OK, before I start I just want to reiterate that I’m no expert, I’m not a professional athlete, not even a running fanatic… Just an average runner wanting to share some tips and advice that might help some newbies as they start their running journey. These are some things I’ve learnt from years of running, the kind of tips I wish someone told me back when I first started out.
Tip 1: LOOK AFTER YOUR FEET!
For me probably the most important bit of advice I could give a new runner, never underestimate how important your feet are! A building is only as strong as its foundations… for us runners our feet are our foundations. You might have the lungs of a blue whale, the heart the size of a watermelon, spring-loaded legs like a gazelle and a technique that get Mo Farrah drooling. But if your feet fall short the rest will crumble soon after!
When I ran my first half marathon I hadn’t yet learnt the importance of looking after my feet. Wearing a pair of ill-fitting trainers so old that they could easily be described as retro/bordering antique, and a pair of rolled down rugby socks… At the end of the 13.1 miles needless to say my feet were a right mess.
Ever since that day I’ve put a big emphasis on making sure I look after my feet. From rolling them daily on massage balls, making sure I wear correctly fitted trainers, to sampling hundreds of different socks to find the perfect pair for me.
After trialing many a pair of socks I came across Injinji toe socks. I never thought I would like toe socks, but decided to give them a try, and low and behold not only do I find them extremely comfortable I’ve also seen a significant difference in the amount of blisters I’ve been getting. I’ve also started using Glide Foot. I first tried Glide Foot running the Bournemouth marathon last year. Probably the least prepared anyone could have been for a marathon, only a handful of training runs in the months building up to it. I knew I was going to struggle and I did, but surprisingly my feet held up OK with only one tiny blister after 26.2 miles. Definitely a great purchase!
Tip 2: FIT YOUR TRAINING AROUND YOUR LIFE, NOT YOUR LIFE AROUND YOUR TRAINING.
When you sign up for a marathon you’re not just signing up for a few hours running the day of the race, you’re signing up to months of training… It’s a big commitment. It’s easy to get caught up in it, overcome by it even. Most of us don’t have the luxury of being a professional runner, we have jobs, families, pets, social life’s, housework, the latest Netflix series to watch… So don’t be a slave to that training routine, make it flexible, make it fit around you and your life.
Can you pop to the gym in your lunch break for a quick 5k on the treadmill meaning you get to spend the afternoon with your family… Run to or from work instead of after it… Run with your partner, go somewhere where your kids can cycle with you when you run… Like I said make your training suit you! Don’t be the guy that misses the birthday party of your first born child because your routine says you’ve got a 15 mile run that afternoon!
Tip 3: DON’T FEAR THE TREADMILL!
OK this is possibly where I get a angry mob of runners turning up outside my house waving running spikes and water bottles in the air, wanting to burn me at the stake! I know that lots of runners think that using a treadmill is sacrilege but personally I’m OK with it.
I don’t live in a rough area, but that doesn’t mean I relish the thought of running past gangs of teenagers drinking cheap cider on the street corner shouting run fat boy run…their parents really need to educate them…at least make them watch Forest Gump! I also live in Wales…a country not really renowned for its great weather…. Running on the treadmill suits me, I have a treadmill in my house, I can use it whenever I want. Don’t get me wrong I love running outside but I guess it ties in with my previous point of making training work for you, if you’re comfortable getting miles in on a treadmill who cares what anyone else thinks!
Tip 4: GATHER AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE!
Don’t just follow the first training program you come across. Research! There’s a wealth of information out there… Books… Websites… Chats with other runners… There’s not one definitive way to train for a marathon. What works for someone else might not work for you, be your own Guinea pig, try different approaches and see what works best for you, if it isn’t working don’t be afraid to try a different approach.
You will come across some information that is totally rubbish too… Marathon training is going to be hard whatever approach you decide on. If you see some article promising you a sub 3 hour marathon by only doing 10 bicep curls on each arm whilst balancing on your none dominant foot once a week… I’d be calling bull shit! But there is a lot of good information and training programs out there. Research and experiment!
As well as gathering information from external resources don’t neglect all the internal information that’s on hand. Listen to your body, how does it feel, your body will tell you so much about yourself. There will inevitably come times when your body and mind come into conflict, and you will have to make the hard decision what one to go with. I think the more you run though the more in tune that mind-body connection gets. You know when your body can push harder even though you’re minds telling you to stop, likewise you know when you need to stop despite your body feeling great.
Tip 5: KEEP A JOURNAL!
Sometimes it’s nice to just go out there and run, no phone, no watch, not tracking how far you’ve ran or how fast you’ve ran it. Just running because you can. But for the majority of the time I think it’s important to keep a journal or some kind of record of your running journey.
You might just want to track how far and how fast you ran, but the more details you document the more likely you’ll be able to find trends in your performance. Did you run in the morning or afternoon, before or after work?? How was your sleep the night before?? Did you skip breakfast that morning?? Document how you felt on the run, was it easy, did you struggle?
Not only does documenting your training help you track your progress, see what works, what doesn’t…it also helps you manage your training, letting you make changes to suit you. If you realise that you always struggle with running in the mornings, and Saturdays are always a write off because your out on the beers till stupid o’clock Friday nights… it probably doesn’t make much sense to schedule your weekly long run for Saturday morning.
Tip 6: BUILD UP SLOWLY.
I can’t emphasis how important this is. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a new routine, you go from couch to daily runs overnight. Then a few weeks later your struggle with runners knees and another 10 little niggling injuries, and you find yourself sidelined, injured. Then worried your behind in your training routine, rushing back into training, pushing yourself harder to catch up just for the same cycle to repeat itself again. Remember it is a marathon and not a sprint!