Inspired by April’s London Marathon, or maybe even the recently staged Paris or Boston equivalents, it is no surprise to see an increase in the number of amateur runners hitting the UK’s streets and roads.
Running is popular for several reasons. It has relatively low start-up costs; no monthly gym fees or membership charges. The open air is totally free, whether the landscape around you is picturesque countryside or a concrete urban jungle. The only real investment needed is in a bit of kit.
Top of the shopping list is a decent pair of specialist running trainers. It’s imperative to use proper footwear – don’t use leisure trainers, or astro-turf trainers. Running trainers will provide the correct support and cushioning, which is critical not only to improve your performance but also to prevent injury.
The rest of your equipment is down to individual choice and common sense: sports shorts and a t-shirt, perhaps longer-sleeved base layer clothing in the cooler weather, or a hi-vis lightweight jacket in the dark of an early morning or later evening. You might wish to run listening to music, carrying an iPod in an arm sleeve, or use a small timer, heart rate monitor or calorie counter. Some of these accessories you might add as your participation and enthusiasm grows – as it will.
Once you start, set modest goals. You don’t need to have a marathon in sight, or a half marathon, or even an event, like a 10k race, to aim for at all. You may just want to attain the ability to run a reasonable distance and achieve that a couple of times a week.
Plot a short route – a single mile will do. Run, or rather jog, at a pace which suits you. If you find yourself out of breath or in discomfort at all, slow to a walking pace, and then resume your run when you feel able. Your goal, at this point, is to complete the same circuit without stopping.
When you can manage that, increase the route by half a mile. You might find a route planning website or app useful at this stage, so you can check your progress and know, with certainty, that you’re not going too far out of your comfort zone. Keep adding a little more distance to a route – your confidence, and fitness will improve and it won’t be long before you’re completing respectable runs of 5k.
You’ll quickly settle into a running schedule which suits you – perhaps early morning runs at the weekend, and evening sessions during the week, particularly during the summer months. A couple of further tips for novices would be to avoid running less than an hour after eating, and also to proceed with caution on the injury front. If you experience any pain, don’t run through the discomfort and certainly don’t continue with a limp - rest for a couple of days and seek advice from a GP or physio if the injury doesn’t clear up.