My running group raced into the rec center as the summer sky lit up and the first thunderclap barreled across south Oak Park. We sat our sweaty, post-run selves down on the cool linoleum floor—the best mix of brand-spankin’ new and experienced runners you can imagine. As any runner will tell you, if running is the best thing you can do, talking about running is a close second. And so the Q&A began.
That stormy evening, knowledge and experience was freely shared and a group of newcomers felt welcomed into a community. If you are new to the sport or ready to give running a try, nestle into your sit-upon and enjoy some answers to a few of the most common questions.
Been here before?
It’s tempting for beginners to assume that the gazelle-like runners you pass on the street have been at it forever. But according to statistics compiled annually by Run USA, the average age of new runners — both male and female — is a bit over 30 years old. Meanwhile, runners age 50 and older make up the fastest growing age groups in road racing.
“I started running for the first time about 3 1/2 years ago, when I was 46. Before that, I never ran more than a block or two, even as a kid. My inspiration was walking the Frank Lloyd Wright 5k and seeing all the runners around me.” ~Rachel P.
At the top of the don’t-leave-home-without-it list are expertly fitted shoes and running bras. Don’t skimp here — poor quality or fit can ruin a run and in the case of improperly fitted shoes, can lead to injury. Beyond these essentials, “everything else is gravy,” according to Sarah B.
Don’t leave home without identification and a phone, though. For Anja W., having a phone meant being able to call for help when she twisted and sprained an ankle during a run.
“Every run is different, and every run is going to start out with having to overcome something: be it making the time, traffic, or self-induced resistance. Be kind to yourself and your mind and just go with as little equipment as necessary; otherwise, when your ‘security blanket’ is not available, you’ll skip the run…” ~Matt J.
Run to your own drummer
Research has shown that listening to music during a run may enhance performance and decrease the rate of perceived exertion. Dr. Costas Karageorghis, author of Inside Sport Psychology calls music “…a legal drug for athletes.”
When music is your outdoor running buddy, safety first. Chris G. sometimes runs with music, “…but only in one ear so I can hear traffic and my surroundings.”
“Lately I don’t even listen to music when I run. There’s plenty to listen to on the streets and in the forest preserves if you don’t bring your sound along with you.” ~Dan K.
From me to you
The moment you go for that first run, you officially become part of an incredibly diverse, tight-knit, welcoming society. Swapping war stories and training tips is part of the fun. Never be afraid to ask questions, join a running group, hire a coach or take walk breaks. And don’t forget to wave at other runners on the street!
“You don’t have to be fast to be a good runner and it is ok to take walk breaks. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Enjoy running at your own pace.” ~Cynthia B.
“Running is such a beautiful sport. I feel happy when I run. Running helps me become the person I want to be. Even if you stop running for a bit, you can always start back again and when you see the progress, it is an amazing feeling!” ~Melissa M.
“Sign up for races with friends and get a great coach Keep at it! It’s a journey worth taking.” ~Claire R.
“Anyone can run any distance if they are willing to put in the time and effort. Don’t forget to let your body rest, and don’t underestimate the power of strength training to supplement your training.” ~Sarah B.
“Make running another component of your life; another dimension to your experience on this planet and as a human. Take your expectations of yourself to the most base of expectations, and every run, regardless of the outcome, will be one of the great accomplishments you made that day!” ~Matt J.
“I don’t think of running as a fundamentally competitive activity, but it does seem to be most satisfying when it’s goal-directed. Whether the goal is a distance, a time, or a target weight, defining it and keeping it in mind will help to get you running and keep you running.” ~Dan K.
“Start slow. Cross train. Stretch. Run a race here and there.” ~Lara V.
Photo: Flickr/Josiah Mackenzie