (by putting my phone in my pocket), I found that my speed was much more natural and I enjoyed it a lot more.
3. Vary your route. If you always run the same route, the scenery will get boring and your body will get bored. Mix it up.
4. Keep your chin up. Mentally keep your chin up. You can do this. Physically keep it up and your form will be better. Stop looking at your phone, feet, stroller, or whatever. Enjoy what is around you. Be aware of your surrounding. It is safer, more relaxing, and a lot more fun.
5. Bring a buddy. Find a running buddy. This can be a friend, spouse, child, or simply a friend on the phone. I’ve found that my long runs are a lot easier if I have someone to chat with. On my last long run, I spent 3 miles talking to my friend Shannon. Not only did it take my mind off the mileage, it helped me maintain a reasonable pace so I wasn’t gasping for breath while talking. If anyone would like to sign up to be a phone buddy during my half, I’m taking volunteers.
6. Walk when your body needs it. I am a HUGE fan of the Jeff Galloway run/walk method. I find that I can go farther and I enjoy it more when I take walk breaks. My body feels better during and after my run. I’m not competing with anyone but myself so as long as I get the miles in, I’m happy.
7. Go hands free. My form is better when I’m not carrying something or fiddling with my phone. See #2 and #4. Plug that single head phone in and let your smart phone do what it is designed to do. I have Runkeeper set to give me my total time and distance at half mile intervals. I don’t have it tell me my pace (even though we all know I quickly calculate it when I hear easy even miles). It helps me be more aware of my surroundings as well.
8. Make a goal with consequences. For me, that was shelling out $100 bucks for a half marathon. Now I have to do it because I don’t want to tell Ben that I wasted the money. Do whatever works for you.
9. Realistically schedule it. I am not a morning person. I say I’ll get up and run a six but my body and brain aren’t really on board. Run when it works for you. Look at your schedule and find the right time. It might be during lunch or after work. Maybe it’s running around the park while your kid is at soccer practice. Find the time that WORKS and put it on the calendar.
10. Do it for you. That means doing it your own way at your own pace. You don’t have to run the same distance or pace as your spouse. Ben runs faster but I run farther. Accomplish YOUR goals. Do you want to be able to run a whole mile? Great! Are you like Erika and want to see how far you can run during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy? Perfect. Maybe you just want to be outside for 30 minutes a day. Do that. Figure out what you need and grab it. Whatever you do, just know that if you are running at all, then you, my friend, are a runner.
Now, I have a toddler to wrestle into a jogging stroller so she can yell at me for the next 45 minutes.