Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welcome to the Tribe

Before I start my main post for today, let me give a brief recap of today's race. It was the FMTC Membership 5k; it wasn't officially timed, and participating automatically makes you a member of the FMTC. Although I've only been running two-milers for the past few weeks, one of my goals this year is to run a race a month, and given my travel schedule, this was my only real chance.
Our route.

The race started at 7:30, and by the time we got to the starting line it had rained and the sun was doing its dirty work on the wet blacktop. Basically, this race was hot, muggy, and included a couple stretches along grass and sand trails. Ouch. The good news was that my ITBS didn't act up until the very end (my brace loosened a bit; I hadn't tried this remedy for longer than a two-mile run). Going along with my plan for summer runs, I took walk and water breaks and kept my pace slower than usual by about a minute. I tried not to feel too disappointed in my time. I'm really glad I went, but it was pretty brutal.

Crossing the finish line
Alright, so the real purpose of today's post is to reminisce on things I wish I'd known when I started running, things to remember, and some things to try. Summer, although it's seriously the worst time to start running, seems to be when many people start. So this post is for the newbies.

First of all, I urge you to remember that the minute you buy running shoes and set foot out the door, you have the potential to be a runner. There is a difference between a "runner" and a "person who runs", and time, dedication, and a slight obsession tend to be the defining differences between the two. It took me years to really decide I was a "runner", but now I haughtily guard that title and refuse to relinquish it.

Running is an amazing, freeing, frustrating, and daunting experience. Don't give up! You won't love it right away, but if you stick with it, the rewards are simply...innumerable.

Advice: There are dozens of excellent articles on websites like Runner's World and Cool Running (and most of these websites have magazines, publications, and twitter/facebook accounts to follow), but I really prefer starting with a more fun, down-to-earth approach. Cracked.com has an excellently funny (if not a little inappropriate) article about starting to run, found here. Remember not to overwhelm yourself with things like this at first, though. You could easily get so overwhelmed with well-intentioned advice that you never get off the couch. But, if you come to find you're having weird digestive issues, developing black toenails, or have a weird rash...consult the experts! Resources are wonderful; the internet makes them super easy to come by.

Intervals: When starting out, I recommend intervals. I had no clue what these were until two years into my running career, and what a blessing they turned out to be! I was that person who ran, coaxing myself to avoid a walk-break until I hit a certain landmark - and usually, I failed to reach it, and shuffled on feeling disappointed. Now, the first time I successfully ran a full mile, I was jubilant! But I could have saved myself a lot of grief and disappointment if I had planned my walks from the beginning. Three to five minutes running, interrupted by a two minute walking break, can ease you into running. Running isn't all or nothing. Don't expect yourself to run a marathon your first time out. Set a goal of 20 minutes, do intervals, and over time your running times will increase and your walking times will decrease until you're running the full twenty minutes. At that point, start adding time to your run - aim for 30!

Injury: Running should be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. If you feel pain in your shins, knees, or hips, something isn't right. It could be your shoes (good running shoes really do cost $100 or more; be willing to shell out some serious cash), or your stride. It could just be that you need a better stretching routine. I recommend finding a podiatrist or a specialty foot store (like Foot Solutions) that can diagnose the problem. This also ties into getting your first pair of shoes in general...I highly recommend going to a specialty running store and having them test your stride and pronation (foot strike). Don't buy shoes that don't feel comfortable, and take them for a spin before you buy them.

Accessories: One of the fun things about running is buying your running outfits and accessories. This is completely up to preference, of course, but it's worth mentioning that shorts, tops and bras designed for running are cooler, lighter, and impact your experience and performance. I recommend light or reflective colors for running at night. Depending on where you live, you may need to buy pants and/or a long-sleeved shirt along with your usual shorts and tops. Also, some people like to run without music, but I never could. You may want to look into an mp3 player if you don't already have one. Just remember to keep the music low enough that you stay aware of your surroundings. (See tips on safety here.) Running with a belt to carry your cellphone or ID is ideal. I also recommend getting a RoadID.

Get involved: Running is an excellent solo activity, and provides solace from a busy, jarring, frustrating world. But running alone can get stale. Joining races or running groups is a great way to solidify your feeling of being part of the tribe, and keep your running fresh. Active.com allows you to look up local races. You can use social networking (twitter and facebook!) to find running groups. Those specialty running stores I mentioned earlier? Also a great place to find resources on joining groups or clubs for runners. DailyMile.com also allows you to not only post your own runs, but follow others to offer support or encouragement, or to meet up for group runs.

The bottom line amongst all this is that you're entering into a challenging and rewarding experience. Embrace it! Don't be scared off. Be willing to work through the first week or two of soreness and fatigue. Fight through the urge to give up. Tell your excuses and doubts to shut it. When you hit that stride, that moment where going for a run improves your entire day, you'll know it was worth it. Your mental, physical, and emotional health will thank you. You'll sleep better; your energy will sky-rocket; your daily mood will improve.

And above all else, remember: there are a million mouthpieces (myself included) spewing advice that you might not feel ready for. The important thing is to take the first step. Get outside. Go. Run.

ABK

2 comments:

christime said...

thanks for posting this - I'm getting fitted for new shoes today! :)

I think one other small piece of advice is to wear clothes that you feel comfortable in. I love wearing all neon and I might look ridiculous but I don't feel self conscious in particular cuts of shorts/tanks and hey, neon is fun!

Ali said...

Yay, new shoes!

Yeah, as I mentioned, what you choose to run in is your own preference. Some people like tees and others like tanks; some wear spandex and others like looser shorts. It's definitely all about comfort! And if your clothes can boost your energy and fun-level - YAY NEON!!! - then they're all the more useful haha!