Posts Tagged ‘newbie’

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I’ve been planning to write this post for many months, but my race schedule has resulted in my pre-empting other posts for race reports. However, I’ve decided that it’s finally time to share my 7 Tips for Newbie Runners!

Although I no longer consider myself a ‘newbie’ in the technical sense – I’m coming up on 7 years into my running ‘career’ – I’m still very green compared to many of those in my running circle. And those newbie days are not so distant that I don’t remember them pretty clearly.

So here they are:  7 pieces of advice (one for each year that I’ve been running!) for some of the newer runners out there!

1. Find a running buddy/crew. This advice applies to everyone – newbie or otherwise. But I think it’s especially important when you’re a less experienced runner. Having a running buddy is valuable for a variety of reasons:  you keep each other accountable; you have more fun; you motivate each other; misery loves company; you can learn from each other. I can’t even count the number of times that I would have convinced myself to hit snooze one more time and stay in bed if it weren’t for the fact that I had promised my running buddy (or buddies) that I’d be out for that run.


The awesome folks of West Van Run Crew!

If you honestly don’t know another runner – which may be the case if you’re just getting started – find a running crew. This is pretty straightforward if you’re living in a large urban centre – there are probably multiple groups to choose from, either sponsored by a local running store or organized by local fitness buffs. It may take time to find the right fit for you, but persevere. Personally, I think having a running crew is even better than having just one running buddy, because you’re almost guaranteed to have company.

2. Invest in good technical gear. When I ran my first couple of races, I wore the cotton event t-shirt provided with race entry. Cotton chafes, holds moisture, and doesn’t breathe. I also wore long warm-up pants, which were way too big for me and likely impacted my overall speed. Get yourself a decent technical shirt or two, ones that fit well and make you feel good, and a good pair of shorts/tights. Depending on the weather where you live, some additional layers may be required.

Back in the old days, I had some well-worn barely used running shoes that I had picked up somewhere along the way – likely bought without anything but price in mind. Take the time to try on different types of shoes, find the size and fit that works best for you, and talk to the professionals. I recommend going to a dedicated running store, rather than a generic sporting goods store – they can provide more tailored advice.


Nikes are still my go-to shoe

Running gear shopping doesn’t have to break the bank. Keep an eye out for sales at your local sports stores. Talk to the folks in your running crew (see Point 1) – runners love to give advice!

3. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is one that I still struggle with. It’s easy to look at that girl who makes every stride look effortless, or the guy dressed in an Elmo costume in the middle of July who still runs faster than you, and wonder why it’s so easy for them. And so hard for you.

Just. Don’t.

Everybody – and every body – is different. We are all uniquely built. We have different backgrounds, different histories and relationships with athletics, different struggles (both physical and emotional), different day-to-day lives. This may seem self-evident, but it never hurts to be reminded.


I still feel extremely self-conscious at the gym. I’m trying to get over it.

Unless you are an elite runner, or competing for a spot on the Olympic team, the only person your should be comparing yourself to is you. Yesterday’s you. The you from a year ago. Former couch potato you. And even then, be gentle with yourself because today’s you might just be having a bad day.

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4. Track your progress. Technology has come a long way in the past few years. Don’t feel that you need to invest in the most pimped out GPS watch with heart rate monitor that the internet has to offer. I started with a Nike+ foot pod that connected to my fancy basic iPod Nano. Tracking distance and speed, even though it wasn’t tremendously accurate, kept me motivated. I could watch my improvement, see how much I’d progressed, and feel a little smug about my accomplishments.

Heck, you could even just keep a paper log, or an Excel spreadsheet – but with free apps like Nike+ and Strava, why not take advantage?


Strava connects you with other runners, too!

It may feel like your progress is slow at first, but it’s rewarding to look back and see how far you’ve come.

5. Set a goal. Maybe it’s to run for 10 minutes without stopping. Maybe it’s your first 5k race. Maybe it’s to run a half marathon. The goal should be achievable, but also challenging. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, make it a SMART (specific, meaningful, action oriented, realistic, timely) goal! For me, though, signing up for my first 8k race after watching an inspiring movie was enough to motivate me to begin on the journey to where I am today.


Once you’ve achieved your goal – celebrate it! Then set yourself another one. Stretch yourself a bit more. Fall short of your goal? Learn from your mistakes…and set another goal!

6. Be consistent. Sometimes just getting out the door is a struggle. When the weather turns nasty or darkness comes early, or when life simply gets in the way, skipping a run can be easy. The key is to integrate running into your weekly routine, to find a time that works for you, and stick to it.  For me, being part of a Saturday morning running group has kept me accountable, and roused me from sleep even on mornings of torrential rain.


Yep, I got up and ran, even in this.

Book runs into your calendar. Make appointments with yourself, or with your running buddy. Figure out if you’re more inspired to run in the morning, or if a post-work workout is better for you. Once running is ingrained into your schedule, you’ll know it because you’ll have a sense of something missing when you miss a run.

7. Do it because you love it. This may sound a bit glib, and believe me there are days when I do not love running. When I started out, there were a lot of painful days when I thought i) I couldn’t go on and/or ii) I would never run again. I still feel that way on occasion. But once running gets into your blood, it really becomes a part of you. Yes, you do it for the sense of satisfaction it gives you. Yes, you do it for the t-shirts and the medals. Yes, you do it for bragging rights.

