Ode to Running/Advice to New Runners

It’s the day before the big race and there isn’t much I can do at this point except rest, hydrate and eat well. Oh and not forget to pick up my bib at the Health expo. And not linger around at the expo and tire my feet :).  Other than that, I’m doing absolutely nothing today.

While I do absolutely nothing, I want to take stock of this tryst that began about 4 months ago on a beautiful fall Saturday in Austin. I want to write about what running and training for this HM did for me. And what it will give you, new runners.

Advice to New Runners

1. There will be pain

I admit I went from couch to the training track. There is such a thing as no pain, no gain, even if you have been running track since college. Or rather, that pain is the test. You will not run pain-free. But when you run, you will be free of pain. What do I mean? Provided you take care of yourself by stretching adequately, thinking about your running form, learning and reading about running, asking questions to the Coach, you will be able to run. And that run will set you free from pain. I run so that I can get there. Everytime. May not happen everytime. But I try to get to that pain-free zone on every run.

2. Train with a program

I cannot begin to emphasize on the value of a good training group. I couldn’t have gotten this far without Rogue and without the constant encouragement of my fantastic coach, Lorrie. She gently nudged me to push my boundaries. When I asked her about the Run from Hell and that I wasn’t confident, she said, give it a shot, walk up a few hills but give it a shot. I did and till date, its one of the most grueling but one of the best runs I have done in training. When I buckled with pain at one of my speed workouts, she insisted I check it out with the doctor, drove me back and was very concerned. When I got back from a long break she asked me to take it easy, even skip the 3M race and was there proudly at the finish to commend me. I dedicate my race, and every race to her.

3. Understand your limitations but push your boundaries

When I started running I was extremely slow. I used to run at nearly 14 minutes a mile. That was the only speed at which I could breathe easy and keep running for a while without stopping. That was fine by me.  I didn’t care, I was just happy I could be out there running. (FYI, my pace was 12.57 for 3M, which is incredible gain over when I started, so yes, training helps!) Even now, I’m excited to meet other runners but when they ask about time, my eyes glaze over and I just say, ‘Oh, I’m really slow’. That’s fine. If you’re slow, there’s no need to be embarrassed! You are NOT competing with anyone else but your past self. If you are fast, then you’re trying to get fitter and faster.  If you’re tall and have long legs, remember Nature’s given you an advantage with stride length. Go out there and put it to good use.

And for god’s sake, don’t give up without trying. You went for one training run and you huffed and puffed. So what? Were you able to do calculus in grade 1 or play tennis on day 1? Why should running be any different than learning any other thing? Don’t get it wrong – it is a sport like any other.

3. Ignore the nay-sayers

And trust me there will be many. There will be those who have never done a single run but will wax eloquent on how it will wreak havoc with your body. They will cite examples of their friends or friends’ friends who have bust a knee or wrecked a shoulder. There will be people who will cite ridiculous stats and tell you you will die sooner, age faster if you do too much. Running will not age you faster or kill you sooner – it will make you alive, stronger and healthier than you’ve been. And to counter these nay-sayers, I refer you back to point no. 1. There will be pain. And you will work through it. If you’ve got pronation (i.e. a tendency to run in a certain way where your legs bend in e.g.), repeated movements of that nature will bear strongly on some body part. We’ve all got pronation – you may move your hips in a certain asymmetric way or your knees may poke out or your toes may like to face each other. Repeated movements make these pronations into pain.

But will it kill you? I doubt it. Other stuff like smoking, not wearing seat-belts or jaywalking are far likelier to kill you. And if you’ve got pronation – you can get help of a physiotherapist to work through it like I did. You need to use a foam roller on your muscles and you will learn how to use them. When there is pain, you will rest, ice, compress and elevate (RICE). And you will be smart enough to listen to your body. That will only make you stronger to run, not likelier to die/age sooner.

Completing this training program and being able to run these distances which I couldn’t even begin to imagine I could do before – has given me incredible confidence. I feel younger, stronger and more alive than I’ve felt in the last 5 years! I feel grateful that I can do something as fun as this and yet contribute to something close to my heart – child education and the fight against child labor in India. And you know what I’ve been pleasantly surprised with? Not that I changed my perspective on who I am or what I can do, but on how much my near and far friends have supported me. They’ve supported my run financially and also boosted my morale by following my blog, continuously telling me I’m doing something great, by encouraging me when I feel its too much. My own husband, who I may count as an initial nay-sayer is a convert. He hates running but ran with me to give me support. Worked with me through the issues I faced.

A lot of us want to do something great around this age (call it quarter-life crisis) – most great people were already done being great at 30. To me reaching beyond these physical limitations and going above and beyond what I expected myself to do is great enough. This experience has only made it possible for me to scale larger walls, higher mountains. And that’s what I’d like you to think about when you’re out there on your run.

Happy Running!


One response to “Ode to Running/Advice to New Runners

  1. Love Love Love Love…………….it! Very nicely written and encouraging .. for most of the couch warmers.. .like me. Sending this post to Sumit, i am sure he’d love it. He has been toying with the idea of running for a while!

    Loads of hugs!

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