When you set out as a runner, you’ll find that you have many more questions than answers. Am I too slow? How do I get faster? What can I do to stop it hurting? How long will it take before I get better? And there will definitely be times when you think you’ll never find the solutions you’re looking for. Don’t despair.
Running is a little like driving – the more you do it, the more you learn. That’s why we decided to speak to runners of varying vintages and experience and ask them what they wish they’d known before taking their first running steps. The lessons they’ve learned will apply to you too and put your mind at rest.
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Dr Patrick Milroy
Years Running 47
Listen to your body
It may sound odd coming from a doctor, but the knowledge that would have most helped my initiation into running would be to have understood my body and the messages it sent to my brain. All too often I ignored little niggles in order to complete an extra mile in training. If I had spent a little less time running in those early days, and a bit more time resting and stretching my back and lower limbs, it probably would have helped prevent a multitude of injuries.
Years Running 35
Variety is the spice of life
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and become a habitual runner. You can find yourself following the same routine week-in-week-out, and repeating exactly the same runs and sessions on the same day of each week. While that may feel comfortable and familiar, it’s not actually the best way to improve. Mix up your training, try new sessions, enter races of wildly varying distances and you’ll be a better runner.
Years Running 45
Take Preventative Measures
I’m now a veteran runner and still enjoying it enough to probably fulfil my wife’s prediction of me being the “fittest man in the graveyard”, but I think I’d be fitter still had I stretched more, not scoffed at the benefit of gym-work for core strength and building up muscles such as my quads, and realised the importance of identifying and rectifying postural imbalances early on, I might have avoided many injuries and even knee surgery.
Years Running 13
When I started out I simply ran purely for the sake of it. I’d pull on my shoes, trot along for a bit and then head home. I enjoyed it, and I soon became fitter, but then the improvement stopped. I realised I needed a target, a tangible goal to aim for. Once I’d picked a goal race, I started to follow a schedule and added structure to my training. Every session had a reason behind it. Surprisingly, I found that running to a plan was really enjoyable and I started to improve all over again.
Years Running 5
Join a club
Joining a running club, in my case Dulwich Runners in London, made me realise just how much fun running can be, and how useful the support of a club is. A club can provide you with as much or as little competition as you want, a big incentive to go training when you’d otherwise spend the evening in front of the TV or in the pub, a whole new bunch of friends (some of them quite eccentric), great camaraderie at team events and access to a wealth of information.