Yesterday for the third year running (literally) I competed in the Dublin Docklands 5K road race. I’ve been running now for three years and the miles have given me plenty to think about. I wanted to bust a few myths about running in general, and about how easy or hard it is to get started.

Fact Number 1: No-one enjoys running. At least not at the beginning.

There are probably some ‘natural born runners’ out there. People who take to heel with ease. Weirdos. I am not one of these people. And the more runners I talk to, the more I realise that there’s this natural ‘hump of pain’ that has to be overcome before you can actually enjoy running. And yes, running can actually be enjoyable for anyone, once you figure out how to overcome the hump.

 

Fact Number 2: Beginners all make the same basic mistakes. These are painful and convince many to give up too soon.

What kind of mistakes? Well the most common one I’ve observed is running too quickly. Beginners have no idea how to pace themselves. And so, they start running at a pace that isn’t sustainable. Fairly quickly you have a stitch, a cramp, your calves are seizing up, your clavicles are on fire and you feel like your lungs are about to spontaneously collapse.  And you have to stop. This failure is not only painful, it’s incredibly demotivating.

And so those people decide, rather quickly “Well, running isn’t for me. I don’t like it. I’m just not a runner”.

 

Fact Number 3: Everyone can run. They just need a few tips and a plan.

So, tips include; running really slowly (like at an arctic pace) for the first few times in order to allow your body get used to the motion. And distance doesn’t matter at this stage, you’re better off trying to run, slowly, for a target time. So, run for 10 minutes. Then for 15, then for 20. If things get too tough, slow down even more. Just don’t walk. Once you can run for 30 minutes, you’ll be so proud of yourself! And the secret to getting to this smug place, is SLOW THE HELL DOWN.  Other tips are to run with friends. They will distract you and you’re less likely to give up. Just find someone who is happy to keep a slow pace with you. Investing in good runners will protect you from injury, and nice gear might help you feel a bit more confident.

 

Fact Number 4: Running feels amazing. If you stick with it.

It’s not bullshit, it’s science. When you manage to find a comfortable pace to run at, and once you’ve overcome the ‘hump of pain’ running can feel really nice! This is the wonderful point where your heart is pumping, but not out of control. You’ve warmed up but you’re not too hot. Your breathing is rhythmical but not horror-movie heavy. This is a glorious “I’m alive and I love my body” moment. It helps to wave your hands in the air and sing loudly to whatever is in your earphones. Life is fucking awesome. This is a wonderful cure for anger, anxiety, stress, worry and fear. I call it ‘shaking the etchasketch’. Whatever rubbish got scribbled on you that day gets wiped away. You just have to push past the hump to find it.

 

Fact Number 5: The hump of pain will always greet you. You just get better at kicking it’s ass.

So the first 5 – 10 minutes of running almost always feels unpleasant. No matter who you are or how good you are at running. Your body will through up all sorts of excuses. Giving you reasons to stop. Your laces will be too tight. Your running app isn’t set properly. You have a cramp. Just shut up and keep running. Slower if necessary, but JUST DON’T STOP. If you can hold out for a few more minutes, you’ll find your runner’s high. Or at least the “this isn’t as bad as it was a second ago” moment.  And when you do, it’s hands in the air baby. YEAH. And did I mention how smug you’ll feel after you’ve finished? Or the better sleep you’ll have that night? Yeah – all of those are yours when you run.

 

So there you have it, five fast facts about learning to run. So if you find yourself saying “I’m not a runner” allow me to challenge you to beat the hump. I promise you it’s worth it 🙂  I’ll leave you with this incredible, fabulous cartoon from Oatmeal Comic Creator and runner Matthew Inman. http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running.

 

Why I Run, By The Oatmeal

And finally – if you’re thinking about giving it a go, here are some tools and links.

http://www.runningforbeginners.com/ Everything you need to go from the couch to a 5K.  And beyond. Great tips.

http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/activities/running/. This Girl Can is a UK initiative sponsored by Sport England. I love EVERYTHING about this campaign. They have a lovely intro to running here (alongside lots of other activities)

http://www.runnersworld.com/social-studies/11-tips-for-new-runners. Tips from other runners.

XXX

BitchMittens Emily

 PS – this pic is of me and my friend Eva  (a writer, coder and general all round super-chick) yesterday at the 5K race in Dublin. She’s overcome the running hump and did it with flair. I’m hoping this post will encourage her to finally blog for us about her own running journey 🙂