How to start running

Here is something you need to know about me: Up until six months ago, I had never run a mile in my life.

Seriously. I even walked the mile the gym teachers made you do in high school. Every year.

So when I decided that I wanted to run a 5K, no one was more surprised than me.

The bib from my first race on Thanksgiving

This story starts, like all running stories should start, with a good pair of sneakers. Three years ago I was fitted for the first time for a pair of sneakers. The sales people put me on a treadmill, saw how I walked and recommended what shoes I should wear. During the fitting, I talked all about how I wanted to get in shape and run a 5K. The sales guy told me the store was about to start a program for beginning runners and I should sign up.

I did. I went to about four group runs before deciding that I would rather spend my senior year of college drinking than getting up early to run with a group of middle-aged women. Needless to say, I did not run a 5K that year.

But the seed was planted. So when I decided again six months ago that I wanted to run a 5K, the first thing I did was program Couch to 5K into my iPhone using the RunKeeper app.

The basic premise is that you start with a few minutes of running, alternating with walking and slowly increase the time you are running each week.

The first time I ran, I was so miserable that I nearly quit. I could barely last a few minutes, and each step was incredibly painful.

Literally the only thing that got me through the first couple weeks was the voice in my head. I would repeat over and over to myself that running was not easy and it would get better.

All the internal cheering worked and slowly running did get better and did get easier. Three minutes of running turned into five, then ten until I was running for 30-40 minutes at a time.

Feeling good after finishing a three mile training run

I was pretty dilligent about running three times a week, taking plenty or rest and going slow. I often repeated weeks in the training plan if I felt that I needed more time at a certain level.

Having a goal also helped. I knew my family was planning to sign up for a 5K on Thanksgiving, and I really wanted to run it with them.

I also told everyone and shared my successes. It kept me going to hear all the positive feedback.

Checking out the finish line at my 2nd race on Dec. 3.

I truly believe having a good attitude and a goal in mind are the keys to any success. When I felt like I wanted to give up, I would picture people cheering for me at a finish line, or how good I would feel when the run was over.

The other important thing for beginning runners to remember is not to compare yourself to others. Right now, I run a 12-minute mile. I know that it’s not fast, but it’s helping me build endurance. The pace is both comfortable and challenging for me. I’m building a base right now that will hopefully lead to faster times and longer distances.

I also want to stress that running is not for everyone and it’s not the answer to losing weight. Running three miles often made me hungrier than if I had walked three miles. The important thing is to move in a way that is enjoyable for you.

The biggest lesson I have learned from running is that I can set and accomplish goals. Before getting healthy, I was kind of wandering aimlessly through life. I would not have described myself as a driven person who accomplished things, but completing a 5K changed all of that.

The biggest benefit from running has not been physical for me. It has been about believing in myself and learning along the way that If I work hard, I can do things I previously never thought possible. 🙂