Monday, January 23, 2012

Dear new runner: An open letter

Dear new runner:

My very first 5K stuff
Congratulations on your decision to go on this uncomplicated yet complex journey of running. Lace up your sneakers and charge up your iPod, you're in for an exciting and challenging road ahead.

This is the letter that the runner I've become would've written to the "running hater" I once was.

Listen, I know it's hard at first.  That's why you rock. It's hard but you're gonna do it anyway. Others talk about it, but you're doing it. This already makes you a winner. You might have to walk/run, keep your distance short, take it slow and experiment with running on a treadmill/track or outside. In fact please concentrate on not over-doing it in the early days. The worst thing you can do is injure and burn yourself out. When in doubt, it couldn't hurt to 'under-do' it even. I'd rather you come back from a five minute run feeling energized, accomplished and excited to do it again than do a 25 minute run feeling miserable and defeated.

Go sign up for a race. Seriously. Don't let it freak you out. Pick a 5K for 3 months from now (sooner or later based on your fitness level) plunk down your money and sign up. Right now. Go. I will still be here. Don't think about it - just do it.

Found one? Good. Now tell everyone about it. Go post it on Facebook, Tweet it. This is your "official" start to your running life. Congrats. Start your "5K" training program. There are several out there.  You see, there's something about setting a definite goal that makes your running moving forward and it helps keeps you motivated, "I have to run today, I'm training." To this day, I need to have a race on the schedule to help keep me progressing.

As a beginner, you might feel a little soreness in your back, your muscles or even your knees and ankles. I did. A little soreness (especially if you're carrying excess weight) isn't unusual. Do not confuse soreness with injury.  Follow the R.I.C.E method and if you suspect injury, see a doc.

You should go to a running store as soon as you can and get proper running shoes. Please believe me that this is not the place to cheap out. I literally tried to run in Payless "running sneakers" and learned very quickly that this was a BAD IDEA. If you don't live near a running store - you can learn here how to figure out a good running sneaker for you.

Please don't compare yourself to other runners. I started by running at a 4.0 on the treadmill and would eye people that were flying at unfathomable speeds. This is your training. It will be your race. Your journey. You'll always be slower than someone else and right now you are faster than the guy on the couch on his second bag of Doritos!

Running can support your weight loss journey but running does not give you a license to eat. Focus on fueling yourself with healthy foods, don't over-do extra calories or you won't see a loss if that's what you are looking for.

The running community is AWESOME. Support is EVERYWHERE. Go online and look for running bloggers, follow runners on twitter, Join running communities at places like DailyMile and Runners World. Connect, ask questions and join the club.

You are a real runner! Whether it takes you 15 minutes to run that mile or 6 minutes - you are a runner. Don't "weight" to get out there - who cares if you're not the fastest in the pack. Don't think you have to wait to be 20 pounds less to run. You can do it.  Here's a very inspirational story of someone who started at 349 pounds - a guest post on "Runs For Cookies." (Slim Katie has a pretty inspiring story herself.)

As John Bingham says, Whether you are the first or last across a finish line, it's the same finish line!!  Get out there and be proud of you! You have to be your own biggest cheerleader. You are a rockstar. Believe it.

Finally, you might not love it today. You might not love it tomorrow but someday you're going to wake up and crave running. Your life will be changed. You will find fitness, what 'runners high' is all about, confidence and passion. You will find out that you can go further than you thought. You will learn that you're tougher than you ever gave yourself credit for. Your world's of "I cant's will change to I cans."

You will find the indescribable joy of setting goals and accomplishing them. The thrill of the finish line.

I'm so happy for you. Enjoy your journey and see you out there.
"Everyone is an athlete. But some of us are training, and some of us are not." -Dr. George Sheehan

XO
Jen





39 comments:

Michelle said...

Great post Jen! And all so true - I wish I had had a letter like this when I started running!

Jen said...

Thanks, Michelle :)

Malory Craft said...

I really love this post. I've recently started running (within the past few months) and at first it was hard for me to run 90 seconds, and this morning for my "quick" workout I ran a mile and felt great. I just decided to run the OKC 1/2 Marathon and I'm so excited to have a new goal to work towards!

I just subscribed to your blog last week and I love reading your posts.

Mal

Jen said...

Hey Malory!

That's great! Congrats on your running - that's amazing :) I can't wait to follow your progress and journey and hear all about your first half!

Dana White said...

Jen, I found your blog via Daily Mile. I LOVE this!!! I'm working with two beginner running groups, and I plan to share this with them. Thank you for your inspiration!

Losing 100 pounds and ... said...

What a great post to read my first week of half marathon training! Thanks for sharing!!

dhits77 - www.rundhitrirun.wordpress.com said...

Jen, such a great post! It really spoke to me as I am a *cough* new runner. I have decided to run my first half in April. Thank you for writing this, I will pass this on to a few others now!

Jen said...

Thanks to you both - i truly appreciate it - can't wait to hear about your journeys!

Lauren said...

love love love this post! I'm a wannabe runner (going again this evening!) and it's refreshing to hear thoughts from someone who was in my position not so long ago :) so thank you for this post! and congrats on all of your success!

Lauren x
http://minormusingsldn.blogspot.org

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

LOVE it!

The Unexpected Runner said...

Well said. Great post!

Miss Carrie Ann said...

Thank you so much! I'm a new runner. Still doing walk/runs. This morning was the longest I've ever ran at 4 minutes at a time. I'm doing a program through a local running store. It was so intimidating to go into the store and sign up, but I'm so glad I did! I know that the first time I run a mile, I too, will ugly cry like I just won Boston!

