Running 101

Hello enthusiastic new runners! Here is a crash course in running. Everything you need to know:

  • Running gear

In principle, you don’t need any special gear to run. There is no running police to stop you jogging in your old gym trainers or barefoot (like some minimalistic runners do). The rule is that the more you run, the more running gear you’ll need. As I said, your old trainers will probably be sufficient when covering your first few kilometers per week, however, you wouldn’t want to run a marathon in them. Same applies to pretty much all items of clothing. Primark socks will do just fine if your weekly mileage is 10km. Expensive Under Armour socks and running gear snobbery can come later on…

  • Shoes

Having said that, if you were to invest in one piece of running gear, it should be shoes. But hold your horses before ordering those fancy Nikes from a dodgy seller on eBay! First of all, runners often get their running shoes half or a full size larger than their everyday shoes. It’s wise to do that if you want to keep your toenails. Secondly, you need to chose the right type of running shoe to prevent injury and keep running enjoyable. To do that, I’d recommend visiting a running shop and asking for an advice / a gait analysis. You won’t regret it.

  • Pace

You can measure your running pace either in minutes per kilometre, or minutes per mile. Miles or kilometres per hour is a speed measure for vehicles. You are not a car.

As a new runner, try not to worry about your pace too much. The important thing is that you shouldn’t all the time run as fast as you can. Let me repeat that – do not try for a personal record on every single run! Don’t! Speed should be reserved for fast days, intervals, races and similar. Most of the time, you should keep it chilled. Chilled pace means you can comfortably run and have a conversation at the same time.

  • Mileage

So how much shall I run per week? Well, there is no right answer to that question. The key is to build it up. You don’t want to jump from zero to 50km a week. Instead, gradually increase your mileage until you have a solid base. Some say that the increase in distance should not be more than 10%. I tend to disagree, but then again, I am sometimes guilty of being a running cowboy. The bottom line is – start low and make your way up to what feels beneficial and sustainable for you. The upper mileage limit is not created by an opinion of people on the Internet – it is created by your physical capabilities and time you can commit to running.

  • Races

You don’t need to be a pro athlete to enter running races (although don’t expect to be allowed into Olympics and championships just yet). With running becoming more and more popular, there is a pretty good chance that you’ll have a race within a driving distance every weekend. Normally, you register online, pay a fee and turn up on the day to run for a medal. The longer distance you choose to run, the more it’ll cost, but let’s say you can participate in a standard 5K race for around £20. Included in that price is normally a medal, your pain and suffering trying to achieve a personal best, water, a post-race snack, bag drop and (hopefully) accurately measured time of your run.

You can probably find some little local races that are considerably cheaper but your result may not be chip-timed or there may not be a medal. I personally refuse to race if there is no medal. #priorities

  • Marathon

Marathon is an actual distance. It measures 26.2 miles which is 42.2 km (or 42.195 if you like being precise). No one has ever run a “5K marathon”. Marathon is not an equivalent of a running race (or a fun run).

And yes, it is very far away.

  • PB

PB does not stand for peanut butter. It means personal best – the best time you have ever run that specific distance in. It is also called PR – personal record. It does not count as a PB if you pause your watch and catch a breath during the run (just saying). At the beginning of your running journey, every other run can easily be a PB – enjoy it while it lasts, but don’t kill yourself trying to maintain a PB strike because it is not possible.

  • Running clubs

You can join a local running club to help you train and get motivated. Running club membership is considerably cheaper than a gym membership. They organise joint training sessions, normally aimed at runners of all abilities, quite often local races and other challenges as well as social events. You can probably attend a trial session(s) to see if club running is your thing.

  • Injuries

It is important to recognise injuries from niggles. I am not going to lie, the beginning of your running journey might hurt while your body is getting used to this type of movement. If on your first ever 5K run, your knees or shins hurt, chances are you are not injured, but your body is just trying to figure out what’s this new type of activity about. On the other hand, continuously ignoring niggles can easily lead to an injury. The most important thing is to learn to understand own body, however cliché that may sound.

So that was more or less everything you need to know to get started… Actually, you don’t really need to know half of this stuff. As long as you know how to tie your shoe laces, you’re good to go. Just get out and get running!

Dear new runner…

Dear new runner,

So you have embarked on the mad but rewarding journey of running. Whether you are a shiny new runner, or someone who is rediscovering their passion for running, let me share a few words because it is only four years since I started running, so I remember all the emotions and motions as if it was yesterday.

First of all, a word of warning: You are at a serious risk of having your life hijacked by this sport. Actually, running is not just a sport, it is a lifestyle. I could warn you about all the expensive pairs of shoes you soon realise you “need”, and the ever-growing medal collection that will start taking over your living room to your family’s displeasure, but I willl not mention any of that. One thing I will mention is that running is NOT bad for your knees as you’ll hear over and over (and over) from non-runners.

Running is not just about the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is a physical, mental and emotional challenge. One that will potentially transform yur life, your attitudes, your points of view and your perception of time and distance. Above all, running is a spiritual journey of a sort. It’s like a pilgrimage that carries on and on, never to be completed because there is no actual destination, and this time, however cliché that sounds, the journey is the destination.

Just like most of the time in life, you will have support and encouragement of others. Just this time, quite often the “others” will be strangers on the Internet and your running club members who will understand you and your struggles better than your own family will. That is okay. And quite often, despite all the support, you will be alone to search and find your own strength, battle through setbacks and experience feelings that only you as a runner understand.

So what I would like to say to you – believe in yourself and do not let anyone or anything discourage you. Running is an activity that is all about you and you can make it whatever you want it to be. You will and should do things your way. Because your way is the right way for you. (Unless you do all your runs at race pace and don’t foam roll, in which case your way is totally wrong 😉

And finally, you will be surprised how quickly all the things that now seem impossible will be within your reach. Then you’ll realise the real reason why we all do it – to achieve something we never thought we could. And this feeling, once tasted, is so addictive that it won’t ever let you go. So good luck and congratulations because you have just taken the first step on the journey to forever change your life.