I am a runner. Kind of. Well, I was, and I will be.
I have run a marathon, 2 half marathons, a 30k and participated in cross country back in high school. But I haven’t gone for a single run this year. I’m not done with running, I just took a break from it for a little while now and I am going to get back into it come the spring. I work out about 3-4 times a week, mostly strength training with some cardio, which keeps me in shape and then I run when the weather is nicest.
That being said, I have quite a bit of knowledge about running. Let’s get one thing straight: I have never been an athletic person. I don’t enjoy watching or participating in sports. Once I got into high school I wanted to start working out, but I also had terrible anxiety about working out. I joined the gym with a friend, and it took me almost 6 months after that to have the confidence to go for a run outside, alone. I was 16 when I went for my first run. I remember trying to run for the full-length of a song and not being able to.
The treadmill at the gym really helped me with beginning to run because I could adjust the treadmill to have me run for 10 minutes, walk for 5, etc. That’s the best way to start running is to run for as long as you can and then walk, and then run and then walk until you build up the endurance to continuously run for a long period of time.
Then came the half-marathon. I decided to run a half-marathon (21.1 km) and ran my first half marathon at the age of 16, just before turning 17 when I was in grade 12. My time was somewhere around 2 hours 1 minute. I felt good about completing that goal. But I wasn’t done there. My next goal was to run more, I was thinking a marathon but I didn’t feel like I was too close to that goal yet. So I signed up for a 30k and ran that at the age of 17. I ran 30k in about 3 hours and 6 minutes. The 2nd half marathon I did was to try to bring my time down. In training for this half marathon I would run 21.1 km or more all of the time, maybe once a week even, which sounds insane to me even now. My all time fastest speed running it was at about 1 hour and 39 minutes, but the second half marathon officially took me 1 hour and 58 minutes.
My marathon I ran at the age of 18 and my time was around the 5 hour mark. My goal was to run it in 4.5 hours, but it was my first marathon and it was the most I have ever run in my life.
Anyways, I wanted to give some advice to people who want to start running.
In the summertime wear something cool (obviously) like shorts and a t-shirt. I often find that wearing shorts that are tight to the body rather than something like basketball shorts or dolphin shorts work best as they avoid chafing in the inner thighs. Also, try to avoid materials for the shirts like cotton, get something breathable. And SUN TAN LOTION! A hat is also good too, for keeping the sun out of your eyes.
In the winter, do not run when it is too slippery out. Make sure you have good winter shoes. I had a pair of shoes that I ran with in the winter and the snow stuck to the bottom of them creating a snowball effect under my feet. Nike has some nice insulated clothing, I have a few pairs of their yoga leggings that I find are good up to -20 celsius. Wear mittens and a headband as ears and fingers get cold the quickest. Wear sunscreen on your face.
Optional: Running watch
I’ve had a few running watches over the years. I often find I just use my phone anymore because it’s easier and I don’t have to plug my watch into the computer afterwards to look at what I did. I use Runkeeper, most of the time. The only thing I like the watch for is looking at my pace for when I am training myself to run at a certain pace. For starters I don’t suggest you need a watch.
Shoes are your most important tool. I cannot stress this enough. I have trained with shoes that are too small, too big, too flat, too wide and it is so annoying. Go to a locally owned sports store, preferably one that is just running themed, like Active Running on Fisher Street because they will analyze how you step and if you pronate or supinate when you run. Don’t buy cheap shoes. Every pair of cheap shoes I owned gave me shin splints, which you do not want! I used to love minimalistic shoes that made it feel like I was running right on the ground but they were terrible for my legs and ruined me. I had to take off 3 months after cross country was over due to my shoes.
Nutrition is very important for running. Carbo-loading is something that many people suggest to be a good idea and can be done in many different ways. Carb-loading is not the be-all and the end-all. The main advice I can give about this is to do it 2-3 nights before your big race and not to eat anything too big the night before. Your body will react poorly to anything that is a lot more than it is used to, so don’t overload yourself.
I usually ate a banana before my runs because I found it was the best thing to eat without over filling myself.
Another thing I did that many runners did not do is I would take caffeine pills, 200mg. I found this kept be alert during my runs when I felt sluggish before hand. The downside to caffeine is that it does dehydrate you. So make sure to hydrate very well.
Water is important. I would suggest drinking as much water as you can (obviously not too much) to always stay hydrated throughout the day. Drink maybe a cup of water before your run and bring maybe 2 cups of water throughout your run. I often find that water is not necessary for every run I go on. Often I run without water unless I run more than 20km or on a really hot summer day. Here’s a funny thing about water, I often find that people during races drink more water than when they are training. I fortunately did not make that mistake. You should probably not have to go to the washroom at all during your race. Your body should switch fully into run mode and unless you drink a lot during your run, you probably shouldn’t have to go. With all of the cups being handed out at races, people often have to go because they drink too much.
I have never supplemented myself during runs except when running and training for my full marathon. I used squeeze pouches and had one every 45 minutes during my marathon. This is just in order to replenish the carbohydrates you are burning while running.
During my marathon I took 4 pouches with me and my phone for music. That’s it. I hate running belts (I own 3 or 4 of them because I could never find one I liked) and I used my slim one only to hold my phone. My pants I wore during my marathon had zip up pockets and I found it much more comfortable to keep the pouches in there while I ran rather than in a belt. Whatever is the most comfortable for you. I usually just carried a plastic water bottle while I ran because I found it easier than the ones that are in the belts.
Here are my last words of advice:
- Do not over work yourself! Learn your body. If the pain you are feeling in your legs is not muscle pain from a good run, rest. See a doctor if needed. I pushed myself way too hard at times and hurt myself more than I should have.
- Don’t eat junk all of the time. I can’t stress this enough. Obviously the odd cheat meal is fine, but you want to feel good while you run, not like you are about to throw up.
- Be safe. I have been in some seedy situations while running in which I have been followed. Always let somebody know (like roommates, friends or family) approximately where you will be running and when they should expect you back. Always carry your phone.
- Progress comes with time. If you don’t find you are progressing, start writing down what you are doing. Maybe you aren’t pushing yourself as hard as you can go. Maybe you need to add in some extra workouts along with your runs to build up more strength.
- Make small goals like “I want to run 1 km without stopping” or “I want to run for 30 minutes straight” and then move up to the more advanced goals like “I want to run my half marathon in 2 hours”. If you ever do run a race, do not make a goal like that. Make your first goal to be to simply complete it. After my marathon I should have been rejoicing in completing one of my life goals but I was kind of upset I did not run it as fast. It took me a little bit of time to fully soak in that I just completed a marathon and that in itself is something to be proud of.
Good Luck! Of course all of this advice is slightly biased based on my own experiences with running, so research it yourself as well. I hope to see you out there on the pavement this spring.