What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
This Memorial Day weekend, I completed a running event that had me slowly trotting almost 20 miles through Madison, Wisconsin. On Saturday night, my friends and I ran a 10k. Then we went home, slept about three hours, came back, and ran a half marathon. I kind of hate running, and for some reason, I paid real, actual money to do this. I even flew from Kansas to Wisconsin for it.
I say "for some reason" somewhat sarcastically, because I had my reasons. As an achievement-oriented person, I wanted something to channel my energy into for a few months while I wait for the next stage in my life to begin. I used to be a better runner, and I missed being able to just breeze through three or four miles like it was nothing. I had become the lifter that had to really labor through a mile-long run, and I wasn't okay with my fitness being so one-dimensional. And, equally important, two of my friends were doing it. I wanted to join them in this memory-making adventure.
So, in early April, I paid my registration fee and ditched the blue Converse that I lift in exchange for some black and teal Brooks. Five days a week, I was running. I was running slowly, but I was running. I also adopted an activity called "rucking," but that's a topic for another day.
A lot of people want to run more, but they have a hard time making themselves do it. Having just tortured myself into becoming a better runner, I have some advice for these people to help them not only get started with this journey, but actually stick with it.
Please note that I am not an athletic trainer, so this advice is based on my own experience. These are things that helped my psychological state as I worked hard at something that is naturally a challenge for me.
Find what motivates you
Would accomplishing a goal like a 10k motivate you? Would the medal and t-shirt itself motivate you? Would finally being able to keep up with your dog on walks motivate you? Find what it is and find a way to remind yourself of that every day. Your motivation can absolutely be selfish; mine was. Or, your motivation can be something more altruistic, like setting a good example for your kids.
Stick to a plan
I gave myself less than 8 weeks to prepare for this hell of an event, so I researched training plans that would have me finishing in my goal place within that time period. You will not be able to do this just by picking your runs on a whim. Running magazines and coaches publish these online, and you can access them for free. Once you find one that fits your current running abilities and your end goal, you must stick to it. Of course, sometimes you'll have to rearrange rest days and tempo runs, but the daily workouts are arranged in a particular way to maximize the benefits you receive from them. Follow the plan as closely as you possibly can.
If you just focus on the sound of your panting and the sweat running down your butt crack, you'll be miserable. Music is a popular choice, but there are other options. I know one girl that listens to audio books while running marathons. One of my friends listened to Hamilton during the Madison event. You might want to listen to the sounds of nature. Or maybe you like to get lost in your own thoughts and focus on getting one foot in front of the other. Some runners choose a mantra, such as, "Stronger with every mile." Whatever it is, you'll need something to take your mind off your heavy breathing and aching hip.
Get the right shoes
I cannot emphasize this enough. If your shoes suck, you will hate running even more. If you're on the heavier side like I am, running in the wrong shoes will cause you a lot of pain. A running store can do a gait analysis and recommend styles, and once you find shoes that work well for you, buy several if you can afford it. My favorite shoes were discontinued a few years ago, and I have yet to find a replacement that I like as much as the original women's Launch. You also need to lace them correctly to avoid the dreaded heel rub. Hit up YouTube to find some tutorials for lacing patterns that will prevent bloody, blistered heels.
Learn how to prevent and treat chafing
Even slender, lean runners chafe from time to time, especially when their runs start becoming hours long. For those of us who are all about that bass (no treble), it's almost inevitable. There are countless tips for preventing the dreaded chafe.
It is hard to determine what will work for you without some trial and error. If you go the Body Glide route, go with the normal blue kind instead of the pink "for her" variety, which is nearly half the size for the same price. When you can't avoid chafing, it is important to help heal it as quickly as possible. I choose diaper rash cream for this. Once I got past the mental block of using diaper rash cream on my 26-year-old butt, I was impressed with the relief it brought. Pinterest is full of tips for healing this collateral damage of running, so go find one that works for you.
Surround yourself with people you like
You don't necessarily have to run with them; many people, myself included, prefer running solo. But the running community is famously supportive and encouraging, and you can find online communities of other people doing the Couch to 5K program, or training for their first half marathon, or who have been running for years and enjoy encouraging newbies. If you sign up for an event, get a friend to sign up with you to help keep you accountable. Running is mentally demanding, especially if you aren't naturally inclined to excel at this activity, so a supportive group of people will keep your attitude in check and your goals in perspective.
Don't run to lose weight
Run to be better at running. Run to clear your mind. Run to enjoy running. If you run to lose weight, it will become a chore. If you're eating correctly and exercising regularly, you will become healthier, and weight loss will often accompany that. However, if your main objective is to become skinny through running, you will start to lose your joy in this activity the second the scale doesn't reflect your effort.
I still don't love running. At 5'2" with wide hips and a 26" inseam, I'm just not built for it. But I wanted to be better at it, and now I am! And I hate it less than I did before! And I get to take pride in completing this crazy running event! If I can survive Madison's Conquer the Capital, you can achieve your running goal, too.
What other running advice can you seasoned runners offer those of us who struggle with it?