Here is what I call the abandon-all-reason-and-do-it-now approach to your first run ever. Explained simply, what you have to do is this: abandon all reason and do it now. Is that simple enough?
Put down whatever you are holding, tell anyone in the immediate vicinity to hang on a second, walk calmly through the nearest exit, and when you hear the door close behind you, get going.
Three rules: go only about as fast as a two-year-old at top speed; stop when you feel tired, no matter how short the distance; and then walk back.
It’s OK if you want to wave and point ahead as if trying to catch a bus in order to disguise the rather personal fact that you are running for no other reason than to begin the long, slow journey to a healthier mind and a happier body. I know how embarrassing it is to suddenly care about your health when it looks as though you’ve ignored it for so long. I’ve been there. But no
one has to know.
If you’re feeling self-conscious just hold out your wallet/purse, look into the distance and repeat the phrase, ‘Wait! I think you dropped this…’
The abandon-all-reason approach is good not only for your first-ever run, but also for your first run in years, or your first run after a potentially run-ending hiatus, or really any run when you just don’t feel like running. The trick is to not think too deeply about it. If you’ve never run in your life, or you haven’t run in a long time, well, my friend, this is one of the most dangerous paragraphs you’ll ever read.
You can either put this off until you get the perfect shoes/weather/outfit/opportunity, or you can start calling me names and head out of the door now. You have a few minutes, you have an able body, there are hundreds of people out there who may have dropped their wallets/purses. Now go after them and change your life in the process!
Now that you’re a runner (allow me to be the first to congratulate you – and yes, you may call yourself a runner after just one brief, slow trot), how do you get out again tomorrow, next week, next month, next year? You know why you should stick with it, but if you don’t know how to stick to it, you might as well build a wall of happy ignorance around yourself and eat a whole bowl of chips. There’s nothing worse than knowing why you should do something without knowing how. Any idiot can tell you why you should stop eating the chips, but try to find the genius who can tell you how.
Despite a litany of fits and starts, I somehow survived the long, excruciating run-hating period, and made it to the other side with an ability to tolerate and even (on good days) enjoy successive sweat-soaked miles. I know – weird, beautiful. Pass the tissues.
Discipline played only a minor role in my transformation. I relied on a hodgepodge of tricks, cheap thrills and occasional deep thoughts, which are laid out here in no particular order of importance. They are all important. I made my fair share of mistakes when I started running five years ago, but I’m still in – so I must have done something right. And if only one of these points keeps you from quitting, then, as they say, this will all have been worth it.
Keep it comfortable
Easy may never be the first word that comes to mind when you think about running, but it should be in the beginning. If you suddenly realise your gut has reached the edge of your desk and you hit the road in a panic to try to erase the problem with a desperate, blistering run, you may go out a few more times (provided you don’t injure yourself), but at some point shortly thereafter, you’ll give up. On the other hand, if you go out and stop the moment you grow uncomfortable, you’ll think running is easy because it actually will be. Your long-term chances of continuing a brief, easy habit are much greater than they are for a desperate, punishing one.
Don’t worry about speed
Go as slowly as your pride allows. Yes, as slow as the people you ridiculed before you tried this yourself. If you run alone on deserted country roads, you’re at an advantage. And you can always speed up when the rare car passes. The driver doesn’t care how fast or slow you’re going, by the way. Everyone knows you can run faster, but you can’t run faster for long… and long is what you’re after.
March right up to your most unsupportive acquaintance and inform them you’ve started running. This is preferably a person who is as lazy as you were just before the first run (one run and you’re no longer lazy!), someone who will chuckle or even make fun of you. Ridicule is a strong motivator. Ask anyone who
has achieved anything in life to tell you about the teacher who told them they’d never amount to anything.
Get new shoes
I had a hard time with this one because there were decent shoes lying all over the house. Not running shoes, but I didn’t want to spend £100 on something I wouldn’t use in a month. Which is exactly why you should buy them. Get the expensive ones that will shame you, from the wardrobe floor all the way across the room, into a run.
Find a running partner
It doesn’t matter if she/he is faster, slower or right on pace. You have to have one. This is almost more important than the shoes. But unlike shoes, you don’t need a partner for every run. I see my partner, Gerry, once a week or so. He’s an affable tyrant. I need an affable tyrant. Every new runner does.
Keep your blinkers on
Believe you’re the only person in the world who runs this well. Don’t be in any hurry to learn your pace and put it in perspective. There is only one road: the one you’re on. There is only one body: yours. Until you hear about a guy named Dean Karnazes, you’ll think you’re moving mountains.
Eat those chips
If you give them up at the same time you start running, you’ll grow to resent the running. One battle at a time. Fix the plumbing, then paint, then insulate. If you do everything at once, you’ll do them all badly.
Put off thinking
Draw no sweeping conclusions about running while making your way up a large hill, if it’s hotter than 25C, during or following a cramp, on the scales, or before the ibuprofen kicks in. While you’re at it, jump to no conclusions about your spouse, children, friends or pets at these times, either.
What you need is to see people cheering for you. You need to run with a gang of strangers and then eat bananas with them – the best, you’ll swear, you’ve ever tasted.
If you’re still sitting comfortably with your feet up, re-read the opening paragraphs. The first run is the shortest, slowest, craziest one you’ll ever do. Or if you’ve been a bad runner for a long time, you can turn it around in five minutes. It may feel like a silly, pointless exercise, but that’s only true if you never repeat it.