And this summer I’ve gotten about ten requests for advice from people who want to begin running and/or training for a marathon. I’d been typing pretty much the same list to these people over and over when I suddenly realized this afternoon Hey! Easy blog post!
So here are my friendly, not-professionally-endorsed-so-don’t-sue-me-if-you-get-hurt suggestions for taking up running or—if you're feeling extra ambitious—getting yourself addicted to the wonderful world of
• First of all, running a marathon is actually quite easy. If you put in your training miles and make sure you don’t get injured, you will cross the start line with confidence and enjoy every minute of your run. And then you can proudly work your accomplishment into conversations for years to come.
• Get fitted for real running shoes at a real running store. It’s worth the $100 to prevent injuries and make your training productive. DO NOT BUY RUNNING SHOES BASED ON COLOR. Seriously. $100 shoes that look cute but hurt you are about as practical as a football bat. And you’ll probably want to replace them once you’re about 2/3 into your training.
• It’s also not a bad idea to invest in good running gear: breathable shorts with pockets for keys and running gel, cushioned absorbent socks, moisture-wicking shirts, etc. Of course, if you’re lucky enough not to have sweating and chafing issues (like me) these things aren’t really necessary. The cushioned socks are nice, though. And as your quads get more muscular, you might want to show them off in a flirty pair of shorty-short running shorts.
• Also get yourself some UV-blocking wraparound sunglasses. The sun is cruel enough when you’re pounding out your miles. Don’t let it blind you as well.
• Get a running buddy—especially if you’re prone to blowing off your runs. A dedicated running buddy will help you stick to your schedule and can make the long runs fly by.
• While you have your credit cards out, energy bars and energy gels and Gatorade are pretty good investments as well. But so are fresh fruit and pasta and whole-grain bread and rice and plain-old water. Lots of it.
• Put in your miles. Most marathon training programs advocate longer runs on the weekends and two or three shorter runs during the weeks. Start with two or three miles and slowly work your way up on weekends, keeping your weeknight runs somewhere between 3 and 8 miles. Google marathon training schedule and you’ll find a ton of free programs you can use.
• Don’t blow off your training. Especially your long runs. Even if you don’t feeeeeeeel like doing them.
• But listen to your body—it’s sometimes wise to skip a run now and then if you’re feeling seriously exhausted or sore. One injury can wipe out months of training, so find your body’s balance between training and recovering.
• STRETCH. Do it when you wake up, before you run, after you run and before bed. Learn where your IT bands are and make sure they get a lot of attention—they’re the little buggers that usually blow out first in beginning runners.
• Eat well. You’ll actually crave good foods as your training gets more intense—and you’ll find your interest in junk food will really start to fade.
• Hydrate. Even when you’re not running. If you ever get thirsty during a run, you’re doing something wrong.
• Wear sunscreen. You’re already dehydrating and exhausting your body on your long runs as it is—frying it isn’t going to help anything.
• Don’t be afraid to stop and walk or stretch once in a while. I’m on a training program this year where we run six minutes and walk one minute on our long runs. I thought I’d hate it, but it’s really been awesome—it gives me a chance to stretch, drink water without spilling it all down my front and even enjoy mini-recoveries from the stresses of my six-minutes exertions.
• Carry a $20, especially on your long runs. If you’re five miles from home and you get heat stroke or you find you need food to keep going, you’ll be glad you have it.
• Carry ID of some sort. If you collapse in the street and all the morgue has to identify you is your house key and your cute running shoes, you’re going to have some VERY angry next of kin who will say mean things at your funeral.
• Shower when you get home from your runs. You may not notice it, but you will stink.
• Poop before you run. Trust me on this. Peeing’s not a bad idea either.