so you want to be a distance runner

... you crazy person!

Turning into a distance runner (and the kind of person that eat, sleeps, breathes and annoys other people by discussing running) was never something I would have predicted for myself. Somehow, a casual 5K with my mom turned into trigger point injections in my calf as I ask the doctor for the millionth time... "So how long until I can run again?"

I'm a crazy person. You're a crazy person for wanting to do it. We're all a little crazy. The best people are!

I'm in no way a running expert, which I actually love. I spend a lot of time weekly pouring through blogs, magazines, articles and podcasts. I nerd out on learning more about the sport, the people that share my devotion to it and how to push myself farther and (some days) faster. But don't take what I say as gospel, or as tried and true, proven facts. HOWEVER, I have been asked :

  • why running?
  • how do you do it?
  • what motivates you?
  • what should I do if I want to run for more than three miles?

So, with disclaimer fully intact, here's some things I've learned over the last few years :

1. Find Your Why

This is probably the most important tip I can give you - you gotta find your why. At first, my "why" was that I was pissed off about the 2013 Boston Marathon. I figured, what better way to show terrorism that I wasn't afraid than to knock the dust off my sneakers and go for my first-ever run? Anger will only carry you so far, it turns out - I'd say approximately 3.14 miles. Then, I had to find another why.

For me, running is about proving to myself both that I am strong and that there is a purpose larger than myself. I've checked off distances and times I've never thought possible and stared at myself in the mirror afterward, sweaty, proud and disbelieving. I was never proud of my body before I started running.

But if you want to be a dedicated distance runner that truly finds love and sanctuary in the sport, I also think it needs to become bigger than yourself, and bigger than crossing a finish line at a race. I've found volunteering opportunities through running. I've made amazing friends through running. And I've started to espouse the benefits of finding your athletic "thing" - which doesn't have to be running! - to anyone who will listen. If you let it, running will bring you a community and a chance to give back and a love that you didn't even know was missing in your life. And that is a really powerful reason to keep lacing up your sneakers.

2. Gear Up Properly

You are about to put your feet through some shit, people. Get yourself to a really good running store (ask for recommendations), make sure that they put you through a proper test and buy the shoes they recommend. If you start running in the shoes and they're uncomfortable, go back. Go back until you find the perfect fit. You're Cinderella, but way more badass.

Find good socks. Replace them often (just trust me on this). Find the types of sweat-wicking gear that works for you - I swear by drawstring leggings. Gonna enter a really rigorous training cycle? Shell out the money for heat gear and rain gear, and thank me later. Figure out how you're going to carry water and energy sources with you on your runs.

And, sorry boys, but ladies - let's talk boobs. Get yourself a good sports bra. You can get fitted for sports bras (I know, mindblowing) - do it. Whatever you're using in yoga won't cut it. In fact, you should have different types of sports bras for different types of activities. Make sure your bras are staying fresh - they can wear out, too - and make sure they're supportive for all of those miles. Think about how much things are bouncing... and moving... as you run for two or more hours. Pay the money for the really, really, really good bra. It is so worth it.

One last thing - have no shame when it comes to what works for you. The sports bras could be ugly - the shoes could be, too. Whatever! The best advice I got was to stock up on Vaseline and use it everywhere that could blister. So yeah, it's not the cutest thing in the world, but if my mileage is going over 10, you better believe my feet are covered in Vaseline in my socks. And the only time in my life I've wished for a smaller chest is while I'm running - you can laugh at rubbing Vaseline inside your sports bra all you want, but when it saves you from two chafing lines that look like you got implants and hurt like hell, you'll buy Costco-sized tubs, too.

3. Love Your Own Ability

Ugh, okay, this one is tough. You're probably never going to be an Olympic runner - and if you are, you really don't need to read this blog, I'm pretty confident #yougotthis. But with the rise of social media and online blogs (all of which are GREAT!), it can sometimes be really, really hard not to compare yourself to other runners. 

Their times are so much better than mine. They're always going to be faster than me. They didn't get injured. Wait, do people seriously look that good in race photos and why do I always look like I'm about to stroke out?

When I start to spiral like that, I try to remind myself : who cares? Seriously, who cares. I'm never going to win an Olympic medal. But guess who I'm in competition with? Myself. That's it. None of my friends that are faster than me particularly care that I'm slower. They're just excited to see me out there. And bitch about conditions over drinks after. 

4. Find Your Tribe

Speaking of friends - running friends are the best, ya'll! I can't count the amazing number of people that have come into my life since I started lacing up my sneakers. I'm blessed to now have a network of badass, fit, smart women (and a few men, too) that I can call for training partners, race buddies, or just a weeknight of meeting up to discuss... running. Told you everyone was a little crazy.

Find that network, and talk their ear off. They'll want to hear about your shin splints way more than your non-running friend that's listened to you complain for a million times. They usually have great suggestions for all of the tricky bits of the sport that you need to learn on the fly : foam rolling, stretching, cross-training and staying mentally in the game. And sometimes you'll just want to spend all afternoon gChatting each other links to really cute and ridiculously expensive running gear. It's a good thing.

5. Listen To Your Body

Whew, is this one important. Listen. To. Your. Body.

We've covered my injury and recovery ad nauseam here (and I'll probably continue to do so), so I don't need to rehash the whole story. But it is very very important to note that had I listened to my body, instead of the person that cleared me to run, the situation never would have become quite as dire. You know your body, your pain and your limits better than anyone. Don't be afraid to push yourself, sure, but if your gut instinct is to ease up, ease up. Don't run if you have a cold, don't run if your ankle hurts every time you put weight on it. And don't run if you're so sad you can't stop crying, because you'll have to stop and cry on the trail and that will just get embarrassing. Maybe (definitely) speaking from experience.

I'm still working on listening to my body and trusting myself, so here's what I say when I'm feeling guilty about skipping speed work because I have a fever :

It's pretty badass that my body can do this to begin with. Sometimes it deserves a day off. The world will not end.

 

 

There's so much more to know about running - but seriously, half the fun of getting into this sport is discovering all of that yourself. As always, feel free to reach out with questions / comments / recipes / race recommendations. And seriously - get a good sports bra.