Becoming A Runner

Running is healthy, cheap and surprisingly fun - but how to get started? Five beginners tell us how they took the plunge.

Posted: 17 January 2011
by Dominique Brady

Running is a great way to get fit - it's fun, cheap and surprisingly sociable. But if you haven't run since you were at school, it can be hard to know how to get started. How do you pace a thirty minute run? What kit do you need and how many times do you need to train a week to see improvement? Our panel of five beginners reveal how they took their first tentative steps - and how to pick up the pace.

Getting Started

If you're already quite active you could head out for a slowish run straight away, but don't worry if you don't feel confident enough to run continuously from the get-go. Many new runners get started by combining running and walking and this is a great way to gradually build up your fitness. RW's Get Started Schedule is a brilliant place to start.

Expect that first run to be a challenge. "I felt sick, I struggled to breathe properly and it was hard. However I felt great afterwards and the next time I went out it was much easier!" says icclesuez. She built up her running gradually and within 12 weeks could run continuously for 30 minutes.

If you're not confident about running outdoors, you could start running indoors. Before Desi R lost five stone she found running difficult. "Initially I couldn't run for more than three minutes and I felt awkward and uncomfortable," she says. She built up her endurance gradually on the treadmill and only when she felt comfortable running for twenty minutes in the gym did she dare to brave the great outdoors - and she hasn't looked back.

Discover what works for you. It could be slavishly following a schedule, running socially with a friend or hitting the treadmill. Take days off between running sessions to help your body recover and progress gradually. And most importantly, enjoy your new hobby!

Kit Up

After your first few running sessions you might begin to realise why runners hate cotton and why having the right trainers is essential to stay injury free. Basic running kit doesn't have to break the bank - all you need are a pair of properly assessed running shoes, a technical t-shirt and if you're a woman, a sports bra. Discover what to look out for with our guide to choosing running essentials. It can make all the difference, as icclesuez discovered: "When I first started I wore a fashionable pair of trainers which weren't designed for running. Quite soon I started suffering with shin splints. I realised the hard way that it's better to invest in the correct footwear."

Time management

Fitting running into your life can seem like a challenge - but it needn't be. If you are determined to reach your goal then there are many ways to add training into an already busy lifestyle. Schedule runs in advance so you're more likely to stick to the plan. Be prepared to be flexible about when you train - whether it's before work, in your lunch hour or after dinner, find the time that works best for you.

Keep a running diary to boost your motivation. "Log every run you did - distance, time and how you felt. It helps to monitor your improvements and actually see how much better you are getting," suggests Shona Wilkinson, personal trainer and nutritionist at The Nutri Centre (

Find a training partner who is at a similar level or take the plunge and join a local running club. This can be a great way to meet likeminded people and ensures you'll train at least once a week. Find out what to look for in a club, and remember to check if it has a beginner community or special new starter sessions.

And perhaps the biggest incentive of all - set yourself a goal. Phil Sanders set himself the challenge of running a marathon, Kirsten Lodge a half-marathon and icclesuez simply wanted to run for 30 minutes. Whatever your final goal, a 5K race is a fantastic first marker of achievement once you start running. Whether you aim to run a specific time or just to complete the race, the sense of satisfaction when you cross that finish line will be immense - and you might find you catch the running bug along the way!   

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Get Started: 30 Essential Tips


Discuss this article

Joining a running club may be a tad intimidating for some people. I would suggest parkrun is a good place to start , very welcomng but you can also turn up, run and then go if you chose.

Posted: 21/01/2011 at 18:28

Yeah, great if your nearest one isn't 30 miles away! Don't think i'll bother driving that far for a 5k
Posted: 22/01/2011 at 01:20

I am nearly 4 stone overweight and have just got a place on September 2011 Great North Run in aid of children with cancer...have ran 3 half marathons a few years ago and desperatley want to get back into running..also really need to build up my core strength..anyone got any training tips? x
Posted: 22/02/2011 at 21:39

I have to agree.  Went to my first ever 'race' since school at Banstead Park and managed the 5K without stopping as I was running with others. Great fun and and a great boost.  3 days later, have just done 10K.  6 months ago, I would be lucky to run a kilometre without stopping. Mesage here is to start slowly, keep at it, go back if you falter and you will get there.  I am knocking 50 and 16st.
Posted: 08/03/2011 at 22:00

pls am a good runner,who is currently doing my masters at london school of commerce,i have the interest to run in the olympic,how can i go about it?
Posted: 28/03/2011 at 19:41

Posted: 28/03/2011 at 19:52

i want to seriously get back in to running evert time i try i go a very short ditance and stop used to do it a lot 5 yrs ago
Posted: 04/05/2011 at 23:55

My first half marathon is the great north run this year 
Posted: 12/06/2011 at 16:43

Wish I'd found this 'discussion' section sooner - it's brill

Kingsley - how's your Olympic dream coming along ? 

Posted: 28/11/2011 at 16:29

This is a great forum.

I am an absolute beginner, and only dare to run on the treadmill in the gym at the moment. I really need a decent tee-shirt as my cotton ones get soaking, can anyone reccommend one please?

I have now worked up to 5k in 45 mins, I do .75k running, then.25 walk until I get to 5k. The last push .75k is the hardest at the moment.

Where should I go from here?


Posted: 11/01/2012 at 13:20

Hi Tia, 

I was a complete beginner on when I ventured out on Christmas Eve last year huffing and puffing. I found if I simply went at a comfortable pace but tried to increase distance gradually I was improving rapidly. Last thursday I did ten miles in 1hour 46mins and felt amazing. I always rest for a couple of days after to fully recover. I do as many pressups as possible to keep my back from acheing.

I am filled with calmness after a long run. I also do faster 5K's in 30mins but don't enjoy the speed work...yet.

I am aiming for marathon distance this Christmas. It may be a pipe dream but I'll be happy trying.

Good luck and 'find your niche'.

God Bless


Posted: 04/02/2012 at 14:54

I started running off and on over a year ago, and restarted the beginning of this year. I did a 10K on a spur on the moment thing last september, after no training for the previous 3 weeks and came in at 1:08. This year I'm in the BUPA 10K in may, running for the RNLI, and I have found my motivation again.

 Since Jan Ist I'm running 5K 3 times a week, and have cracked the magic(for me!!) 10min/mile over the 5K, and I have just rejoined the gym to start some cardio work and weights, and do a bit of training out of the snow and ice. I enjoy the little improvements (it was great when I went from 10:04 to 9:58) and the feeling after a good run,.. all warm and glowly!!

 Based on my experience, slow and steady is the answer, with small regular goals. I started with the couchpotato to 10K plan (google it) and it worked for me I'm still working on the loosing weight issue (nearly 17 stone is a lot to cart around), but it is coming off slowly. Also go to a running shop, get advice and buy a good pair of trainers. My other toy is a gps/heart  tracking watch.. I'm using a garmin 405, its great to see where I've been, and how I've done on the hills....and no-one else will know!!!


Posted: 06/02/2012 at 13:25

I used to start off too fast and burn out. Then, like Wayne, I got a GPS / Heartrate Monitor. Forgot about the times and ran to a steady heartrate - too high, I would slow down, too low and I would speed up. Brilliant.

A year later I'm running faster, further and at a lower heartrate. Tuesday and Thursday treadmill. Sunday fun! 

Posted: 27/05/2012 at 03:59

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