A week on from the London Marathon, the parks and commons are full of people running. Summer is coming, people are looking to shape up and are inspired by so many people running past the iconic buildings and monuments of London.
But watching a grinning Paula Radcliffe glide across the finish line (to her seriously hot husband) sadly seems a world away from the horrendous experience of actually running – especially when you’re starting out. I have gone from HATING running, and being unable to run a mile in 2012 to running a marathon in 2014. If I can do it anyone can.
Seriously, I hated it.
So here is how I managed to stick at running, the ways I bribed myself into doing it, and the things that did and did not work for me. Because let’s face it; running can be hard. It’s relentless, but that’s what makes it such an efficient form of exercise. You’re working THE WHOLE TIME.
I slowed down
I tried doing the couch to 5k approach, and it didn’t work for me. SPRINT walk SPRINT walk. It works for the early weeks, but as the running segments get longer, I was still trying to run quickly, and would wind up exhausted early on.
I also was always waiting for the next walking break. Running was the awful bit; walking was the reward. Mentally, I needed to accept I would be running the whole time, not running between breaks. I needed to learn to enjoy (or at least cope with) running!
What worked for me was running the whole time – but keeping my speed right down. So I would force myself to run slowly – far slower than seemed necessary. I realised that running needn’t be painful. It needn’t leave me gasping for breath. I could do it, if I just took it easy.
By doing this, I learned what I was capable of from the safety of my lower limits. I could gradually increase my mileage and run for longer and longer.
Over the course of about a year, my pace increased from 11 minute miles to 8:30 minute miles without any focused effort to speed up. I always paid more attention to staying in, or close to, my comfort zone and increasing the distance, and my pace picked up naturally as I became fitter. Much later, after my first half marathon, I incorporated some interval training, to actively improve my speed, but by this point I was comfortable I could run and knew how to cope with being tired without needing to walk. I knew I wasn’t going to give up.
I bought some proper running shoes
This was a pivotal moment for me. Having only done a couple of 5km races, I was moving up to a half marathon. I was running in crappy generic exercise shoes. I went to a proper running shop, had a gait test, and spent about £100 on my first pair of proper running shoes.
The difference in how I felt when I ran was incredible. The ground seemed to move faster under me. I felt stable and secure and so much lighter on my feet.
I also wanted to run more and more, to wear my new shoes. This was money very well spent.
Sometimes I give myself a break
I still get overly worked up about running sometimes. “On Saturday I am going to do a 13 mile run”. Saturday comes, and I am so daunted by this long run, I end up talking myself out of it and doing nothing. Where is the logic in that?
I try not to fall into this trap too much. Sometimes I need to push myself to do the longer runs, but above all I need to not associate running with panic, or allow it to be a black cloud over an otherwise nice day/weekend.
I enter races
I started running because I entered a 5km race with (super athletic alpha male) colleagues. There was no way I was going to have to walk in front of them! After that, I signed up for a half marathon and this gave me something new to work for. Then came the full marathon. It’s great to have a goal in mind, and the feeling of accomplishment after a race makes you want to immediately go for a run, and enter more races, and talk to everyone about running, and buy new running shoes and….[etc.].
I find my motivation
I buy myself new running gear fairly frequently. There is nothing like a pretty new running vest or a new gadget or gizmo to make you actually WANT to go for a run. Yes, it is shallow – but it works. New watch, new shoes, new water bottle, new headphones. All get me out the door that little bit easier.
I also read a number of running blogs and magazines, full of pictures of people running (it always looks effortless!) and running in amazing destinations. I want this. I will work to be this.
“You are what you do, not what you say you do”.