Monday, June 04, 2007

It all comes down to shopping for shoes

So I’m deep into training for my fourth Chicago Marathon this October. I could also be in training for my fifth marathon as well, assuming I get picked this month to run New York City in November.

And with experience comes the need to impart wisdom. Or with addiction comes the need to recruit new blood. In any case, people have started asking me again for running advice. Which makes me kind of uncomfortable because while I see myself as an expert on many things (sale shopping, CSI, why Newt Gingrich is a cunt), I have never seen myself as an expert on anything athletic. But I’ve somehow managed to run three marathons, so I guess there are a couple things I know about the sport. And even though I’m finding the lakefront trail is getting way too crowded with runners who exist only to be in my way, I’m once again sharing my running knowledge with you in my ongoing crusade to spread the gospel of sweaty butts and inflamed IT bands.

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 never having a personal life marathons:
• First of all, running a marathon is actually quite easy. If you put in your 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.

Before you do anything, get fitted for real running shoes at a real running store. It’s worth the $100 to prevent injuries, correct problems in your stride and make your training more productive. But DO NOT BUY RUNNING SHOES BASED ON COLOR. Seriously. $100 shoes that look good while they hurt you are nothing but a Mitt Romney metaphor. And once you find something that works for you, keep buying the same brand and style until you get hit by a bus and can’t run anymore.

• I got fitted for custom orthotics this year to try to correct the mincy way I run that may be contributing to my chronic knee, hip and foot injuries. I’ve done a whopping three runs in them, though, so I can’t offer much in the way of helpful feedback/advice on the topic just yet.

• 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.

• 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.

• Never try to run when you’re hungry. You will digest your innards and die before your first mile. But never try to run when you’re stuffed either. You’ll feel sluggish and you’ll look bloated in your shorty-short running shorts.

• 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 an interesting running buddy can help make the long runs fly by.

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 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 tiny injury can wipe out months of training, so find your body’s balance between bad pain and I’m-just-being-a-pussy pain.

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 where we run seven minutes and walk one minute on our long runs. I don’t do it on my shorter weeknight runs, but it’s really been awesome on my long runs—it gives me a chance to stretch, drink water without spilling it down my front and even enjoy mini-recoveries from the stresses of my seven-minutes exertions.

• Carry a $20, especially on your longer runs. If you’re five miles from home and you get heat stroke or you find you need food or a nice vodka tonic 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. Assuming they’re ever able to identify your body.

• Shower when you get home from your runs. You may not notice it, but you will stink. Your pits will reek, your feet will gag the dead, your butt will be chapped and nasty … and though you may wear these odors with pride, nobody else in your house will appreciate them.

Poop before you run. Trust me on this. Peeing’s not a bad idea either.

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