Recently I have been around a lot of newer runners. Watching them as they train. Some just working up to being able to run a mile, some training for their first half marathon and others building toward that very first 5k. 🙂 I have had a lot of time to reflect about my first races while watching their running lives unfold.
When I first started my adult running career as I like to call it. I was alone. I had no big support system, didn’t have any friends that ran and was training for a half marathon. I started running in May, ran my first 5k in May, 10k in June and Half Marathon in August. In those first 3 months of running I learned a lot. But it was what I learned after that first half marathon, that helped me grow as a runner. So here are 10 things I wished I known when I first started running!
- Not all runs should be the same pace! I see this a lot. Runners figure since they can run 9 miles at xx pace…why not?! Right? I did this too. I would run long runs at what my goal race pace was. It wasn’t until I started slowing these runs down I started really seeing what I could run on race days. Running long runs slower (about :30 – 1:00 per mile) than race pace is so beneficial. Run your hard runs hard and take the long days and easy days easy. It truly does pay off. Oh, and your body…it will thank you with faster race times! 🙂
- Proper Fueling! When I ran my first half I was clueless to fueling. I didn’t realize how important taking in calories and liquids really was. I figured it out really quick when I hit mile 11 and had a hard time running. I was done, my body was done. Underfueled and out of gas. It was a very heartbreaking moment. To work so hard just to have my body quit. So I did my homework. 🙂 Taking in calories via liquids, chews or gels was a whole new idea to me. I now live by 100 calories in per 45 min- 1 hour of running. This along with continuing to drink plenty of water while I am running as kept me bonk free since that first half.
- Shoes make a difference. I wore the same shoes for all my runs. Long runs, short runs, trail runs…all the same shoe. So, as you can imagine, I put a lot of miles on them. They never got a break and quickly started wearing down. I wore the same pair of shoes for a good 6 months of this. I didn’t pay attention to the mileage on them, how they looked or what they were doing to my body. That ITBS, yep…shoes. Achy knees…shoes. I now have a minimum of two pairs I am wearing during each training cycle. Let the shoes rest for a day or two before wearing them again after a long run. Believe it or not that cushioning…needs time to come back to life. When we run we pound them down and just like any other cushion, has to have time to let the air back in. They also won’t last forever. A few hundred miles takes in toll on footwear.
- Include hills. You don’t have to run hill repeat after hill repeat. Sprinting uphill and jogging/walking back down is much different than a race. Just include them in your regular runs. You don’t have to try to get to the top of them as fast as you can to benefit from them. But not running on hills at all during training will really show fast on a race course. I fortunately lived in a very hilly area when I started running so although I was a newer runner, I always passed people on hills. Not because I was some all-star but because my body was conditioned to run them. Plus, when you do run on a flat course…you can really kick some butt! 🙂
- Popular brands are NOT always what is best for YOU! Prime example. I used Gu gels for a very very long time. Regardless of how my gut felt afterward, it was a mainstay in my running. Until finally, I tried something different. Now, Gu isn’t in my household. I use Huma. Nobody else I know does. But it works for ME. I needed something different. I wear off brand running attire, shoes that love my feet and $5 sunglasses from Wal-Mart. Yes, I own Nike, Under Armour, Brooks, Nathan etc….but I don’t only buy the big name brands. Different things work and can save you a ton of money. You just have to be willing to try them out! I am so glad I did. It has been a race changer! 🙂
- Don’t eat all the food! Running does great things for your body. But if you are eating all the food, those changes are limited. Take care of your body. If you burn 1000 calories running, you don’t have to eat 1000 calories to make up for it. Eat until you are satisfied, and eat things that fuel your body. Whole foods that are going to help your next run or workout. I may feel like I need a cheeseburger after a long run, but in reality, a protein shake and some veggies are more than suitable. Plus, I feel much better in the long run (pun not intended).
- It is supposed to be scary! I always felt dumb showing my fear for a new race distance or long run. In reality…we all start somewhere! Talking to others at races helps you see how many people feel the same way. Even now, I get intimidated by certain distances or training runs. It’s ok. We all start somewhere and we have to challenge ourselves to grow. That can be scary…but it can also be highly rewarding! Find a support group and talk about it with some veteran runners. I am sure they have some good stories of their own to share. If not, ask me! I have all sorts of crazy stories about my fears! 🙂
- Find a good training plan! I ran my first half poorly trained. I had only run as far as 7 miles or so leading up to it. A training plan really plays a huge difference. It gives you consistency, speedwork, and helps you learn how to handle longer runs. I dropped 21 minutes off of my half marathon in 3 months just from having a training plan (and fueling properly). They are laid out specifically to help you run the distance of your race at your best potential. Slacking off, not being consistent or changing plans too much will hurt you in the long run. Keep track of what you are doing and watch the improvements happen.
- Mental toughness! Learn to be positive about your running. Trust your training and your body. You don’t have to run the distance of a race to be trained well enough to run it. I never believed that. Only running a maximum of 10 or 11 miles for a half marathon training plan was so weird to me. How did I know I could finish???? Trust the plan, or your coach. When you have race day adrenaline pumping through your body along with the miles and miles you put into training for that ONE race. You will make it! You just have to believe in yourself!!
- Reach out! When I finally started to get to know other runners. They were such a wealth of information. They would slow down to run with me, tell me about their experiences, talk to me about races and build me up. They never thought anything I asked was dumb. I have learned so much from my own experiences, those that have been shared with me and ones I have researched. Reaching out into the running community is an amazing thing. It really is something most other sports should be jealous of. Every runner has started somewhere and can teach you something. You just have to be willing to put pride aside and ask or listen.