By Tina Haupert
I can't believe I will be running a marathon in a little over a week. I'm nervous, but so excited! Even just a few years ago, I never ran more than a 5K. Hence, running 26.2 miles is going to be quite an accomplishment for me!
Like most beginner runners, I started out running only a mile or two at a time—and it was tough! I got side stitches, took walking breaks, and experienced plenty of frustration. Running long distances is not easy! But I kept with it and pushed myself to run farther each time I went out for a run. Over time, I worked my way up to three miles, then five miles, and before I knew it, I was training for a half-marathon. It took me a couple of years after that to commit to a full marathon. Like I said, running long distances is not easy!
Here are the tips and tricks that have helped me build my mileage from one to 26.2!
Start with walking
Walking and running offer many of the same benefits, so walking during a run isn't something that should discourage a person who is just starting out. Try running for a minute and walking for two minutes, and then follow that pattern for 15 to 20 minutes total. Once you've mastered that pace, run for two minutes and walk for one. Eventually, you'll be able to run for more time with fewer walking breaks.
Do intervals to help me run farther
Once you've mastered the run-walk method, do intervals to kick your runs up a notch. They keep things interesting, help me increase my pace, and help me run farther because they allow me to take slower-paced breaks. If I'm running outside, I jog the distance between one or two sets of telephone poles, then sprint the distance between the next set, and continue to alternate fast and slow speeds. Interval training pushes me to keep a fast pace, and my workout is over before I know it!
Create a rockin' playlist
A new playlist on my iPod always motivates me to get out the door for a run. Plus, the music helps me run for a longer period of time. I never want to stop midway through a song, which encourages me to keep going until it is over.
Don't give up
I still have bad runs, even though I've been running consistently for a few years now. There are days when my legs feel like a ton of bricks and my lungs burn, but I try not to stop and walk. I will bring my pace down to a slow jog—sometimes I will just shuffle along. Eventually, I feel better and pick up the pace again.
Becoming a runner doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication, and I remind myself of this on tough runs. It always seems to get me through!
On really tough runs (or when running up a big hill), I like to repeat my favorite running mantras in my head to motivate me. My favorite: “Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.” It always helps get me through the hard parts. Most of the time, running is more mental than physical for me!
Love my gadgets
If you're already running a couple of miles at a time and want to take your running to the next level, consider a Garmin (or similar) watch. Mine uses GPS technology to track how far I’ve run, as well as my pace. It's so motivating; if I look down at my Garmin and see 10:00, I push myself to increase my pace. My Garmin also tells me exactly how many miles I’ve covered, so I record my runs and try to run farther each time.
Set a goal
The best way to motivate myself to run consistently is to sign up for a road race. Of course, you don't have to register for a marathon to improve your running abilities. A 5K is the perfect distance for a beginner runner to build up to. Plus, there's always a lot of excitement on race day, which makes the experience much more fun.
Stretch and roll
Sometimes people don’t like running because they feel sore and miserable the next day. If you stretch afterward, you can really minimize soreness. After my runs, I use my foam roller to "roll out" my tight iliotibial bands and hamstrings. I also use my Tiger Tail to really focus on tight areas, especially my calves.
In addition, I try to practice yoga at least once a week. Just 20 minutes of yoga after a run does wonders for my body. My favorite post-run workout is called Yoga for Runners. (You can get it for free from Yogadownload.com.)
Listen to my body
If you have serious pain when you are running, stop. Take a day or two to rest and figure out what’s going on with your body. When training for the marathon I encountered a couple of injuries: IT band issues and possible plantar fasciitis.
I stretched and iced my injuries and took a few days' rest before running again. I also got fitted for new sneakers, which helped my foot pain greatly. Running in old, worn-out sneakers can lead to injury. Plus, new kicks that fit correctly will help you enjoy running because you won't be in pain all of the time!
Don't run every day
Even professional runners don't run every single day. We all need rest days to allow our bodies to recover. The most I ever ran during the height of my marathon training was three days in one week, with strength training, cross-training, and a couple of rest days thrown into the mix. Running more than three days in one week would put me at risk for injury.
Just do it
There are plenty of times when I don't want to run—it's cold outside, I'm tired, or the gym is too crowded—but these are just excuses. I realize that if I want to improve and train properly for an upcoming race, I need to get out there and do it. Plus, I know that within three minutes of starting a run, I will be happy that I did.
It's taken me many years to work my way up to running a marathon. Still, when I started running, I did it for fun. Okay, I did it to burn calories too! But if you can only run half a mile, run that half-mile and enjoy every second! Next time try to go a longer distance. Walk if you need to. Run because you enjoy it.