1. Run way slower than you think you should. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re going to run as fast as you did in high school (if you even ran in high school – that’s certainly not a prerequisite). The point is, you’re old and out of shape now, and you just need to work with what you have. When you’re first starting out, you should probably feel like you could walk as fast as you are running. It should feel like it’s too slow, and you’ll never get a workout this way. Trust me, you will. See how that pace goes for an extended period of time and then gauge whether or not you think it’s too slow, for realsie. Too many runners start out fast and quickly crash and burn, end up feeling like ass, and then never want to run again. Start by being a runner, and you can focus on being a fast(er) runner later.
2. Be wary of motivational friends and groups. While intentions may be good, sometimes hearing all the amazing shit other people are doing is the opposite of inspirational. Seeing only successful feats and messages about pushing through pain can make it seem like running is something that should be easy, or that what you’re doing isn’t enough. Running is hard, and sometimes you need to commiserate about the difficulties. Sometimes there are days when you need to skip the run and drink beer and shove pizza in your face instead, and you don’t need to feel guilty about that. Find your own forum. If you find yourself listening to, reading about, or talking to people who aren’t helping you feel good about yourself or your running, hide them in your newsfeed, leave the group, and find your running people. There are plenty of runners out there who sweat like pigs on their trots, who guzzle wine and drink nachos in their spare time, and who are just regular ordinary people – not crazed fitness nuts.
3. Have a kid. Okay, sounds crazy, but really. I think there’s a reason why the average age for the first time marathoner is thirty-eight. It’s because that’s when most people are married, with babies. After having a family, your recreational activities change. You’re too tired to stay out at the bar all night, you’re up early in the morning anyway and there are times when running out the door and having some god damned peace and quiet will sound like the most wonderful thing in the world. Running doubles as a stress reliever and exercise, so your spouse can’t give you too hard of a time for leaving him or her with the kids – who can blame you for wanting to be healthy? Also, when you have to take the baby out in the jogger, a screaming infant or an impending rainstorm will give you some built-in speed training.
4. Stop buying all the crap. You really don’t need anything other than shoes to start out. You will figure out if you need anything else through trial and error. Chafing of the thighs? Okay, time to look into spandex shorts or body glide. Chronic sore hamstring? Time to look into compression gear or KT tape. Your body will let you know what it needs, so until then don’t shell out a ton of cash on unnecessary gear.
5. Be okay with walking. Even if you don’t run the whole thing – you are still a runner. Some people complete entire marathons doing run/walk intervals. Walking is okay, and can be a necessary part of remaining injury free. You will likely need to start with intervals of walking and jogging as a newbie, but even people who have been running for years have to walk periodically. It’s important to keep in mind that the weather, your body’s energy reserves and your emotional state* can all make a huge difference in how a run feels. *Note: Sometimes the crappiest emotional state results in runs that feel the best.
6. Scare the bejesus out of yourself once in a while. Every so often, after you’ve finished your planned run, go another mile, or do a few last-minute sprints. Sign up for a race, even if you aren’t totally sure you can do it. Use this approach very sparingly – you don’t want to overdo it or overwhelm yourself, but here and there, go for it. You’ll probably end up surprising yourself with what you can do.