This weekend, 605 Running Co. manager Greg Koch and I had an awesome opportunity to share some of our stories with the REACH Literacy group.
Greg shared a great story about his stint as a quarterback. I talked about how the best advice I’ve ever received isn’t advice at all: It’s an example of hope, and it’s how my dad lives and how he talks to me and my sisters. Giving someone the gift of hope is better than anything else, I think. I’ll take it. And then I’ll try to live it.
The stories were part of an event and book signing, sharing some of the best and worst advice we had ever received. We came out of it happy and laughing, and we began talking about running stories and advice.
We’ve all received advice about running, much of it from people who don’t run – “You’ll ruin your knees!”
I’ve been a runner for nearly 30 years at this point, if I count my start as freshman year high school track – where I began my career as a mediocre runner. The best compliment I got at my high school banquet was the Hustle Award, and a comment from my coach that other girls “had to work hard to beat you.” I guess putting up a fight is a good trait, right?
As Lydia Loveless sings, it didn’t matter, because I always lose.
Kidding. I don’t. But I don’t always win, either. And I like a little competition – we all do. As a runner, that’s most often with yourself – with your own personal time goals or distance goals or life-balance goals or whatever it is that makes you lace up your running shoes.
When you’re chasing a goal, there’s a fair amount of advice offered along the way. In no particular order, here’s some of the best running advice I’ve heard out there. I’d love to hear yours, too!
Don’t try anything new on race day. Let it be known: This is good advice. Also: I have absolutely done new things on race day, including taking a pair of shoes out of the box and running in them (no problem) and eating different food (no problem). Having it work out was dumb luck, like most things.
If your thinking you’re running the right pace, slow down. That is so true – the adrenalin of race day can absolutely mask the fact that you are starting out way too fast. We’ve all done that. And you generally can’t make it up – you always pay that last stretch for your sins at the start.
Follow the plan, but be flexible. I’m a single mom with two kids – I can’t follow a training plan to the letter. I bet most of you can’t, either. Heck, even before now, I struggled. Work and weather and a lot of things get in the way. If your reasons are real – you aren’t the type to just make excuses to miss a workout – then give yourself a break when you miss a day. A tempo run or long run or recovery run here and there won’t make or break your race. It’s a pattern of inconsistency that will ruin you.
Tell someone your goal. This is good advice for just about anything, and all it really means is be accountable. For many of us, that means telling someone you’ll meet them at 5 a.m. to run – and then sticking to it. For others, it means not being afraid to say, hey, I want to run my first 5K or qualify for Boston or remember to lift weights. Sharing your goals with others means you can have a community to support you.
If you’re warm when you start out, you’re overdressed. Ugh, this is a tough one. We’ll remember this in January. But when you walk outside and you’re cold, it can be tempting to run back in and grab a warmer hat or a fourth layer to put on. You have to remember you’ll warm up as you go. (Unless you’re biking – I always get colder biking. I blame the wind generated by my amazing cycling abilities.)
Just relax. I used to run only by miles – I had to do a 5-mile run or a 10-mile run or a whatever-mile run. But then when I was recovering from an injury or a pregnancy, I remembered what my sister Kim would tell me, and I just ran for time. It took so much pressure off. Now, I still do that. I run for an hour, or try to get to 45 minutes on the treadmill. It works for the days when the thought of a certain mileage is daunting and you need to just start, somehow, and keep going, for however long. It means you have to be a little squishy in your running log, but that’s OK sometimes, too.
All of this advice is meant to bring us back to our core reasons of why, every time, whether it’s at the starting line or the finish line or a random driveway at the crack of dawn. Relax. Slow down. Be flexible. Have fun.
We run because we love it. Because it’s time with our friends, time outside, time taking care of ourselves. We do it out of habit, sometimes out of joy, sometimes out of a desperate need to just unwind or not think or have time to think, to go with friends, to go deep within ourselves.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.