Over the last month I’ve received a few comments and emails from readers asking me how I started running. I thought it would be a perfect Monday musings topic, especially when I managed another sub 2 hour half marathon yesterday!

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I first started running back in mid February 2010. I was about half way through my weight loss ‘journey’ and had just started blogging. I think reading about other bloggers running inspired me to give it a try, as well as having just gained 4 lbs! I recognised that my general fitness levels must have been ok as I managed to run 2 miles straight off.

I just started by going out there and doing it! I didn’t follow any plan, I just went out and jogged, I wasn’t bothered about my pace or distance, I just ran. I can remember that I would get nervous before each run as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to complete the route I had chosen. It was tough, but some how I always managed it!

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Mmm, I can safely say I never look this cool when running! :-p

I can remember the day I ran 2.5 miles and really enjoyed it, I even called that blog post Mega Run. Little did I imagine back then that now my ‘mega runs’ are 13 miles! Towards the end of March 2011 I started to get more into it and got the Run Keeper app for my phone so I could start and monitor my mileage and pace. At this point I was was running 3 miles with my average pace being around 10.30 a mile.

In March 2011 I was an avid reader of JAG’s fitness blog. When she signed up for the Great North Run I was inspired and decided to look into doing it myself. It had always been on my bucket list, but until then I had never dreamed I’d be able to do it. Seeing other people in the blogging world attempting such feats gave me the confidence to try. I ended up getting a place in the race to run for Cancer Research UK, a cause very close to my heart. At this point I was running up to 4 miles.

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I took the approach of gradually increasing mileage each week and I really started to take things more seriously. I was running 3 miles and needed to increase this to 13.1! I basically ran a little further each week, again not following any plan. After I could run about 5 miles I realised that I should get properly fitted for some running shoes which I did, but unfortunately I still got injured!

Looking back, I probably increased my mileage a little too quickly, compounded with having a wonky knee (or poor bio mechanics as the physiotherapist described it). I found being injured extremely difficult to deal with and very upsetting. I didn’t run for a month but managed to retain some fitness by working out at the gym. I got back to running with the help of a knee support and orthotics and trained from 4 miles at the beginning of July to 13.1 miles by the end of August – probably not a sensible approach, but I was determined to complete the half marathon!

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In September 2010 I completed the Great North Run in 2 hours 7 minutes. It was without a doubt one of the greatest achievements of my life. I had always been last at cross country running in school, the ‘fat kid’ and hated all forms of physical activity. To actually run 13.1 miles without stopping and in a respectable time was just amazing for me.

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Since then I’ve continued running. Over winter I ran at a much reduced mileage and mostly on the treadmill. I decided to sign up for the Great North Run again this year and since getting back to outdoor running in March I’m making great improvements with my speed and distance, including achieving a sub 2 hour half and I’m loving running more than ever!

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If your thinking of trying to start running here’s a few tips my experiences have taught me:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others – I used to read blogs and think about how slow I was compared to other more seasoned runners. I realised that this wasn’t helpful as it led to me feeling inadequate. I decided to just focus on my own improvements in pace and distance which were, and still are amazing!
  • No such thing as a bad run – if I went out and had a slow and difficult run I used to feel really deflated and de motivated. When I started to recognise that just getting my arse out of the front door was an achievement in itself, and that even when a run was bad I was learning about myself and my body and building mental strength, I knew that there was no such thing as a bad run.
  • Don’t care about what others think – when I first started running I was hyper aware of people watching me – I would worry that they were making judgements, thinking I was slow, too fat to run etc. Eventually I just started to not care. Remember – your doing an amazing thing for your body by going out and exercising, screw them whatever they may think! I can honestly say I look like crap when I run: a big hot, red sweaty mess and I don’t care!
  • Take it steady – if that means walking breaks that’s fine – don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. Set small goals such as ‘keep running until that lamp post’ then take a walk break and so on. You will be amazed at how fast you progress.
  • Don’t over train – You will progress fast with running, but don’t make the same mistake I did and progress too quickly! Most recommend that mileage is not increased by more than 10% a week.
  • Use a plan if that’s what works for you – I didn’t really have a set plan other than what I made up myself and that worked for me. If you prefer more structure check out a C25K plan or the Hal Higdon plans.
  • Enter a race for something your passionate about – entering the Great North Run and knowing that I would be raising money for Cancer Research UK really kept me focused. It may sound a bit cheesy, but whenever I thought things were tough I remembered that this was nothing compared to what cancer patients had to endure. That thought alone, as well as wanting to achieve my big goal of completing a half marathon, got me out of bed for a run quite often!
  • Enjoy it! – this is probably the most important thing to remember. If you just don’t like running and you have tried a few times, changed up your route etc then don’t force it. Life is too short to do something week in and week out if you hate it. There’s plenty of other forms of exercise to try. I absolutely love running, the ‘me’ time I have from it, how it makes me feel, the glow it gives me and the amazing sense of achievement :-)

Are you a runner? How did you get into running? Any other tips for new runners you’d like to add?