Walk down the streets of D.C. and you’re bound to see them: runners. There they are, running down the sidewalk with their iPod armbands and their sleek, sporty running shoes. And there you are, sitting in your car, staring out of the window, on your way for (more) takeout or for (admit it) an upsized value meal with a Diet Coke. If you’re like me, you’re wishing you could go the distance, too. So what exactly are the insider tricks?
Websites like completerunning.com offers 100 categorized tips (by way of motivation, prevention, safety and so on) for beginners looking to break into stride. Scroll to motivating number 20: “Don’t expect every run to be better than the last one; some of them will hurt” and number 22: “Even a bad run is better than no run at all.” Prevention measure number 47 warns, “Make sure you cut your toenails short enough so they don’t jam into your shoes!” and number 49 states: “Don’t stretch before a run. Warm up by walking briskly or jogging slowly for several minutes.”
D.C. resident Caitlin Boston started running long distance five years ago because she needed a sport to do whenever and wherever she wanted, and so she wouldn’t have to be dependent on anyone else being around.
“I always admired marathoners, and when I met a girl who had just completed one and was my age at the time, I thought that I had no excuse not to try and start running more seriously,” Boston said.
But don’t step out of the front door and expect to pound the pavement with the lightning speed of Bruce Jenner or Jesse Owens. Instead, start out by running slow to determine your own pace and gradually increase your speed from there.
Check out the helpful charts and timetables at runnersworld.com that detail how to increase the speed and length of your runs, as well as increase your stamina. Still, sometimes the most simplistic of methods is just as effective: start running and listen to your body.
“Take it mile by mile. I really don't know what to say -- you just have to get out there and do it,” Boston said. “If you've never run a mile before, just see how fast you can run without stopping and then keep on pushing yourself until you break that.”
Once you’ve established a comfortable pace, set small goals like adding distance to your run. “Someone who hasn't run before should set weekly mileage goals and then increase them until they feel like they're at an optimum level, “she said.
Don’t turn running into a tedious, dreadful task, either. Switch up your running route to prevent boredom and to prevent your body from adjusting to the route.
Websites like mapmyrun.com allow runners to select from charted out routes ahead of time. The site yields 266 results from which eager runners can choose. Route descriptions include distance in mileage and a coordinating map that designates where to run. You can even print the maps out or link them to your cell. And, if any of those trails don’t suit your fancy, then map your own run to get going.
On an average day, Boston runs between four and six-and-a-half miles, five days a week. She saves Saturdays for her long runs, which range from 12 miles at the shortest to 22 miles at the longest, the distance contingent upon whether or not she’s training for a marathon. Her next races are the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October and the JFK 50 Mile Marathon (yes, you read that right) at the end of November.
For those newbies out there, remember that not every run is going to be successful. Keep realistic goals, too: you’re not going to be able to pound the pavement for 20 miles if, say, you just ran one mile last week. “Forgive yourself. Over-ambitious goals usually lead to frustration and giving up on your fitness plan. If you miss a goal or milestone let it go and focus on the next opportunity to get it,” reminds the tipsters from completerunning.com.
What motivates runners like Boston? “I run because it helps me keep my center when everything else is tilting around me. It gives me the time to be outside and just be in my own head, thinking about whatever I want to think about,” she said. “It's taught me so much about life and patience as well as when to stay on the path and when, literally, to jump the fence or forge my own way. I’m far more in tune with my body and what it needs to be healthy.”
So what’s holding you back? Go lace up those sneakers and hit the pavement. Pretty soon, you’ll be aching for a bid to the London Marathon.