So You Want to be a Runner? Here are Some Basics…

My good friend, Lisa, and me in our first half marathon back in 2010

Of the half of all Americans who participate in outdoor recreation, running and/or jogging is the top choice. So says the Outdoor Participation Report for 2018, 2017, 2016 and I don’t know how many years before that, too (published annually by the Outdoor Foundation).

Is there a difference between running and jogging? It depends who you ask. Running sounds a bit more “serious” but whatever sounds better to you is fine. I like to say “I’m a runner.” It sounds like I mean it.

I like this definition I read once: If you’ve filled out an entrance form, it’s running!

Either way, it’s moving your body on your two feet beyond a walk, usually for a distance that makes you work at it.

Let’s look at some running basics:

What’s the perfect distance?

The one that’s right for you!

The shortest race distance is a 5k — just over 3 miles. That’s a great distance to shoot for in a daily run, or even just three times a week to stay in decent shape.

I’ve trained for and run in three half-marathons. I found that distance a bit much for me to enjoy. But because of my training, I discovered that 5 miles was a great length for a “daily” run for me (three times a week). I did that for the last three years of my running “career.”

A great way to discover a good distance for you is to pick out a race at a length you’ve never done — 5k, 10k, 15k, half-marathon…even full marathon — and train for it.

You’ll find through your training which distances seem to click. After the race you can settle into that and see how it feels. And there’s no rule that says you have to run the same distance every time. Running 2-3 times a week at lower miles along with a long run once a week keeps things interesting.

What equipment is a must?

The most important piece of equipment is a good pair of running shoes. When I was young and foolish, I looked for the cheapest ones I could find and wore them until they were completely broken down.

When I started having some major back issues in 2008, I finally started to take my footwear seriously. I bought high-quality stability running shoes that fit my feet perfectly. I also started to follow the advice of every serious runner and only wore them for 500-600 miles before buying a new pair.

You’ve only got one pair of feet, knees and legs—they’re worth taking care of!

The next most important piece of running equipment for some of us is a very supportive sports bra. I loved the Champion Powerback personally. Unfortunately, they stopped making it (I hate it when companies stop making your favorite item!).

After that, a lot of it’s personal preference. I’ve collected an array of running tights, shorts, compression shorts, wicking t-shirts, tanks, long-sleeve layering performance shirts, jackets, etc. that help keep me warm, keep me cool, and keep the wind and wet out.

Road or trail?

Again, personal preference. What’s around you? Which routes will be the most tempting because of their beauty, convenience, challenge or ease?

Having a variety of routes to pick from in both scenery and distance is nice. In fact, if boredom is a risk for you, it’s probably necessary.

Earbuds and Music or not?

I almost never ran with my iPod. I like to hear a) the cars, since almost all my routes are along the road, b) any dogs that might come charging out ready to bite my head off and c) the birds.

I also tried to use my running time as prayer time, which worked some days better than others (walking is easier for me). Sometimes my mind wandered too much. That can be OK, too, since I often would get great ideas about sticky problems while running.

Alone or with others?

I know some who always run with others, either from need for motivation or to have company.

I usually ran alone, but enjoyed running with others when I got the chance—especially a long run. One reason I liked running alone is having no one else’s schedule to have to work around.

To race or not to race?

Yes, do it! Especially if you have a hard time getting yourself out there.

I didn’t…but what I love about races is signing up for them with others and training together. It’s fun to have the goal, fun to run new courses, and fun to get the t-shirt 🙂

There are several excellent training programs out there to guide you along. Just do an online search for: “10k training” or “5k training” or whatever distance you’re shooting for.

Signing up for a race is the best way I know of to set a goal and stick to it. And you’ll be amazed at what you’re capable of doing if you’ve not tried it before.

When my friend wanted me to run a half marathon with her I thought she was crazy! But I agreed, and we did it! And I went on to run two more. No one was more amazed than myself.

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