I’ve been distance running for eleven years now – more than a third of my life! Over the past decade I’ve learned a lot about running – and myself – through reading countless running publications, talking to runner friends, and through my own experience.
The start of my running days seem like an eternity ago, but I remember one thing clearly: I knew nothing about running in the beginning. Seriously, zilch.
I was walking my dog in the park one day and just decided to run for some reason. I wasn’t wearing running-specific shoes or even a sports bra. I had no watch and no plan. I just ran until I got tired, walked until I caught my breath, then ran again, and so on. I did this same workout for months, but I never told anyone I was taking up running. Because in my mind I wasn’t a runner since I needed walk breaks. Oh, how wrong I was!
Here are some things I wish I knew when I first took up running:
- Walk breaks aren’t for the weak. Quite the contrary, actually. I used to think to be a runner you had to run the entire distance. Now, I swear by walk breaks and many popular training plans – like the Galloway method – call for them, too (learn more about the benefits of taking walk breaks).
- You don’t have to race to be a runner. I ran my first race, a 10k, a year after I started running. Honestly, I was underwhelmed by the experience. It was three years before I raced again, and that’s when I caught the racing bug. But during those non-racing years, I wasn’t any less of a runner because I didn’t show up to any start lines. I still ran just as often and enjoyed my miles just as much.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. When I first started running, all of my friends were way faster than me. I’d be embarrassed to share my times because I was so much slower. Now, I have plenty of friends who are faster than me and ones who are slower than I am – I’m also lucky to have a couple training buddies who run the same pace. But here’s the thing – I don’t care about anyone else’s times and no one cares about mine either. Pace is relative (here’s why no one is too slow to be a runner).
- Running is an individual sport… kind of. Like I just said, I don’t compete with my friends, only myself. However, the running community as a whole is incredibly supportive. During a race, my performance may seem like it’s solely up to me, but the cheers from the crowds and support from other runners along the course helps immensely.
- There’s no need to time every run. One of the downsides of only competing with yourself is the constant drive to improve. I went through a phase where I tried to run faster on every run. It was draining to say the least. Now, when I’m not following a training plan, I leave my watch at home. I like running “naked” and just going.
- Everyone has bad runs, even the pros. A bad run, a disappointing race, or a less than stellar year of running doesn’t define you. The opposite is also true. Every runner has ebbs and flows with running. It’s how the sport keeps us on our toes!
What do you wish you knew when you first started running?