an amateur's guide to running

IMG_2592 So here I am writing an amateur's guide to running, and just this evening running my 4 miles was a challenge.  Just for the record, running doesn't come easy for me.  I have to push myself.  I have to set little goals along my course to make it to the end.  I have to play funny mind games to get myself to stop thinking that I'm only halfway to home sometimes.  But it is incredibly exhilarating to me despite the work of it all.

So yes, as an amateur runner, I'm still learning.  And I'll be learning a lot come Saturday when I run with the big dogs the 13.1 miles through the beautiful Amish countryside.  I'll be perfectly positioned in the back, don't worry.

What I've learned in running long distances:

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  1. Shoes- Your most valuable asset.  That is one of the things I love about running: it is an inexpensive sport.  Shoes are really all you need.

Hint: Check if there is a local running store in your area.  I discovered ours and have looked at running shoes so differently now.  First of all, the employees look at your arches, watch you run, actually fit shoes to your particularly shaped feet, and will answer any other general running questions you might have.  It was there that I learned you are supposed to buy running shoes 1/2 size larger because your feet swell as you  run.  (My shoes are actually one whole size larger.  Let's just say Bobby could wear them comfortably.  But they actually feel great!)

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2. Fuel-  So the golden rule is if you're running over 30 minutes, you should have some form of fuel for your body to keep going.  Water suffices for up to 60 minutes but beyond an hour, other forms of fuel with electrolytes are important.

Hint: I use a handheld 8 oz. water bottle that I can slide my hand into.  It is so comfortable that I feel odd if I run without it for short distances.  Many water bottles have a "fuel pocket" for keeping things like these...

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known to runners as "beans".  I keep a handful of these in my water bottle pocket for when I start feeling my energy lagging, usually around mile 4.  I pop a couple in my mouth with a bit of water and get a boost in my energy for another round of miles.  "Beans", gels, or sports drinks all provide necessary fuel during long runs.  Here's what these particular beans do:

  • Carbohydrates to fuel your body during intense activity

  • Electrolytes (sodium and potassium) vital for maintaining fluid balance

  • Vitamins B1, B2, & B3 to help burn carbohydrates and fat

  • Vitamin C to protect muscles and cells against oxidative damage

Hint: Buy a couple packs of beans, gels, or sports drinks and see what you like best.  After drinking water on my run (including another water bottle I've dropped off usually in some stranger's yard for me to pick up along my long runs) I can't wait to drink Gatorade once I've walked in the door back home.  It is incredibly satisfying beyond the water.

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A pleasant distraction- Running to music as a beginner runner saves me.  I have a few playlists on my old iPod that I can get lost in.  Once I'm in the zone of running, I can enjoy my fixed pace listening to calmer music while other times I skip songs to find an upbeat song to get me focused again.

Hint: Look for specific sport earphones.  Our Sennheiser Earbuds are great because they twist and lock into place in your ear.  You don't have to worry about them falling out with the constant motion.  They also come with a long cord and clip for your clothing.

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Special Needs- One of my biggest struggles with long distance is chaffing.  My inner thigh and upper arm where my iPod is.  Think about it: running for hours straight and constant friction.  It is a reality to long distance runners.  This Body Glide is perfect.  It rolls on anywhere you need it, just like deodorant.

Hint: Any other concerns or issues you have running have been resolved by some aid or great product out there.  Try consulting with your local running store.  That is where I bought my fuel, water bottle, and Body Glide.  Running stores are an incredible resource because most of the employees are avid runners.

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There it is in a nutshell.  Running. I can't say enough about how mental it is.  Saturday was my last long run before the race, 10 miles I ran.  Towards the end I was struggling, growing tired of the music and less than exciting view at that point in the run, starting to fret about the big race and if I had the stamina to do it and then, Hello!, there was North Street right in front of me, the first sign that I was close to home.  And what do you know, my mind forgot all of my worries and fretting and jogged with a smile on my face the rest of the way home.

Running has taught me that I can have any goal I really want.  Because it is all in my head.  Although I come home after running and stare at my feet that carried me for such a long distance, my brain did more.