I’ve always liked the idea of running. It always seemed so much cooler than some of the other Olympic sports (sorry, shot put and discus). And I gave it a fair go as a kid, spending Monday nights at the local athletics track fighting a stitch and looping the track as fast as I could, a champion in my head but in reality being outrun by just about all the kids around me. As a teenager I’d wish my parents farewell, promise not to talk to strangers and sprint off down the road, only to return after about 10 minutes because my lungs felt like they were bursting and I was sure I could taste blood.
Like I said, I liked the idea of it. But I never really ‘got’ running, and for years I just assumed that it wasn’t for me and that I was never going to be any good at it. I decided that my physiology (short and stumpy legs, flat feet, bunions, weak tendons…) had been trying to convince me of this and that it was time to finally take the hint. So I stopped running.
Until 4 years ago, when suddenly everything changed. I wish I could say that I had some kind of spiritual experience in which God commanded me to get my trainers on pronto, or that an Olympian turned up at my door and told me she believed in me. In reality, all that happened was that I got a half-decent phone and realised I could download apps on it. I decided to try out a fitness one which could measure how far and how fast I ran. The first time I used it I ran 2 miles without stopping. The next day, I ran 4. I was buzzing – the automated voice that played in my earphones every time I ran half a mile kept me going far longer than I thought I could. Within a week I ran my first 10k (6.2 miles) and within a month I was running as much as 25 miles a week. That may seem a lot or a little to you but to me it was a huge deal. My friends and family were impressed that I had suddenly become so ‘sporty’ and I felt a huge sense of pride because I knew I was now able to achieve something that a younger me would never have believed personally possible. I was hooked.
I’d love to say that I’ve never faltered since that fateful summer and that I’ve not missed a run since, but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve gone through times where I’ve found myself itching to get my new trainers on as soon as I got home from work, and others where long, dark nights and the stresses of life have meant they’ve lain unloved in the shoe cupboard for longer than I’d like to admit. But this is the great thing about running: it’s simple (not requiring a ton of rules or expensive equipment), it’s accessible (almost anyone, anywhere can do it) and, best of all, it’s always there, ready and waiting for you when you’ve had a hard day and need to destress or you’ve eaten one too many mince pies over Christmas (hello, January) and know it’s time to get in shape.
I never looked or felt like a ‘runner’. But at some point on the journey of just lacing up my trainers, heading out the front door and pounding the tarmac I became one. Messy, sweaty, heatwave runs. Sobbing, tear-stained, failed-my-driving-test-again runs. Up the steps, Rocky-style, city runs. Five minute why-did-I-do-this runs. Sunset and sunrise runs. Downhill, easy runs. I don’t regret a single one of them. There are a lot of people out there who are faster, fitter, stronger than me. But I’m proud of the runner I am, and I want you to know that you can be one too.
It’s a myth that only some people can run. I meet people all the time who tell me they like the idea of running but they just can’t ever seem to get into it. I tell them I know exactly what they mean because I once felt the same way too, but I’ve learned some things on the way that have really helped me. Here are 3 simple steps to falling in love with running – they worked for me, and they might just work for you too:
1. Slow down.
Yep, really. That’s my number one piece of advice because the most common things I hear are comments like ‘I feel like I’m dying after 5 minutes’ or ‘I can’t even run for a minute on the treadmill’. If you find it difficult to run for even very short amounts of time you are almost definitely running too fast. When building up your running distances you need to think tortoise rather than hare. Take your time, relax your shoulders, breathe consistently and regularly. Try counting your steps in your head – I count (breathe in) 1-2-3 (breathe out) 4-5-6 and repeat. The speed you should initially be going at should be a conversational pace, which means you can hold a half-decent conversation at the same time.
2. Get equipped.
Please, please, for the sake of your posture and general physical health, get yourself some half-decent running shoes. Get rid of those old Golddigga trainers. I beg you, stop running in those tennis shoes! Your physical health is one of the most important things in your possession and poor quality shoes could cause you serious problems in the long run (this goes for everyday shoes as well as when running)! You don’t need to spend a fortune but you do need to do a bit of research and figure out what your feet need. Most specialist running equipment stores will do a free consultation for you. If you are female, get a decent sports bra too. Future you will thank you.
3. Get motivated.
What I really mean is make it enjoyable. Because if it’s fun, you’ll want to do it. A few years back I finally sat down and made a decent music playlist and it really helped. I have an embarrassing obsession with early 2000s Christian rap music but find what works for you! If you like audiobooks or role-play games, I really recommend Zombies, Run!, which is a running app in which your runs are linked to ‘missions’ which advance the story and earn you materials you can use to build a pretty basic but fun little virtual post-zombie apocalypse survivors’ camp on your phone. Another great thing to do is to rope some friends into doing it with you – maybe with the promise of a breakfast afterwards! And share what you are doing on social media if you think the accountability will help you – don’t feel bad for showing off how far you just ran as you will probably end up inspiring someone else to get out and run as well.
You CAN do it, you do NOT look silly and it WILL pay off.
And I would love to hear about it! If you have any thoughts about this post or tips for budding runners please leave a comment below so we can see it! And if you like what you read, please follow my blog using the link on the home page. You can also contact me here and check out my Instagram and Pinterest for more inspiration.
P.S. To all my friends – I’ll go with you any time you want 🙂