Soon after I started running for exercise, a friend, Rachel, asked me if I had ever considered participating in an organized race like a 5K. “Nah,” I dismissed. “That’s just not for me. That’s not why I run.” Soon afterwards, though, Rachel signed up for a 5K. She was new to running like me. Neither of us had yet run a full 3 miles (a 5K is 3.1 miles), so it was an act of faith for her to do this. Because I cared about her and thought it would be a nice way to support her in her running quest, I signed up, too. Soon, several of our other friends signed up, as well. On race day, there were over 10 of us in the 5K. For most of us, it was a “first.” And what a kick! I ran almost every step of the race—my most mileage to date at that time.
After the race, the whole bunch of us went out for a late breakfast to bask in our relationships and our new experience. It was a wonderful day. I’m so glad Rachel took the leap and led the way, because as it turned out, “races” are for me (I must interject here that “race” is a misleading term; the only person I race is myself! My goal is to finish). They provide an incentive to stretch myself and aim for goals that I have not yet reached.
Within in a short time after that race, I got to thinking about really stretching myself.
A few months after the 5K, I ran a 10K (6.2 miles), then an 11K on the first day of 2011. The next obvious milestone would be a half-marathon (13.1 miles). A part of me cowered at the idea. No way could I run that far. Another part of me debated, But that’s what I thought about the 5K a short time ago. More and more I began toying with the idea. How do you build up to that kind of mileage without hurting yourself or burning out?
I surreptitiously typed in “half-marathon training plan” in Google (Google knows everything!) and started perusing the myriad of returns. In the process, I stumbled across all kinds of websites and blog sites about running. I saw articles titled “How to Improve Your Running Form,” “How To Recover,” “How to Run Faster,” “How to Deal With the Heat,” “How to Deal With the Cold,” “What to Eat Before Running,” etc., etc., etc. I wanted to know all those things! (It was around this time that I discovered Google Reader and the efficiency of subscribing to blogs through a “reader.” I strongly advise. Read A Technology That Will Save You Time and Make You Wiser). So I did a little investigating around the world wide web and found the blogs that seemed best suited to me and subscribed away. Now I had all this rich resource in one place (Google Reader). Instead of reading only when I had a question about something, I read on a regular basis, and in doing it that way, I built up a good knowledge base regarding my new hobby. I knew answers to questions that I didn’t even know to ask (like “should I eat during a long run?”).
During this same period of time, I discovered an excellent podcast that I downloaded onto my phone and listened to while I ran. Again, rich resource.
When I talk to friends that are interested in starting a running program, I always suggest they do the same thing that I did: start studying the subject. Don’t wait till you have an injury before you learn how to prevent it! Don’t wait till you get sick to your stomach while out running before you discover what you should and shouldn’t eat before and during a run? Don’t wait till you are overheated before you learn how to hydrate.
Are you already thinking you don’t have time to add more to your reading list? Most of the blogs that I read are a paragraph or two long—plenty short to read while sitting in a drive-through or while waiting on an appointment. There are a couple that are a little longer than that but well worth the 5-10 minutes it takes to read through them. And the podcast is something that I can listen to while I run—a great multi-tasking opportunity.
A side-effect of all this reading is that it reinforces the habit you are building. You know how it is. When you read about exercising, you want to exercise. When you read about cooking, you want to cook. When you read about reading, you want to read. So set yourself up for success by reading often about whatever interests you. A little strategy that I have discovered that helps me get out of bed and out the door on running days is to read a couple of running blogs at night before I go to sleep.
If running is not your thing, then by all means, search out some books, blogs and podcasts on your activity of choice. My point is not so much about running as it is about becoming knowledgeable and well-versed at whatever you do. “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.” The Bible-way of saying this is, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Col 3:23).
For those of you who are into running (or want to be), below is a list of the blogs that I like to read (and subscribe to through Google Reader to make it easier) and the podcast that I referred to. Please comment by clicking “comments” below if you have a blog or podcast to suggest. I am always open to new frontiers.
Running Blogs (and a Podcast)
About.com Running and Jogging – This blog consists of very short posts, but almost every post has numerous links if you want to learn more about the particular subject. A very quick read, thus not as thorough as some of the other blogs I list.
Ask Coach Jenny – This is a Runner’s World column. These posts are a little longer (but not too long!) and contain excellent information. I highly recommend.
Cool Running – Of all the running blogs I read, this one has the longest articles (usually more than a page), but they are also the most-loaded with scientific research. I, personally, like that kind of info. Also, this particular “feed” contains lots of advertisements for races/runs throughout the U.S. I’m not interested in that aspect, but it is easy to delete those posts in Google Reader and keep only the informative posts that I like to read.
Jeff Galloway’s Blog – Jeff Galloway is a former Olympian runner. He is now in his 60’s. The byline on his blog is “Running and Walking Till You’re 100—Injury Free!” This is a great read for those who start running when they’re “older.” The posts are very short and sweet, and he doesn’t post very often.
Runner’s World – Some of these posts are biographical—about other runners. If you don’t enjoy that kind of thing, they’re easy to delete. There are also a lot of advertisement-type posts. But the informative posts are very good. It’s worth subscribing just to get those.
RW (Runner’s World) Daily – I am including this one just for fun. This is mostly humorous posts by one of the Runner’s World writers. I often laugh out loud at his writing; I always smile.
Marathon Training Academy – Last, but definitely not least, is Marathon Training Academy. This website is “home” for the podcast that I mention in this post. DON’T BE DETERRED BY THE NAME. Even if you never intend to run a marathon, the info contained in the podcasts is good for any type or level of runner. The blog posts are usually summaries of the latest podcast. The podcasts are produced by husband-and-wife duo, Angie and Trevor Spencer. You’ll love this couple! They are truly delightful to listen to (you’ll feel like you are sitting across their kitchen table from them). You’ll laugh, you’ll smile, you’ll be inspired. And you’ll always learn something to assist you in your running endeavors. Again, I highly recommend. Click Marathon Training Academy to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.