For the beginner runner — If you haven’t yet started off, or just starting running, congratulations on getting to the starting line. The toughest part is over. “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start” — John Bingham, marathoner and writer.
Now focus on a few key things:
1. Have fun while on the run. See what works for you.
- Perhaps music, perhaps a treadmill, perhaps running in a park with friends.
- Chat while you are on a run and walk in case you get out of breath, resume when you feel your breathing and heart rate are back to normal.
- Get out for at least 30 minutes each time.
- If you are outdoors listen to the birds, of there are no birds, look at the life around you and smile and greet someone else who is running or walking.
2. Carry a water bottle. Take a few sips every kilometre and do not wait until you are thirsty. Several people tell me that they don’t carry water on runs shorter than 10 km. Please do — your body needs a steady supply rather than a feast and famine situation with the average being OK!
- Carry it in your hand, or in a water bottle belt, or leave it on a bench when you are doing loops - whatever works for you.
- During the day sip more water and fresh fruit juice. Tender coconut water is excellent along with the soft cream.
3. Focus on your running form. Look at those around you who are looking like they run effortlessly. Look at the five-year-old kids run and try and mimic that. We all had great running form when we were five year olds and lost it somewhere along the way.
- Stand against a wall or pole and get your heel, butt and head to touch it.
- Relax your neck, shoulders and arms and torso
- Lean forward a few degrees from your ankle, with your body straight, and gravity will get you to place one foot forward and propel you onwards.
- Run in a group and give each other quick feedback on this simple running form where you will automatically land on your mid foot.
- Look at your photographs taken while you are running and check your form. It’s not going to change overnight but focus on it.
4. Run with a stranger for a short distance in the park or on your route and pick up a short conversation. You could be making a friend for life!
For the regular runner, the only guiding principle is: Have an open mind on the broad principles and see what works for you specifically, as you understand yourself and your body better and better. A simple way is to keep a journal and jot down a few things after a run apart from the basics of time and distance etc.
Terrain, weather, how you felt physically and psychologically and some notes of why - perhaps you slept really well the night before and you were in a good mood to start with, or in great company, or wearing your favourite shoes, or on a beautiful trail. Or figure out the background to what may have been bothering you to make for a lousy or not so great run.
Looking back on your journal, the top few running experiences and those at the bottom of the barrel, will provide greater insights into what you could do more of, or less of, to enjoy your running even more. There are great running schedules out there — find one that works for you and stick to it with discipline. Do not mix and match things out of three great schedules — just as you would not mix three prescriptions of three good doctors. Hal Higdon’s schedule is highly recommended in case you do not have a programme.
—The writer has run over 50 marathons across the world and is the author of the book Running And Living.