Triathletes tend to start with one sport and pick up the other two when they decide to give multisport a try. For me, that one sport is running. Up until last year, I enjoyed casual running but never really got serious with training for distance until I decided to compete in my first marathon. But I didn’t know how to begin with a more focused training program.
If this sounds like you, here are some tips I picked up as I got more serious about endurance training. Note that this isn’t for the beginning runner (may I suggest a program like Couch Potato to 5k for that); I’ll assume you can run at least 2-3 miles.
As you can probably guess, a good pair of running shoes is important when you begin running more than a few miles. I can’t stress this next point enough: to get a good pair of running shoes, go to a running shoe store. Not the shoe store at the mall, not the department store, not even the sporting goods store. You need to find a store that specializes in running shoes and just that. I got mine at Pacers & Racers in New Albany.
Yes, you’ll end up paying more than you would if you went to Wal-Mart. But not only will you get a much better shoe, the clerks will take time with you to correctly measure your foot and visually observe your gait as you run in order to find the perfect shoe for you. I found that I had been wearing shoes that were half a size too small for most of my adult life, and that I have a slight overpronation when I run. So they fitted me with the perfect-size shoe with a sole designed to correct for my less-than-perfect gait.
We all have different biomechanics that are either inherited or deeply ingrained from early childhood. While any ol’ shoe will do just fine for running a couple miles, having a shoe that matches the way you run makes a big difference over 26 miles!
Two words: bloody nipples. If that doesn’t strike fear into your heart, I don’t know what will. After I bought my first pair of running shoes, they felt so great that I went out and ran 19 miles. Then I looked down to see a streak of red running down my cotton t-shirt.
The problem with cotton is that it soaks up moisture and keeps it there. And (especially if you’re a guy) having that wet clothing rub against your body for hours will take its toll. You need to get some good “technical tees” which are made of moisture-wicking fabric. These come in many different styles so what you get has a lot to do with preference, but basically you want a shirt that isn’t too tight and especially not too loose.
Because I have rather large upper legs I have to wear spandex or compression shorts when I run, to prevent my legs from chafing from rubbing together. I prefer a pair of medium-length compression shorts and a pair of running shorts on top of those.
Moisture-wicking socks are also a must. Most runners (including myself) seem to prefer the ankle-length kind. You can pick up some good ones at the running shoe store or any sporting goods store.
Aside from moisture-wicking clothing, you’ll want to take extra precautions to keep blisters and rashes to a minimum. It’s just a simple fact: when things rub together for long enough it’s gonna do damage to your skin. BodyGlide is your best friend here. Guys, smear a dab on those nipples. Don’t find out the hard way how painful it can be to have that area rubbed raw. If you have problems with blisters, rub some on the “hot spots” on your feet.
Gold Bond is also great for absorbing excess moisture. I found out how important this is during my service in the Army National Guard. Sprinkle some in your socks and/or in the front of your shorts, depending on where you find that friction takes its toll.
Constant hydration is vitally essential while running. Don’t run for more than 20-30 minutes without replenishing water. Unless you want to stage water along your route or continue to run past your home or car to refuel, you need to take water with you. I started off using a runner’s Camelbak but found that it moved around too much for me. Eventually I got the 6-bottle FuelBelt which works really well for me.
GPS Watch / Heart Rate Monitor
When you begin to get serious about running, it’s difficult to build up your endurance without an objective, quantitative measure of your performance. Keeping a constant pace is very important while running long distances, and it’s very difficult for less experienced runners to pace themselves. This is where a GPS watch and/or heart rate monitor can really help.
To that end, my Garmin Forerunner 305 is the best investment I made while starting out. It shows you your current pace, time, distance, and lots of other stats in real-time, and comes with a wireless heart rate monitor (a strap you wear around your chest) to monitor your heart rate. I won’t go into target heart rates and training zones here (there’s plenty of information on the subject elsewhere) but tracking your heart rate is also a good way to get a better idea of how much you’re exerting yourself.
When I first went running with my Forerunner, I was amazed at how much my pace varied. I thought I was keeping myself rather steady but found I started at 8-minute miles and finished at 11-minute miles. Once I began tracking my pace and teaching myself what my target pace “feels like”, I was able to run much farther and longer.
So that’s pretty much it… the above is what I consider to be the basic essentials for anyone looking to get into distance running. I’ll add posts about cycling and swimming in the future…