Making running stick can be hard work.
I can picture clearly showing up on a spring morning to a beginner’s course … for running. I didn’t know what to expect and was nervous – here were 40 or so people I’d never met.
Included in our instructions, ‘when starting out, talk to someone while you’re running. If you can’t talk, then you’re running too fast.’ WHAT THE [insert expletive here]
I was freaked. ‘What do you mean, talk to people?’
We did warm-ups and then the running. It hurt. The following few days hurt more. One of the helpers (that’s what I do now) started chatting and I was encouraged to speak to the woman running next to me.
Turns out that was Mary. And we’re still running together. How brilliant is that!
It all started with showing up.
While over the last few years my running has been variable, even when my mojo was lost, I knew I’d come back to it – like a favourite book or a comfy pair of slippers.
So with the beginners’ course kicking off, it’s made me reflect on how I made running part of my life.
1. The running buddy
For the first year of running, Mary and I would meet up 2 or 3 times a week for a run. As winter of that first year approached, the reasons for not running piled up. But meeting up with someone kept me accountable. More important than this though, it made it fun! Sort of…. it was still hard work. We still run together.
2. Running club
I’ve never been one for teams – I hated team sports at school. To be honest, I hated and continue to hate anything competitive. So joining a club is not something I ever thought I’d do. But I joined and have been a member for 4 years.
While I’m rubbish at turning up to club to do group runs during the week, I help out at beginners and have joined in at races, marshalled at the London marathon etc. But it’s more than that. It’s not just about running – I’ve found myself surrounded by really interesting and supportive folk. And there’s often cake!
What I really love about running club is no one gives a toss about what you do for a living, what school or university you went to. What’s important is who you are – whether or not you’re a good person to know. We all have one thing in common – we run.
3. Motivation – don’t wait for it
A real key to get running to stick is to not wait until you’re motivated. Running can be shit, it can be great, and everything in between in a few steps. There’s no way of knowing until you get those shoes on and get out the door.
4. Don’t compare yourself to other runners
I’m a slow runner. I’ll never be fast especially over a 5k distance. I’ve come to accept that. I’m slow at the longer distances as well. That’s life.
Keep the focus on your own goals whether that’s to run regularly, run faster, run further or all of these. There’s always someone faster, better. Get over it.
5. Have a plan
I’m not a detailed planner – it’s just not my thing. Instead, I know the days I’m going to run and the rough distances. I set myself a weekly mileage target and write it down. When on runs, I have a minimum distance in mind and sometimes I do more. Either way, great.
A plan has to be adjustable – life happens. Injuries get in the way. Work gets in the way. Commitments to family and friends can take precedence. As long as your running is regular, you will improve.
6. Advice from others – sometimes good, sometimes rubbish
When it’s rubbish…..
I’ve come across non-running folks who are happy to tell me how bad it is for me – for my joints and everything else. While I’m always tempted to say ‘where’s the evidence’, I smile, I say ‘thanks for that’ and say no more.
I don’t think I’m told this because I’m a women but I did want to mention the helpful advice women were given 50 years ago – that women should never run long distances (or perhaps at all) because ‘their uterus might fall out and their legs would get big, and maybe they would grow hair on their chests.’ With thanks to women like Kathrine Switzer, the first ‘official’ female runner of a marathon, we no longer have to deal with such rubbish.
When it’s good…..
Other runners – I’ve met many who have a lot more experience than me. I’ve got so much to learn and other runners are brilliant for this. I take the advice and say thank you. I don’t always action it if it doesn’t fit my needs or goals, but I do continue to learn.
My physio – I’m prone to injuries. I’ve had a ridiculous number of them. I also have lower back issues with a disc which has slipped twice and facet joint issues around that disc – running hasn’t caused it but I have to be careful. I listen to my physio. If he tells me not to run for a week and then ease back in, that’s what I do. He deals with lots of runners so gets where we’re coming from.
If you’ve been running for a while, how did you make it stick?
Update: Since writing this, I’ve completed my second marathon and I’m now onto training for my first ever ultra – a 50k in the Chilterns in July.
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