This past New Year's Eve, my boyfriend and I went to my sister's house. When someone inquired why I wasn't drinking, I explained that we were doing the Resolution Run 5k the next morning, so we didn't want to be hungover. One of my sister's well-intentioned friends then started talking about a woman she worked with who had lost a lot of weight by running.
Now, I love my sister's friends (even though quite a few of them have morphed into those annoying, "let me tell you all about my precious child" people that I purposely hide posts from on Facebook), but this kind of thing happens to me almost every time someone hears that I run or have completed a few half-marathons. Yes, I am overweight. No, I am not running (well, walk/running) to loose that extra weight. At least, not completely. In the three years since I've started participating in running events, I've only lost about 15 pounds. Part of that is because I'll never really be as serious about it as some people, but another part is that I just run for fun. It got me thinking, though: I've actually learned quite a bit about this sport, and (since one of my resolutions is to write more) I decided to dust off the old blog and share what I know (or at least, am somewhat opinionated about) with the Internet.
First Things First
Running is probably the best individual sport there is. It's free, or nearly so (more on that below) and the only person you have to compete with is yourself! I usually run with my boyfriend, who is and probably always will be faster than I am, and I really enjoy pushing myself to go faster and further than before...most of the time. If you have a pair of shoes (even if you don't; running barefoot is a big movement right now) you can be/become a runner.
What I wrote earlier about running being free is totally true. BUT, if you do have the funds I would recommend getting some decent shoes. I was fitted for and buy mine at Big Peach Running Company in Atlanta. Yes, shoes can get pricey, but I wear mine out. They're supposed to be retired after 800 miles, but I have a pair that I still use for short walks because I'm frugal. As far as clothing goes, I love Danskin (available at Wal-Mart) for tights and sports bras. (Boys, you're on your own as far as underthings are concerned, sorry!) I've also amassed a pretty large collection of short- and long-sleeved running shirts, but those are from various running events (which I pay to enter). A membership in a local track club is also a pretty good investment - I've been a member of the ATC for three years running, and I love it! I live too far away from the city to go to any meet-ups, but I am guaranteed a spot in the Peachtree Road Race (which is worth the cost of membership alone, IMO), I get a shirt from Big Peach, and I have access to free or discounted race events throughout the year. YMMMV (pun intended)
1. If you're running outside, don't listen to music. If you're running with someone, it's rude - you should be talking to your running buddy, not ignoring them. If you're running by yourself, it can prevent you from paying attention to your surroundings, which can be dangerous. Most running events include a rule about not listening to music on race day, because you may not be able to hear warnings from race officials or volunteers. I know this is one suggestion that most people will ignore or scoff at, but it's a pretty important one so I'm putting it first. If you need music to motivate you to run, stick to the treadmill at the gym.
2. Drink water and eat something. The week leading up to a big race, I keep a water bottle on me and fill it up constantly. The day of, I have a glass or two first thing and then drink a cup at every available water station along the route. If it's the summer, drink more (duh). As far as food goes, I usually have a peanut butter sandwich and a banana an hour or two before the race. If you're doing a longer run (10k+?) and want to carboload, I've been told it's more effective to do it two nights before, but I usually wait until the night before. I don't eat as I'm running, but during my half-marathons or longer training runs I like to suck on hard candies or peppermints. Chomps or honey are good for a sugar boost during a long run, as are gels - just make sure you drink PLENTY of water with them. And when you get finished, chug some chocolate milk or a beer. (Sidenote: yay, SCIENCE!)
3. Be smart. If you're running outside, try to go with a friend. If you prefer to run alone, make sure someone knows where you're going and what time you should be back. Stick to well-lit areas that you know and are comfortable with. These things should be common sense.
4. Make sure you stretch. I used to get the worst shin splints, and I realized it was because I wasn't stretching out my calves properly. I usually wait until I've warmed up a bit before I stretch out, and I always stretch after a run. After a long run, or when my legs feel particularly sore, I've done ice baths but those hurt almost as much as the soreness. Elevating your legs also helps, and remember not to push yourself too much.
5. Not so much a safety tip, but just a good thing to do in general: be courteous. If you're running in a race, keep to the right unless you're passing someone (just like when you're driving - in a perfect world). If you're running in a group, try not to cluster up too much, because it can prevent faster individuals from passing you. If you're going to stop or slow down, don't do it in the middle of the road (unless you really want to get trampled). Say hi and thank you to the volunteers and police officers who are helping out. At water stops, slow down and step to the side, and toss your cup into the bin provided. Just throwing your empty (or worse, full) cup on the ground creates a hazard for people coming after you who could slip and is unnecessary litter for volunteers to clean up afterwards. (If you're serious about your time, wear a water belt so you don't have to worry slowing down or stopping.)
That's all I have for right now, but I'm sure I'll think of more as the year progresses. I've finished one 5k already, but I have a few more events scheduled (including The Color Run, the Peachtree Road Race, and the Publix Georgia half-marathon). Eventually I'd like to work up to a full marathon, but for now that's still pretty far in the future. Happy running!