“I know the running season is coming up and I want to set a goal of running a race and using that as a basis for getting into a training regime. Where should I start?” –Run Claudia Run
Let’s be frank for a moment: running a major race isn’t easy. They can be very intimidating, and it’s something you have to commit to. If you are being forced into it, you’re going to have a hard time putting in the required effort.
The truth is that races are actually a really fun and supportive experience. When you are one of thousands running a 5K or 10K, only the people in the front, sprinting off at the sound of the gun, take it too seriously. The rest are usually running with friends, working towards a personal goal, and are perhaps just as nervous as you. At the end, you celebrate with everyone at the finish line, feeling accomplished and a sense of kinship with everyone else who survived the same experience.
Getting there is a bit of a challenge, but with the finish line in mind, it adds a purposeful element to the ‘getting fit’ training process.
First off, you have to choose a goal. It’s best to not train haphazardly and run whatever you feel like on race day. For one, registering early is cheaper, and two, it’s best to have a goal in mind as you progress.
If you haven’t run before, it’s best to start with a fairly light race such as a 5K walk/run. Most 5Ks have individuals doing a mixture of walking and running, so even if it just says “run”, don’t let that deter you. Many folks starting out, like you, are heading to the 5K, so you will be in similar company.
If you are a more experienced runner, you want to choose a run that is realistic, but challenging. If you have an athletic background, your body may be more accustomed to the activity and you could challenge yourself to a 10K or even a half-marathon.
You want to give yourself enough time to realistically get there, too. If you are looking at running the Bluenose in May and haven’t run in years, the 10K may be your best bet. Everyone is different, however, so pick what seems right for you.
Once you have a goal in mind, put together a plan. Keep in mind that running distance is only part of the battle. It’s a good idea to tackle the individual challenges associated with the run as well. So, for example, if you find hills particularly challenging, maybe go for a shorter run one day a week with lots of challenging hills. Your body adapts to what you make it do, so if you want it to perform a certain way, you need to challenge yourself, forcing it to evolve.
Speed is another challenge. If you have a specific time you want to achieve (not required!), then practice doing shorter speed runs.
The most important thing to remember is incremental progress. You won’t achieve your goals in a day, so take it slow and move things along at an achievable pace. You also want to avoid burning out and frustrating yourself.
Running groups are a great way to accomplish all this, but not the only way. Go online to find great examples of training programs that may work for you. You can also find tips on many of the questions you may have associated with running (and there are usually plenty).
Good luck and hopefully I’ll see you at a run someday soon!
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