Study upon study shows that running helps us live longer, stay healthier, and elevates our mood. It makes both our muscles and our bones stronger, and it can be done without much scheduling or special equipment. What's not to love?
Starting to run can be the deal breaker for many. Those first sessions where your legs feel like heavy logs, and you gasp for air while being overtaken by walkers can feel quite demoralising. But hang in there! It does get better, fast.
Walk-run-walk programs are readily available as podcasts and apps. They let you start from zero and push you towards being a proper runner within a few weeks.
What is a proper runner anyway? A runner is a person who runs. It does not matter if you are record breaking fast, or awkwardly slow. If you run you are a runner. Don't believe me? Sign up for a race. You will see how warm and welcoming the running community is. There are runners of all ages, speeds, and sizes. Our one goal is to run faster, longer and easier than we did yesterday, last month, last year or last race.
Before my first race last year, I was petrified. I had trained for two months but knew that I wasn't at the point of running 5K nonstop yet. I thought I would be the only person who would take walking breaks, and was well prepared to come in last among the 7,000 participants.
I wasn't, and I didn't, but looking back it really does not matter. Somebody will come in last at every race, and at some point that might be me. As long as I've put in my best effort, I will gladly accept the medal and cheers.
Things to think about whether you're running your first or umpteenth race:
- Listen to your body. Writing this from tropical Singapore I cannot emphasise this enough. Over-heating and dehydration need to be taken seriously. Pushing yourself is good, but always listen to your body.
- Pace yourself. Start out slow to finish fast will usually give you a better finishing time than going all out from start.
- The first kilometers are the toughest. Your legs may feel like lead, you may be out of breath. If you're aiming for a PB, you may do better by jogging 2 kilometers before flag off. Yes, this means running 7K instead of 5, or 12 instead of 10. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it often does the trick. Don't forget to practice this before race day though.
- Practice, practice, practice. Of course this goes for running, but don't underestimate the small things. Practice running in your race shoes and race clothes. Practice drinking water, or sports drink, and taking gels or gummies if you'll do that on race day. Practice in your race day socks (I've learned that the hard way!). Practice running on an empty stomach vs. just after breakfast if you have an early morning race. And if you're vain, practice your victory pose for the finish line photos.
- Celebrate your victories. When you run, you are racing against yourself. Set attainable goals, and celebrate when you reach them. For your first race it may be just facing your fears to participate, or getting through the entire distance without walking. For later races it may mean shaving minutes off your previous records, or running a new distance. Big or small, if you reach them, celebrate. Brag on social media, spoil yourself with some new gear or a massage. You did it!
Now what are you waiting for? Slip into a pair of Mollyhopp running pants (they are the most comfortable pants you have ever worn!), slip on a good pair of running shoes, and get out there. Whether you hit the treadmill, head out into the forest, or drum a beat on city pavements, you will not regret it. One of the best things about running, is the feeling right after a good run. Don't you agree?