Out There: The ABCs of Running

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Essential and (not-so-much) running advice from columnist Susan Lacke.

I don’t claim to know everything about running – far from it. My handlers at Competitor are better equipped to prescribe workouts or debate the merits of a forefoot strike versus a heel strike. But I do know running goes beyond the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. With every run, I learn a little more – sometimes the lessons are instantly life-changing, while others are small seeds of knowledge that need time to grow into something significant.

These tips and tidbits, I’ve found, make me a better runner than tweaking my form or doing core work (unless you’re my coach, in which case core work is amazing and I am totally typing this column while doing a plank). 

Always remember to pee before heading out on a run. Even if you don’t have to go, talk to your bladder like a kindergartener: “Are you sure? Why don’t you just try, okay?”

Boobs: There are many pieces of gear runners can buy on the cheap. Ladies, please note: a good sports bra is usually not one of them.

Confidence is healthy. Arrogance is not. Don’t be that guy.

Denial: Pretending an injury does not exist will not make it go away. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Easy: Not every run should be a gut-busting speed session. In fact, most of your runs shouldn’t be gut-busting speed sessions. Easy runs mean just that – easy. If you can talk (but not sing), you’re at the right pace.

Failure: One bad day will teach you more lessons than 20 good ones. Embrace it – you can’t learn from your mistakes unless you make them.

Google is not a replacement for a real doctor. A real doctor would never tell you your knee pain may or may not require amputation.

Hill Repeats: It’s actually a good thing running uphill sucks so much. It just means you have more to look forward to on the way down.

Instagram: Propping a phone up against a rock and running back and forth in front of it 15 times to get a perfect photo does not a #sweatsesh #omghardworkout make.

Just Do It: The Nike slogan is right. Don’t think, don’t check the weather for the seventeenth time, don’t sit on the couch in your run clothes until you feel “ready,” and definitely don’t whine about how you have to run. You get to run! Put on your shoes and go, for crying out loud.

Kindness: Help an injured runner. Thank the volunteers. Be patient and courteous. Say hello. Smile. The Endurance Gods dole out good race karma for good people.

Logic: Never sign up for a race when you’re injured, within 24 hours of crossing your last finish line, and/or drunk.

Music: Many runners can attest to the power of a good playlist during a tough training session. That said, for your safety and the safety of others, rock out with one earbud only.

Never: The faster you remove this word from your vocabulary, the better off you’ll be. Allow yourself the possibility of taking on new distances, new trails, and new challenges.

Our mothers were right: Posture matters, especially while running. Stand up straight, child.

Poop: After your first mid-run “emergency,” you’ll become more obsessed with this bodily function than ever before, and that’s normal. (Pro tip: coffee usually gets things –ahem– going before a run.)

Question any and all quick fixes, whether a training plan that guarantees speed overnight or a sock that promises to fix your wonky stride. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Real” runner: Many claim they are “not a real runner,” despite partaking in the very real act of running with their very real bodies and very real finishing times. That’s a real dumb qualifier, and it really needs to stop. For real.

Six: There will be days you don’t feel like running. Force yourself to do it for only six minutes. If you still don’t want to run after that time, turn around and go home. (Spoiler alert: You probably won’t go home.)

Tip your massage therapist well, because you really don’t want to piss off the person who puts his elbow in your IT band.

Understand your weaknesses and train them. Sure, the easy stuff is more fun, but the challenging stuff is what makes you better.

Voices: Now and then, self-doubt will creep in: I’m stupid for doing this. I’ll never be fast/go far/finish first. The voices in your head are liars – you’re doing great. Keep going.

Weight: Training for a marathon is not a guaranteed way to lose weight. Yes, you burn a lot of calories, but you’re also hungry all the damn time. You try to turn down a second (third, ninth) slice of pizza after a 20-miler and tell me how that goes.

eXplore: Don’t run a rut in the same path every day like a trained circus pony. Get out and get lost. All the good stories begin where the sidewalk ends.

You: Running should be about you and what you want to accomplish, not your friend who wants you to run an ultramarathon, not your spouse who thinks you should wear different shoes, not the Internet forums that argue over the best cross-training, not some asshat columnist in a running magazine (ahem). