I have always wanted to be a runner. I never really knew much about it but in the back of my mind I knew that it was something I always wanted to pursue.
So a few weeks ago I reached out to my friend Jennifer, who is a runner, to ask her if she was interested in writing a guest post on my blog about running and I am VERY happy to say she was. Honestly I think what she has written is amazing and inspiring. You see for a guy my size running has always seemed to be out of touch, it just did not seem like an option. I tried it before and it just didn't work. Jennifer has inspired me to give it another shot, this time I have a new perspective on it and I am ready to see where it leads me.
Thank you for answering my questions and writing this Jennifer !
I encourage everyone to read her post below!
You can also reach Jennifer on Twitter at @JenZenator
And you can follow her blog at http://jenzenator.blogspot.com/
1. When and why did you start running?
I'm actually a late in life runner. I didn't start running until my 30s. I was never "athletic" in high school and in fact didn't really participate in sports due to my lack of confidence in myself. I started to learn to work out in college through some great friends and out of necessity - the dreaded Freshman 15 (OK - so it was 20, but who's keeping track!). But even then my cardio was pretty limited to the elliptical machine. I felt comfortable on that. I didn't branch out into running until after a tough break-up. I needed to try something new and was tired of being afraid of the treadmill. So, I started slowly jogging on it. I could barely do one mile. But I would run as long as I could and then take a walk-break. One mile slowly turned into two miles and two miles slowly turned into three. I was ecstatic when I was able to complete three miles without stopping! ME? The spazzy, non-coordinated girl just ran three miles straight?
Then I started blogging about running and met some fantastic girls online through blogs. They wanted to all meet up at a race. The Chicago half marathon was the race of choice since it was pretty central to all of us and in a great city. I was Scared. To. Death. I had never run a race before - not even a 5k. How was I going to do a half marathon as my first race?? I picked a great beginner's half marathon training plan through www.halhigdon.com and stuck to it. We supported each other through our blogs and emails. With their encouragement I got through my first 6 miler, 8 miler and 10 miler. Race day came and my stomach was in knots. The furthest I had run was 10 miles. Could I make it through 13.1? One of the girls in our group was luckily the same pace. We ran the whole race together and encouraged and pushed each other through to the finish. I could not believe I had just run a half marathon! And I LOVED it! At that point I was hooked.
Running has been a part of my life ever since. I'm now training for my second full marathon in October and about to run my 11th half marathon this month. I have suffered surges and injury set-backs but keep coming back to it for more punishment.
2. what do you enjoy the most and dislike the most about it?
I enjoy the simplicity of running. It doesn't take a lot of expensive gear or crazy gadgets. You put on your shoes, your running clothes, walk out the door and just go. It's as easy as that. You can run as long/short or as fast/slow as you want. And running is something you can do anywhere. Whether you are at home or on travel you can always find a place to run or you can at least find a treadmill if the weather is bad.
I also love the sense of self accomplishment it gives me. After a good, long, hard run I feel so great about myself. I look back and think, "I did that." I often marvel at how much my body can do and how far you can push it. I have more respect for my body because of running. I listen to it more and take much better care of it. It's the machine that keeps me going.
Running is also very therapeutic for me. After a hard day or stressful week, nothing feels better than to just head out the door and run it out. "Running is cheaper than therapy", (I stole that from onemoremile.com) but it's so true. I've had some of my best crying and anger sessions while on the run. Running just puts life into perspective and often gives me clarity. When you are pushing through the pain - marveling at what your body can do - and God blesses you with a beautiful sunset or cool, autumn breeze to accompany you on the run, you just have to stop and marvel at his Grace. Dwelling on how mean your boss was to you today just becomes inconsequential.
What do I dislike most about running? It hurts. It's hard. It's stinky. And you sweat....a lot. Running is not easy. It's work. But I guess that's why you get the most rewards out of it.
3. how has running affected your life?
I have so much more self-confidence from running. This all goes back to the sense of accomplishment I mentioned earlier. When you set out for a goal (like running for 30 minutes without stopping) and achieve it, you can't help but marvel a bit at yourself. It has also taught me the value of hard work, preparedness and determination. You cannot run a race without preparing for it, and that preparation takes hard work and determination.
Running has also really allowed me to meet some amazing people. Running is actually quite social. There are running groups everywhere. Runners are so welcoming and accepting of all people, shapes, ages, sizes and speeds. Never be afraid that you're too slow. Everyone had to start somewhere and all of us runners remember that time. If you are a beginner they are so encouraging and great to give you advice. I have managed to make some great, lasting friendships through running. I have to laugh because running can be quite the buffer. When you're out on a long run with other runners, you start to talk, and talk, and talk. Before long you're telling these other runners the most intimate details of your life and they are reciprocating. We have a saying, "What's said on the run, stays on the run". It's kind of our "safe zone" to talk about anything and everything.
4. what advice would you give to people who would like get into running?
I LOVE seeing new runners and someone who's interested in getting started. Here goes:
- INVEST IN A GOOD PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES - and get properly fitted. Find a local running store where they will measure your foot, watch your stride and even look at your foot shape to see what kind of supportive shoe you need to be in. Shoes are about the most expensive thing in running, but they also make a huge difference. It also took me going through about three pairs before I found the brand and shoe that I liked and that worked for me. This may be some trial and error but the right shoe makes all the difference. You will also need to replace the shoes approximately every 300 miles. I can start to feel some soreness in my joints and shins when my shoes start to go. That usually coincides with about 300 miles for me.
- START SLOW. Most beginning runners start out way too fast, burn out quick and then get frustrated or even worse, injured. This is not an all or nothing sport unless you're planning on doing a bunch of sprint distances (which make me vomit). Just start slow and set a goal for yourself. Try and run 5 minutes without stopping. The next week go for 10 minutes. You will be surprised at how quickly your body will adapt. The speed will come. Also slowly add distance. Don't try and do too much too soon. Most running experts say don't add more than 10% total distance each week. If you ran 12 miles total last week, only add one or two more the next week and so on.
- WALK. Yup...I said walk. You are no less of a runner if you take walk breaks. The run/walk method is a great way to start training for any distance and I know several super speedy runners who still use this method. You can read more about it on www.jeffgalloway.com. I'm a huge fan of run/walk. I still use it on some of my super long runs. Start with run one minute - walk one minute and slowly ramp it up to where you're running longer than you're walking.
- FUEL YOUR BODY. Your body is a machine and it needs maintenance and fuel to run properly. Most of my crappy runs I have been able to attribute to poor fueling and hydration. I either didn't eat/drink enough or ate/drank the wrong things. The stomach game is tough for runners. You have to trial and error and find what works for you. I eat a small 100 calorie snack 15 minutes before a run. I'm a big fan of the small Lara bars. I then re-fuel with another 100 calorie snack every 45 minutes (Gu, Honey Stingers, Shot Blocks, etc.) I also stay away from heavy, greasy, fatty meals the day before and day of a run. I made the mistake of eating Chinese food take-out the night before a long run. The only running I was doing was to the bathroom. Hydration is SUPER important too. You should drink water before, during (if a relatively long run) and after a run. Try and hydrate where your urine is relatively clear. When it comes to pee, yellow may be mellow but clear keeps in you in gear.
- SIGN UP FOR A LOCAL RACE. Find a local 5K fun run and commit to it. Pay for it. Tell people you are running it. Shout it at your neighbors and people in the grocery store (as long as your neighbors aren't the gun-toting kind). Signing up for a race and committing to it makes it all more real and helps keep you on track with your training. The fear of flopping on your face at a race is a real motivator. ;)
- KEEP A RUNNING LOG. This is a real motivator and lets me see how far I've come. Log your distance, time, weather, what you ate/drank, and how the run felt. This will help you keep track of what works and what doesn't on your runs. www.dailymile.com has a really good work-out log that lets you track all of this online and share with other folks who are crazy runners like you.
- GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. Consistently try and push yourself. When you get comfortable, try and run a little harder or faster. Also try something new. Find and explore a new running route. If you train on the treadmill mostly, take it outside. Find a running group and meet up with them. Sign up for a new race distance. Mix it up. This will keep you motivated and excited about running.
- THERE WILL BE GOOD DAYS AND BAD DAYS. There will be days when you are giving it everything you have but your body is just not cooperating. Just listen to your body. Take a rest day. Try again the next day. Usually for every bad run, I have followed up a day or two later with a great run.
- HAVE FUN! This is most important. Just get out there and have fun with it! I usually take about one run day a week and just go run. No pace watch, no gear, no worries about time or distance - just me and the pavement. This usually reminds me of why I love to run.
The Runner's World has a great website and wealth of running information, great forums and a good beginner section. http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/beginners/big-beginner-index/1461.html Twitter is a super way to hook up with other runners too (I'm @JenZenator). There are a ton of us on there, all ready to encourage you every step of the way. Also your local running store will be full of people who are passionate about the sport and can give you advise and help.
Best of luck and happy running!