Just starting out? Trail Running digital editor Paul Halford, one of our #Run1000Miles ambassadors, has some advice
My ageing brain makes it very difficult, but I can still just about remember when I was a new runner back in 1996.
It was a time when you guessed your mileage and speed (always erring on the side of longer and faster) and logged it with a pen. You wore shorts which met the definition of the word; otherwise you wore something called “jogging bottoms”. The nearest thing you had to a technical top was if your cotton running T-shirt had a picture of a computer on it. If you got tired, you pretended your shoe laces had come undone because selfies wouldn’t be invented for another six years.
Aside from my Gary Lineker shorts, I made a few other mistakes as a new runner and it’s worth going back over these for the benefit of those in the #Run1000Miles challenge who are just starting up.
Here are my five key pieces of advice if you’re starting out:
1 Join a club
Mistake No.1 for me - for some reason I didn’t join a club for a couple of years and then it was around six more before I became a regular on club nights.
If you’re doing #Run1000Miles, you are already in a club. The encouragement and advice you can gain from the #Run1000Miles Facebook community is invaluable.
However, few of you will get the chance to meet up and run with others from the group, so being a member of a physical group or club which gathers once or more per week can be a real boost. You’ll have company on your run, plus the motivation which comes from avoiding an inconspicuous absence.
2 Race often
I think it was because of the schedule in the book for newbie runners I had bought, but my first race was about nine long months after I started running.
Nowadays I realise a race won’t hurt you. As long as you limit yourself to two or three “target” races per year which you will specifically train and taper for, it’s good to race as often as doesn’t get in the way of your training.
Races help keep you motivated and, even if you take them as training, you can enjoy the camaraderie of the running community.
Remember, racing can be a form of training - but it’s not always the most ideal form. If you want the optimum fitness, make sure you get enough interval work in there. Don’t, for example, flat-out race the parkrun every week at the expense of a well-designed training plan.
3 See running in the long term
Building up the mileage over 10-15 years was one thing I did get right. Okay, you might just be able to run an ultra or do a 100-mile week in your first year. However, that’s not the same as turning your body into an efficient running machine, one that isn’t always breaking down, one that can handle several speed sessions a week while keeping up solid mileage. That can take a decade a more and needs to be done gradually.
Whether you’re in this to be competitive or for the enjoyment, stepping up your mileage slowly is important. After all, as much as we’d like to see you complete 1000 miles this year, we’d prefer you to be still running in 10 years’ time rather than laid off with a long-term injury.
4 Run the trails
Sadly Trail Running didn’t exist in the 1990s. Otherwise, I might have known the importance of getting off-road.
We may not all live in locations which make it easy, but running on soft trails as much as possible will mean fewer injuries, improve your proprioception and core strength, and crucially make the whole thing much more enjoyable too.
5 Don’t compare yourself to others
I had several aborted attempts at starting running before I eventually kept it going. I would run flat-out for 400m or a mile, realise it was almost twice as slow as the world record and then give up. How ridiculous, looking back!
Running is all about comparing yourself now to where you were before - whether that’s seeing how much you’re physically fitter or realising how much happier you are.
So if this is your first year as part of #Run1000Miles, we hope it won’t be your last as a runner. Take it steadily, get on the trails and run with others to stay motivated - do that and you could well have thousands more miles in front of you.