Couch to 26.2

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One week ago I woke up at 6 a.m., ate a protein bar, got dressed, and ran 26.2 miles. I finished this, my first marathon, in 4:19:34. I ran my first 5k just over a year prior in 33:42 and was unable to run a mile without stopping at the time. I’m not sure how exactly it happened, but it seems that in the past year I have moved into the category of running people, a population which I had previously struggled to understand. I will try to outline my own crossover as clearly as possible, with tips for those who might want to try it themselves.

Equipment

One of the reasons running is such a popular and versatile form of exercise is that the only truly essential piece of equipment is a good pair of shoes. Don’t skimp on this aspect, and try going to a running store to get advice on the best shoes for your gait.

That said, you’ll probably want some other things as well. Some high-quality workout clothes with moisture-wicking fabric will definitely come in handy, especially if you’re going to be doing most of your runs outside instead of on the treadmill. Check out this article or the what to wear tool for guidance on what to wear in different weather conditions.

You’ll probably want something to keep track of your runs as well. I like the app Runkeeper as it allows for live tracking of runs via GPS as well as post-hoc input of treadmill runs. If you prefer not to bring your phone along (or drain your battery) you can use a GPS watch. I have this one, which I bought for about $85. You can pay more for bells and whistles like heart rate monitoring.

If you’re looking to listen to music or other content on your run (we’ll get to my suggestions on this), I’d recommend your phone or an iPod shuffle. Headphones that stay in your ears are also essential.

Training

A huge part of getting into running is just knowing where to start. When I ran my first 5k I didn’t follow any plan and I pretty much just tried to run a 5k on the treadmill every time I went to the gym. I probably would have benefitted from a more gradual approach. For the marathon and half-marathon, I have really enjoyed following Hal Higdon plans. There is also very popular Couch to 5k plan or the Zombies Run! 5k app (more on that later). These help take the guesswork out of determining your workouts and will help you ease into running as a habit.

Motivation

The key element to my motivation was always having a race to look forward to. First it was 5ks, then I signed up for my first half marathon. After I convinced myself I could do that, I signed up for the Richmond marathon.

Even if you don’t enjoy the actual running at first, try to turn running into a ritual that you enjoy. When I first started running, I was obsessed with the Zombies, Run! app, which I paired with deliciously trashy pop mashups from Bootie. I only listened to mashups on my runs, so it made for a fun treat. Find pre- and post-workout foods that you like and can look forward to. (These Luna bars and overnight oats are my current jam. I’ll probably do a whole post about overnight oats. They are my world.)

Tracking and gamifying are both really helpful to me, so I love tracking steps and calories burned with with my FitBit and logging my run times in Runkeeper.

So concludes my words of wisdom to new runners. As for me, I’m forging ahead and training for my next marathon in March.

Feel free to share your running tips in the comments.

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