In the end, though, you do it because you love it.


What have I missed? What advice would you give to a newbie runner?
If you are a newbie – or not a runner at all – what advice and/or questions do you have?

Run Fatboy RunIt was during Christmas break – December 2008 – that it happened. We were lazing at home watching this awesome British comedy, and by the end of the movie I had made a decision. I was going to sign up for a race! Not a marathon (see trailer here, if you haven’t seen the movie) – I wasn’t that crazy – but a…let’s see, gotta do some research now (there may have been wine involved)…an 8k!


For those of you who’ve known me a long time – especially those who knew me through my school years and into university – I would bet that the word ‘athlete’ is not one you would have used to describe me. In fact, I was arguably the antithesis of an athlete. My forays into the world of sports included (and this may, in fact, be an exhaustive list):

  • 3-legged races and other related activities at school ‘fun days’
  • Trying out for the boys’ volleyball team in Grade 8; I showed up for every practice, and the coach sympathetically made me team ‘manager’ (I never actually played a game)
  • Hating every minute of Grade 9 Phys. Ed. class
  • Attending a handful of Major League Baseball games, and becoming oddly obsessed with the Boston Red Sox for a season (please don’t judge)
  • One disastrous skiing lesson
  • Riding my bike daily during my years of living in Japan – it was a mama-chari, one of those road bikes with a basket on the front, and a bell
  • Working out fairly regularly for about 6 months in 2001
  • Beginner yoga class in Wellington, New Zealand

So, since when am I a runner?

The First Steps

Having irrationally signed up for a race, I knew something had to be done. But what? I’ll be honest – my ‘training’ for my first race was hardly impressive. I think I did a couple of runs in preparation, but I could be wrong. I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy any new shoes. Winter of 2008-2009 was a snowy one in Vancouver, and I certainly had little appetite for running in ‘cold’ weather.

I remember going to a store on Robson and looking at sportswear – and I bought my first pair of Nike running pants. I had no idea what I should be wearing, and I didn’t want to bare my legs (and I suppose I was cold), so pants it was.

Once spring arrived, I have vague recollections of a few jaunts along the seawall in Yaletown. I’m pretty sure I was panting after just a few minutes. But I’m one of those people who will get things done if I know there’s a deadline, or if I’ve already committed to a specific event. So knowing that I had a race looming, I did something – not enough, and definitely not more – but something.

The Unexpected Sun Run

Early in April, one of my friends (who I’d done a couple of little training runs with) informed me that her coworker had had an injury, and dropped out of their company’s Sun Run team. I was offered her registration.

The Sun Run is a big event in Vancouver, with upwards of 40,000-50,000 people doing a 10km run through the downtown core. With an opportunity like this being offered – free of charge – how could I say no?

My first race ever, then, was not the 8k I had expected – but a much bigger, longer, and more exciting event. My only clear memories of the race are waiting for ages for gun time, marveling at how many people were there, and needing to stop at the very first porta-potty on the race route (i.e. immediately after the starting line). My first 10k was finished in 1 hour 17 minutes and 23 seconds (including the ‘pit stop’).

The 8k and after

I don’t remember exactly when it was – sometime in the weeks leading up to the race. A friend had heard that I was running, and said, “Oh, you’re doing the BMO! The half marathon?” (she was doing the half). “No,” said I, “the 8k.” Her response: “Oh, the 8k. That’s cute.”

As a new runner – and still very uncertain of my abilities (both as a runner and as an athlete in general) – this really affected me. Probably more than it should have. It shook my confidence, made me feel small. I know that wasn’t the intention of the off-hand remark, and I don’t think this individual ever knew how I felt. BMO 8k 2009

Years later, with a much longer roster of races under my belt, I’ve come to realize how important it is to recognize and celebrate everyone’s efforts – from the newbies doing their very first race to the elite ultra-marathoners. Everyone has their own challenges, struggles and doubts – and we, as a running community, should support one another.

Finally, the race came. It was a rainy morning. I’d never run in the rain before. About half a kilometre in, I ran through a puddle and felt that cold, damp seeping from the bottom of my foot, the squishing beginning…

I won’t go into all the gory details – this isn’t a race report, after all! Suffice to say, I finished the race. 56:24 was no record time – but, at that moment, it was. In fact, it was a PB – because I’d never run an 8k before! A success, an accomplishment – and, hell, maybe it was cute! Plus, my first ever finisher’s medal!


BMO 8KToday, I looked back through my old Facebook and blog posts, and stumbled across this (self-quote) from January 2009:

Another goal of mine is to complete an 8K run as part of the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Not much of a distance, but a significant aim for someone like me, who really isn’t much of an athlete at all!

2009 will be a year of accomplishment, of setting and reaching goals, of exceeding my own expectations, and of getting on the path to success in as many aspects of my life as possible!

Lofty words from 5-years-ago me.

2009 turned out to have a lot of accomplishments. I ran 4 races (2x10km; 1x8km; 1x5km), raised money for cancer awareness and ran in my underwear, and got engaged.

One month from now, I’m running my first marathon. But that’s another story.