Sunday, September 18, 2011

It Starts

The thing about running is, the first time you try it, you're either going to like it or hate it.  For those of you who like it, great.  If you're like me, you might not like the fact that 2 minutes in you are panting for breath, looking at your watch thinking 'It's only been 2 minutes?!', take a walk break, and continue in such a manner until you decide it's been long enough and finish gracefully.

The next day, what do you do?  Do you quit?  Give up?  Realize that running is no fun?  Or do you realize that it was only Day 1, and it can only get better from here?

It will get better.  It has gotten better.  Here's what I've learned.

Lesson 1:  You have to keep running

When I started running consistently back in January, I had to run almost every day in order to kick butt at my 5k in March.  I started out barely able to run up a hill (and there are a lot of hills in Georgia), and gradually became one of the fastest runners in my training group.  It took 6 weeks, but it felt great when I crossed the finish line at my race knowing all that work paid off.

It's been months since that first race, with two more in between, and here we are training for our first marathon.  It's not until April 2012, and here it is September, but you better believe that we have already started now. 

Since Phillip and I started seriously training in August, there were a few attempts at running 7 and 8 miles, but our bodies just weren't having it.

Instead of forcing something my body wasn't ready for, I scaled back and focused on being able to run the shorter distances to gain endurance.  In doing that, Phillip and I were able to run our first 9 miles last week. 

Silver Comet Trail
Granted, those 9 miles were on the Silver Comet Trail, with such a slight increase in elevation that you really don't notice.  We'll just call it flat.  I had forgotten what it's like to run on flat land.

Lesson 2: No run is too small

After finishing the 5k in March, I gradually stopped running as much, despite having a 10k to train for in July.  Once the 10k had passed, I almost stopped running altogether.  Bad idea. 

We signed up for the marathon, and made ourselves put our running shoes back on.  I got so frustrated because I had such a hard time running at a decent pace.  I kept having to stop to walk, and I felt like my legs were full of lead.  I hated feeling like I was holding Phillip back.  What had happened?  It was like my body just lost the ability to run.  My training program wanted me to run 6, 7, 8 miles, but I could barely run 3 without stopping. 

Instead of giving up, I scaled it back.  I started running 2, 3, and 4 miles.  I still had to stop to walk, but I kept with it.  Eventually my endurance improved, along with my pace, and I could run the entire time without stopping. 

Running, even if only for a short bit, is better than none at all.  They all add up in the end.

Lesson 3: Record your runs

Find a way to hold yourself accountable for all your runs.  Having some visual of what you've already done will really help to get you to your goal. 

 I have a training program on my fridge so I see it everyday. 

For my 5k, I would mark off every run in sharpie with a sense of accomplishment. 

Now, Phillip and I keep track of everything on RunKeeper.  This site is awesome.  It's easy to create and save routes so I know exactly how far I'll be running.  It calculates my calories burned and keeps track of the total miles I've run for each week, month, and since I signed up.  I can make comments for each activity, which I actually do.  The difference in the comments from the earlier runs and now are amazing.  Before I would vent about all my frustrations, whereas now I'm glowing and keep saying I'm having great runs.  Talk about motivation to keep going. 

Lesson 4: Your feet are your friends

Treat your feet well.  Buy good shoes.  Go to a specialty running store and have them test you on a treadmill so they can help you find the best shoe for your feet.  Do it.  Your feet with thank you.

These shoes are no good. My poor feet...

So much better.

Lesson 5: Keep hydrated!

The first 7 mile attempt was in the middle of the day with temperatures in the mid- to upper-90's.  In my naivety, I didn't bring any water.  None. 

Luckily, my run took me to a park that had water fountains.  If it hadn't, I don't know if I would've made it home.

After that, I vowed never to leave home without water again.  I invested in a water bottle that straps to your hand and haven't looked back. 

A good rule of thumb that I've read many times is to always drink before you're thirsty.  Whatever your drink of choice is, make sure you always bring it with you, even on those short runs, and drink it!

I'm no pro.  I'm still working out all the kinks.  I've read about sports gels, certain things to eat before and after a run, how to improve speed.  Oh man.  There's so much out there written up on this.  This is certainly going to be an interesting experiment. 

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