Inspired by all the runners you see in your neighbourhood and thinking of taking up the sport this fall? Before you jump right into it, I’ve drafted up some practical advice for you. Now, take note: I’m not a personal trainer or running coach by trade; this is just knowledge I’ve gathered in my five years of running, in interviewing running experts and reading about the sport. Keep in mind, though, that I started in a Learn to Run clinic — so I was an absolute beginner like many of you! And I’ve since run a few short races, nine half-marathons, one 30-kilometre race and one marathon, so I know firsthand of what I speak of here. Keep these tips in mind as you tie up those laces.
There’s no shame in walking
Non-runners and even some runners take much pride in not walking. But having a short walk break can not only give you a brief rest, it can help immensely in tackling a run mentally as it breaks up the time into chunks that are easier to wrap your head around. In my marathon, I ran 10 and 1s (this means running for 10 minutes and walking one minute — which is what they teach at the Running Room). In other races, I’ve experimented with different intervals and it hasn’t affected my time much. Even though I’m capable of running a fair distance without taking a walk break, that 60-second walk just makes it easier.
Running doesn’t mean going all out all the time
Many years ago, I lived near a track and saw people running it every day. Which inspired me to try running. I went once, got so out of breath, hated it and never went back again. Fast forward several years, and I joined the Learn to Run clinic at the Running Room, and I learned to start with 30-second walk-run intervals, at comfortable pace — which made it much less grueling, and thus, I kept up with it. People often ask me about my pace, but it’s truly such an individual thing and my pace will change depending on the distance and purpose of my run.
A 5k or 10k race is not a marathon
Any old race is not a marathon. A marathon is 42.2 kilometres long. The distance was established in 1921 and was based on the distance that’d been set for the marathon race for the 1908 London Olympics. So don’t refer to any other race distance as a marathon. It’s understandable to make the mistake if you never knew the definition — I did that before I knew better! (Oh, and for you runners who allude to marathon training when you’re training for a half-marathon or an even shorter distance — you know the difference, why are you trying to mislead?!). But now you’ve been schooled so call it what it is. (Oh, and don’t call it “jogging” — doesn’t “running” sound way more athletic and impressive?)
Don’t jump straight to training for a marathon
Is it on your bucket list to run a marathon and you’re thinking of tackling one right away when you haven’t done any running other than sprinting at the last designer collaboration piece in your size at H&M? Work your way up to it, and start with a more reasonable distance for you — a running expert can help you determine what’s acheivable for you based on your running history, your current physical fitness, etc. But a brand new runner should aim for a 5k and work up eventually to the marathon. Personally, once I worked my way up to a half-marathon distance, I stuck with that distance for several years as I wanted a faster time before I even considered tackling 42.2 kilometres (and good thing I did; I had no clue I had a health condition that was interfering with my running for my fist six half-marathons). Even now, I still take the full four months of training to work up to the long distances — there’s no need to rush just so you can cross it off of your life to-do list.