only help my unbelief

How to start running
January 8, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Posts

Just so no one gets confused, this is not a post on how to keep running. Best as I can figure, the way to keep running is to keep running. However, I have not always been the most consistent runner, so I’m really not qualified to comment on that.

A couple days ago, Mary Catherine asked if I had any tips for a beginning runner, and since I have “started” running about 853 times, I thought I probably could comment on that.

The first time I started running was in 2000. My mom was training for a 5K, so I decided that I would run with her a few times and then try doing the race.

I think I finished somewhere around 40 minutes, but in a twist of irony, I came in second in my age group and got a trophy.

You would think that would have been an impetus to get me to run more, but I was fourteen years old, and honestly, how much impetus do the fourteen-year-olds you know have?

The second time I started running was my sophomore year when I joined the cross country team. This, I thought, would turn me into a runner. And it did. I don’t think I ever broke more than about 27 minutes in a 5K, but I realized that running was something that I really enjoyed.

The following summer, I decided that I was going to be a viable force on the cross country team my junior year. And so I started running for the third time. Here’s where the hare-ness I mentioned a few days ago really showed itself. Even though I hadn’t been running for several months, I started out running twice a day, 3 or so miles at a time. Some days I ran 4-5 miles twice a day.

This was what most people would consider foolish.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for me to develop stress fractures in my shins because of – surprise, surprise – overuse.

And so my junior year running season ended before I even began my junior year.

I started running for the fourth time my senior year, but an overloaded class schedule and the pressure of college applications led to another running demise.

I don’t think I started running for the fifth time until I started college. There was a great gym where I went to school, and even though most people dreaded the 1/7 of a mile track, I loved it. 7 laps for 1 mile, 14 laps for 2 miles, 21 laps for 3 miles, 35 laps for 7 miles.

I wasn’t very consistent until the end of my first semester, when my friend Sam asked if I wanted to do a marathon relay, in which each person on the 5-person team runs about 5 miles. I took her up on the challenge and so began training consistently for that, which took place on February. The sixth time I started running

Once again, I started out too strong, and after the race, my stress fractures flared back up. I didn’t run for several months.

The seventh time I started running was because I was dating a guy who was in ROTC and had to run often. We ran at the gym, down by the river, at the school track. By mid-summer, I was in great shape. One time, in an experience which exemplifies God’s extraordinary sense of humor, I beat him in a 2-mile practice PT test.

I ran off and on after that, but I would inevitably start out too hard and end up injuring some part of my body. As I said, I’m more of a hare.

My senior year of college was the most recent time that I started running and actually succeeded for a while. My roommates and I trained for about 5 months for the Cooper River Bridge Run, which is a 6.2 mile race. Once again, though, because I slacked off in the beginning months, I had to push myself hard toward the end, and I ended up with severe shin splints, forcing me to take a break.

I started running for the umpteenth time this past fall. It wasn’t the running, but the additional exercise I was doing, that caused me to develop plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition that is exacerbated by impact.

And so, last week, I started running again.

By this point, I think I’ve fairly well explained why I am an expert on how to start running, but you’re probably wondering how it all applies to any of you.

In summary, here are some basic principles I’ve learned that lead to a successful start to running:

  • Don’t analyze it too much. Just start running.
  • Set a goal – like a 5K – to give some momentum to your running.
  • Run with a friend or spouse.
  • Start out slow.
  • Find a way to fit running into the rest of your life.
  • Run with a plan.

That sixth principle, run with a plan? Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite running plans for new or returning runners.


1 Comment so far
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Nice post. I needed to read it. I am in no way a seasoned runner…never did more than 3 miles but I do love how I feel afterwards and am wanting to run my first 3K this year. I will check back periodically to read your posts. Thanks!

Comment by Stephanie

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