Things I wish I would have known when I started Running (Again)

Everyone has their own story and reason for why they started running. I remember the first time I really just got out and went for it I was quite young. My mom had made a comment that I was looking a little chubby, and in my limited knowledge of body image and overall health at that time, I though “I’ll show her” and took off down the trail near my house growing up like that 1 run was going to fix everything. I’m sure that run had minimal effect on my overall body shape that day, but I do remember the freeing feeling it gave me, and I knew it felt good and was good for me. From then I played basketball through middle school and some of high school and my favorite part was running up and down the court; and I ran track in middle school and high school which I enjoyed immensely. I never ran more than the 1600 meter/1 mile run however, and as I became a senior I often wasn’t even doing that, sticking with the 400 meter/0.25 mile run or the 800 meter/0.50 mile run as I had slowed down with age and not taking practice as seriously.

After high school, college got busy, and in college I rarely ran outside that I remember, and I would just run 1 mile here and there inside at the activity center around the track. I think I had resigned myself that 1 mile at a time was the most I had ever really ran before and that was all I could do. It wasn’t until I had graduated college and didn’t have access to that track anymore that I started to push myself just a little bit further past a mile each time on the treadmill over probably 4-8 weeks’ time until I finally got to 3 miles. I thought, “Wow, if I can run 3 miles straight, I should consider running a 5k!” So, I signed up for a local race that was a couple months out yet. I remember being so nervous and thinking running on the treadmill and running outside are not the same, and what happens if I can’t make it back to the finish? But I remember finishing and being so proud of myself and going home immediately that day and seeing what other races might be available. That year I only did 3 5ks, and it took me 3 more years of running just a few more 5ks each year before I was finally brave enough to run my first 10k. Since then I have too many 10ks to count, a few 8 mile runs, 2 15ks, 6 half marathons (including pacing Gazelle last year) and the 25k RiverBank Run last year in 2019 which is my longest distance to date. I cant wait to help all of you reach your running goals this year. Pacing is such an honor, especially at a women’s only race where we are all sisters. To see girls crying tears of joy after accomplishing something they thought they couldn’t and knowing you were a part of their journey is the best feeling.

I wanted to share some tips I wish I would have known those first couple years getting back into running (again) to help anyone else who may be running their first 5k or 10k or even half marathon at this year’s Gazelle Girl Race.

1. Run your own race It’s easy to get caught up in having a goal time in your mind, or maybe you are just trying to finish. And that’s truly what’s important-showing yourself how strong you are, and what your body can do. There are some aspects of a race you can control (hydration, bringing the right fuel, choice of clothing) but there are some things you can’t (the course, the weather-and any runner will tell you those are 2 things that can have a major effect on how you do!) For that reason, I think it is important to have a goal in mind, but don’t beat yourself up or give up if you don’t achieve it. Use it as motivation for the next time, and work hard until you do get there-it won’t be easy, but you can do it.

2. Dress for the weather Again, the course itself and the weather on the day of a race are 2 major factors that can really affect your performance. It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather and the distance you are running. You may want to adjust your layers for how long you think you might be out in the elements and how hard you are pushing yourself-for example, you wont be outside as long running a 5k but your speed will likely be faster than if you are going to be outside for more than 2 hours running a half marathon at a slower pace. A good rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. I recently went with my sister in law and her best friend to cheer them on at their first half marathon last September. I told them “better to be chilly now waiting for the race to start when you aren’t moving, because you won’t want to be too warm as you are running”. Sure enough, the day became slightly humid before the race was over and they were happy they had less clothes on once they got going.

3. Push yourself, but know your limits If this is your first race, or your first increase in distance (going up from a 5k to the 10 k or half), you are already pushing yourself doing something you wouldn’t have done a few months ago. Trust your training. You didn’t just hop off the couch one day and run 3 or 6 or 13 miles straight. You’ve been preparing for this, and you have an idea of what you are capable of. Have fun, and don’t sell yourself short. If you see someone out of the course it looks like you could run with, specifically a pacer group, make it your goal to try to stay with them to finish at your goal time. And maybe this year it’s the 5k, but never tell yourself you cant do more than that. You can. Maybe not right now, and it may take a few races/seasons to get there, or a great friend to motivate you (see below), but once the running bug bites you, you cant get enough-and soon you’ll be looking for that next big thing (like your first 10k or half marathon, or first pacing experience).

4. Make friends/Join a running group If it hadn’t been for my running bestie, Katie, I probably would have resigned myself to a running life of 5ks and may have never been brave enough to even try a 10k, and now multiple half marathons and the 25k. She has been so supportive and truly has pushed me to run further and faster and just stay consistent with training. We met just by introducing ourselves at a race, and there aren’t too many races I’ve ran without her since. I’ve made numerous other friends (especially after pacing this race last year) at races by just striking up a conversation before or after a race. Put yourself out there-introduce yourself to those around you while waiting for the race to start, stay after the race if there’s any kind of awards ceremony or “finish festival” (the best races have beer at the finish!) and make friends with someone who can become your cheerleader and your running meet-up buddy.

Also, there are multiple running groups on Facebook, so if you have a hard time connecting at an actual race, I would highly recommend searching for a running group in your area on Facebook to find like-minded people. On the groups, people are often posting about meeting up for group runs, races you may not have heard about, or just other tips and stories that may be beneficial to you in your journey! I hope this helped any of you who may be new(er) to this whole running thing. It’s a very supportive community and as pacers, our job is to support you in your journey and help YOU reach your goals. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Cant wait to see all your smiling faces in April!