Learning to Run {Guest Post by Justine}

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Justine, a natural-born California girl lives on the East Coast. She yearns for the ocean but makes do with the Potomac: she loves her friends, good food and books, and of course, running. She blogs over at A Drop in the Pail of Life
During the Presidential Fitness Challenge in high school, I perfected what I called the running-shuffle. As a fat high school student I dreaded P.E.; I was always the last one to be chosen for the team and failed miserably at sports (I got a black eye standing in the middle of the outfield). I rarely met the physical fitness standards: a mile run needed to be completed in less than 13 minutes or you had to do it over. I think I came in at 12:58. I didn’t sign up for weight training for fear I would have to run the three miles around the Ag barn, which seemed a lot harder than repeating the freshman all-girls P.E. class my sophomore year.

Yet, two weeks ago, I completed my second marathon. 

I used to think that running a marathon simply meant the person went out and ran 26.2 miles. Apparently I didn’t factor in the fact that the average person doesn’t simply go out and run it but rather needs to train in order to compete and complete. Long before you actually run a 26.2 race, you must run many, many more miles in order to build up to it.

I never set out to be a runner. I ran a half-marathon for the heck of it one year, poorly trained and probably having only done six miles at the most in terms of training. I was so sore the next day I could barely move. I was running because I was trying to get through it – I was doing everything I could to avoid the very act of running while running. I would run to music, I would think about failed relationships and the things I thought I could control. I would think about everything except what I was doing in that very moment. My way of running has changed dramatically since that fateful year, and for the better. My focus now takes a more Zen-like approach, “Where are my feet? Where do they need to be? What am I doing now?” These three questions help bring me back to the present and keep me focused.

Two years ago, a friend of mine and I got talking. She lives outside of Detroit and mentioned that she was thinking about running the Detroit Marathon. To participate in the Detroit Marathon you need a valid passport. The race course starts in downtown Detroit, takes you over the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor, Canada, and then back through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. Initially, I thought she wanted to do the half-marathon so heck-ya, I was in.

When I asked her what she signed up for, the full or half, she remarked that she wasn’t getting any younger and wanted to do the full. Most sane people would politely decline. I accepted the challenge and invitation. In full-disclosure, I finished the marathon and said, “Wow, that was great!” My friend finished, looked at me and said “I am never doing that again”.

The thing about running is about breaking your own barriers, your barriers to pain, the mental blocks you have, and learning to be with yourself for a few miles. If you’ve never run before, I hope that my little tale of inspiration will inspire you to go out and do something you’ve never done and allow you to cross a long run or race off your bucket list!

How to get started?

1. Sign up for a local 5K race. You can make it a charity race so you have a monetary goal to work forward to and friends that encourage you with donations. I call the 5K races gateway races to larger races. It’s not about the distance, it’s about having a goal and achieving it.

2. Get new shoes. Do not go to Sports Authority or Dicks or buy them from a gum-smacking teenager who doesn’t really care about running. Go to a reputable running store and have them see how you run, try on many different pairs of shoes, and run in them at the store. Many areas have local running outfitters; I also like Road Runner Sports. Inquire if the store has a return policy, if they won’t let you return your shoes, don’t buy them. There is nothing worse than being stuck with a $120 pair of running shoes that hurt your feet/knees/back.

3. After you find the local running store, ask if they know of a local running group. Or ask if they offer store runs. Which brings me to number four...

4. Find a local running club or a running partner. I love running on my own but I have a very special group of ladies that I run with on Saturday mornings. They provide me with support and sometimes the kick in the pants that I need in order to keep going. You’ll meet friends and will be more motivated to get out and work out if you have a group of friends or partners to hold you

5. Run and repeat. There are good training plans like Couch to 5K, Hal Higdon, etc. There are even apps like MapMyRun, RunKeeper, and Nike+ which will provide you with a training plan.

6. Go to your fun-run, your race and smile. Smile because you have accomplished something. I guarantee you’ll have learned something about yourself. 


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