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

Awesome post!

Jo said...

Love love love this post. I'm bookmarking it for friends who want to start running. So true there is always someone faster than you, but you're flying past those who don't try. Love it.

Jen said...

Thanks so much for the comments - I appreciate you swinging by. See… I told ya that the running community is awesome!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for posting this :) It is exactly what i needed to hear!

http://sarah-projecthealthandfitness.blogspot.com/

Damian said...

The part about signing up for a race? Couldn't agree more. I'd started - and cancelled - the C25k program twice before I finally signed up for a 5k race. That gave me the motivation to finish the training - which I did, and subsequently finished the race. Now I have two half marathons under my belt and I'm running my third in March. It's amazing how much a financial commitment can encourage you to keep going haha

(Also amazing? The feeling you get when you cross the finish line. I hope that never gets old)

Allison @ House of Hepworths said...

I have just started running and have really enjoyed your blog as well as two others. Your blogs have inspired me to start running again. I read for a good 2 months before I was ready to start. I would tell my husband, "I think I'm gearing up to start running. I'm not ready yet, but I can feel it coming on."
Well, I just completed my 4th run today!
This post is excellent and is just the motivation I need. I'm still trying to figure all this out, and your blog (as well as others) have really given me some great info!
Thank you!!

Jen said...

Thanks very much guys, that's awesome Allison, thanks for sharing that with me!

Jeannie said...

Loved this post!

Jason said...

Great letter and all of it true.

Even the 'natural' athlete has to start somewhere and as the person who fit that bill I could not run a mile the first time I tried but instead jogged for 1/4 mile, then walked 1/4 mile, then jogged 1/4 mile, then walked and went home.

Before you know it you are fitter, faster and in a better mood too.....

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. I just signed up for my first 5k tonight. You are a motivation!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. I just signed up for my first 5k tonight. You are a motivation!

Michele @nycrunningmama said...

This is such a great post, Jen!! Love the points you make =)

Jen said...

thanks for the comments! Unknown - good luck with your 5K!! :)

Whitney@9kidftiness said...

Great post! I actually can't remember not being a runner...but I can still relate to the "you might not love it today"... because I still have those days...but in the bigger picture I crave it just like you said.

Teamarcia said...

Great stuff Jen!

TriMOEngr said...

A relatively "new runner" here and I really needed to read this. My last couple outings have sucked and I woke up last night aching and not able to go back to sleep. I try to push on and focus on the fact that fitness is not something you gain overnight. But it is frustrating and it is nice to be reminded that eventually I might get a little faster and even if I don't - I can still cross that finish line (just will take longer).

misszippy said...

Fantastic post! I love the part about maybe not loving it at first, but eventually. I think this is so true. I can remember way back to when I started and not really liking it that much. Now I can't live w/o it!

LilyWren said...

Reading as a new runner this post is fantastic! I have eeen at it for a month now and am currently on a run/walk programme and feel LOTS better for it! I have signed up for a 5K in July *eek*

Thank you! :)

Debsdailylife said...

AWESOME!!! I love this post!! I know a few people I will direct to this!! Very well said!!

Julie said...

I found this from Debs blog and so glad I did. I am a beginner runner, not in the very beginning but still not a full runner yet.
Thank you for this letter, thank you!
Take care and have a blessed week!

Chantelle Sobers said...


Hi Jen. As I read your letter I started feeling rather emotional. Why? because I wish I knew all this before I started running. Well It's been 8 weeks into my 'attempt' and I've already been sidelined by an overuse injury. So now I know what I have to do, I'm taking it slower and paying attention to what I do when I run. Thanks so much for your encouragement.

Chantelle

Chantelle Sobers said...


Hi Jen. As I read your letter I started feeling rather emotional. Why? because I wish I knew all this before I started running. Well It's been 8 weeks into my 'attempt' and I've already been sidelined by an overuse injury. So now I know what I have to do, I'm taking it slower and paying attention to what I do when I run. Thanks so much for your encouragement.

Chantelle

Lexi_B said...

Great blog and well done on all your achievements!

A fully-committed, highly-experienced anti-runner myself, I recently signed up for my first ever half marathon (The Edinburgh Rock and Roll Half) and am slowly discovering this funny new world they call running.

I'll be providing updates on my training progress on my blog - www.lifeandotherkerfuffles.wordpress.com

Alexa

Higilliam said...

I love this! I have been running for a week and a half and this gives me some hope. I have alot of soreness in my knees that is concerning me. Will this go away after my body becomes more accustomed to running?

Fr. Joseph Lody said...

I know that this comment is long after the original post, but I want to share how important your letter is, at least to me. Just a few months ago I topped 300 lbs on the scale, living an academic and highly sedentary lifestyle. I just lost three of my closest friends over the course of the last four months, and for all the reasons you could guess at I started walking, from two to three to now four miles a day, four days a week, with a little jogging thrown in recently. I'm down to 278 this morning, trying to keep an eye on carbs as well.

I've just recently been entertaining the notion of running in a marathon four years from now as a 50th birthday present to myself, and had almost succeeded in relegating the thought to being a pipe dream. Reading your letter added a whole different level of excitement to possibilities. Thank you.

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing Fr. Joseph Lody - I truly appreciate it :-) best of luck on your journey

whiteroseblossom said...

I just came across your blog and have been truly inspired. I started my journey about 3 months ago and will be running my first 5k in June. I can barely run a mile today, but I am committed to reaching my goal. Thank you for writing this letter. It reminds me of all the reasons I am on the journey and that it is worth it.

Check out my blog at whiteroseblossom.wordpress.com