by Dezi Hall
I am a long distance runner, and a full convert to the religion (dirty shoes in the front hall, bibs shoved into kitchen drawers, and 13.1 stickers on our cars are our relics of choice). As a worshiper at the asphalt alter, lots of potential converts timidly seek me out for advice on how they can get into the fastest growing sport on the planet. Here are some of my top tips for breaking in those Nikes that have been judging you from the back of your closet.
You don't become a distance runner, or any kind of runner over night. You've never done more than walk at a slightly brisk pace in your life? No problem. Start slow. Don't worry about your time, or how many times you stop and walk. Running isn't defined by a set distance threshold or length of time. It's a state of mind. Start running a block, then a quarter mile, then half a mile. Eventually you'll find yourself going father without struggling as much.
Sign Up For A Race
You don't want to run a marathon or a half? Totally cool. 5k races are having a real moment right now. I promise you that if you sign up for one of these, the minute you cross the finish line and a volunteer places a medal around your sweaty neck, you'll be hooked. A 5k is a great way to stay on track and meet a real goal when you're just starting out. You'll feel like you really accomplished something- because you did!
Forget Training Schedules
If you're willing to sacrifice your mornings and your toenails and go for a long distance race, make sure you don't get freaked out by schedules. I have never in my life seen a distance training schedule that didn't scare the shit out of me. I don't have hours and hours to run every week! I don't want to run every day; so I don't. I don't want to run 9 miles 5 different times before a big race; so I don't. It's fine to look at those schedules for inspiration, but don't let them scare you away. Make up your own schedule based on your personal goals. Do you just want to finish? Or are you seriously looking to breeze past a certain time? Are you ok with struggling a little bit in the final miles if you don't have to struggle through weeks of training?
Get Some Gear
I've seen people running in khakis. Many times actually. (Once you're on the lookout for this sad phenomenon you'll start noticing it everywhere.) I always wonder- what's their story? Was there some sort of litigation they had to run out of? Why on earth someone would run in anything but running shorts is beyond me. Get yourself some shirts, shorts and something to put your phone and keys in (Roos are always a good choice). And make sure you get yourself the right shoes. Don't run in your old torn up basketball sneakers from high school.
Find A Partner
There are two schools of thought on this one, but I always think it's beneficial to have a partner to run with occasionally. One of the joys of running is solitude and time for reflection, but it's always nice to have someone to lament your hamstrings and share your improving time with. You'll also develop an even stronger bond with whatever friend or family member you choose to hit the pavement with. There's something about an open path that opens your mind as well. If you don't want to share the road with someone once a week, or don't have someone close by, find yourself a buddy you can chat with about running. Believe me, non-runners are going to tire of this talk pretty quickly.
Try Not To Treadmill
A lot of beginners conflate running with the rest of their gym time. But I always like to think of running as a totally separate entity from "working out." Beginners may be tempted to just hit the treadmill after they do arms and legs (or whatever it is you guys do in those sweaty warehouses), but my personal opinion is that real runners are made on the streets. (You can send your hate mail to my email address below.) Treadmill running is boring and literally gets you nowhere. They're fine in a pinch (blizzard, hurricane, etc.) but other than that, please hop off that hamster wheel. Which leads me to my next tip...
Find Your Path
It might take a few times and a few wrong turns, but finding a path that works for you is really important. You need somewhere you feel safe, and somewhere interesting. Don't be afraid to explore.
Just Do It!
There's a reason the most dominating sports brand has never given up on this saying. Just get out there and do it. Lace up, put your headphones in, take it one step at a time, and don't look back. One day you'll wake up tired and lazy, but push yourself to get out of bed and into your shoes. One day, you'll realize you crossed some invisible threshold, and now you're one of us. Welcome to the tribe.