Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Running

by Adrian Crouch
Hello runners! My name is Adrian. I've been running since 2011 and am lucky to have been chosen as one of the 2018 Official Bloggers for the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon! I'm thrilled to go on this adventure with all of you. Please, if you haven't before, consider running one of their races. There's so many to choose from, and P3R never disappoints!
With almost seven years of experience under my belt, it's safe to say I've learned a thing or two about running. I'll be the first to admit, as a seasoned runner, I sometimes forget that I wasn't always runner savvy. I'm here to talk about things I wish I would've known before I started running in hopes they might be helpful tips for you.
I can't stress enough the importance of a good pair of running shoes. When I first started running, I got a pair of shoes from Marshalls for less than $30. I'm not saying you need to sell your soul for a pair of soles (#dadjoke), but it's important to find a proper fitting shoe that also works with your biomechanics. 
My first pair of running shoes were a size too small because I went with my usual shoe size. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a half size to full size larger than your everyday shoe because your feet will expand as you run. If your shoes are too small, you put yourself at risk for black toenails, blisters and foot pain. 
I also recommend heading to a local running store for a free gait analysis. Staring blankly at a big wall of shoes can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming, but don't worry. The specialists will spend time with you to get you in the correct pair of shoes.
There are questions I get asked by non-runners, especially this time of year. A frequent one is, "Don't you get cold in the winter?" When I was a novice runner, I didn't want to go outside if the weather wasn't in my favor. I hate being cold! When I trained for my first marathon in 2012, however, I didn't have a choice. I had to get out there and put in the work if I wanted to see results. 
My first training run with the Steel City Road Runners was in a snowstorm. Not only did I survive, I also made a friend I now view as a brother. I didn’t need to dress like Randy from A Christmas Story during that run and neither do you. If you're not sure what to wear, Runner's World has a great tool! Also, I often tell people to dress for the finish and not the start. 
Yes, there are going to be times when the treadmill is necessary due to unsafe conditions (i.e. ice, negative wind chill). However, for me at least, I usually opt outside. That's why we train. You will become stronger from these character building runs - not only physically, but mentally as well. Plus, you never know what can happen on race day. If you live in Pittsburgh, you know that we can sometimes experience every season in a week's time.
The longer you run, the more you'll notice weird things happening to your body. Here's a short list of things I've experienced as a distance runner: black toenails, loss of toenails, blisters, chafing, stomach issues and a non-stop runny nose (hello snot rockets). Wow, I make running sound fun! A lot of these problems can be prevented or lessened with the correct tools. 
Trust me when I say that you'll be very tempted to purchase new gear at the GNC Live Well Pittsburgh Health and Fitness Expo come race weekend. You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store! However, keep in mind how important it is NOT to try anything new on race day. I'll spare you from the explicit details from when I had to walk like a cowboy after the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon. Let's just say I now make sure I use plenty of chafing balm! 
Again, this is why we train. Long runs are sort of like a dress rehearsal for the big day. You will learn what does and doesn't work for your body - food, hydration, clothes, shoes, etc.
When I caught the running bug, I wanted to run every single day. However, I quickly learned that rest is a part of the equation. If you don't give your body enough time to recover, you'll run straight towards injury city. If you’re a new runner, your main focus should be getting to the starting line in one piece. 
Over-training is one of the leading causes of injury. I've been there. I had two stress fractures at the same time in my tibia, and I was in a boot for six weeks. It happens, even to elite runners, but there's a lot we can do to lessen our chances. And sometimes, it's not doing anything that helps. Enjoy those rest days! I know I do!
Today's society is filled with the notion, "I need results NOW!" This leads me to another lesson. Running success takes time and patience. Take your plan one week at a time, and increase your mileage roughly 10% each week. Not only does this help you physically, but your training plan will seem less daunting if you break it up. 
Set small, feasible goals. If you set your goals too high in the beginning, you're going to set yourself up for failure. Doing too much will suck the joy out of running; this goes for both pace and distance. 
New runners often think they are too slow or not running enough to be considered "real runners," but if you run, you're a runner. End of story. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and we need to value ourselves and our efforts. Just listen to your body, and don't forget to bask in the glory of those small celebratory moments.
To this very day, I still have bad runs. It's normal. I don't always love running, and it's okay if you don't either.  If you don't achieve the oh-so-wonderful runner's high, you're not doing anything wrong. Sometimes when I run, I feel I'm starting from scratch. My breathing isn't right, my legs are heavy, or I'm just plain exhausted. I don't let this discourage me, and it's important that you don't let it discourage you. 
A lot of the time, it's the first mile that is crummy. If you get beyond that point and still feel the need to throw in the towel, that’s fine. But don't ever give up! Get out there and try again next time. You'll be surprised; you might have the best run you've ever had. So, don't be so hard on yourself when things don't go as planned. While it may not feel like it, the bad runs make you stronger in the end.
Hopefully you’ve made it through all of my rambling. If you know me personally, you will find that I can’t stay focused and will have 329 side stories before I get to my point. Oh, I’m doing it again? Sorry! 
Let’s add some obvious humor to this post. Running is a lot like the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It starts with a pair of shoes, and eventually, you'll have drawers stuffed with gear, clothes and unnecessary items. The same concept goes for races. The 5K is sort of like a gateway drug; the positive energy radiating off the crowd immediately has you thinking about the next race or a new distance. Oh, a 10K, half-marathon or maybe even a 100 miler. Before you know it, you're going to need a medal rack to hold all of your bling!
Good luck with training in the upcoming months. Be smart, but most of all, have fun!

Adrianne is one of our 2018 #10YearsRunning Official Bloggers. You can follow along as she trains for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on her blog Chase Fear.

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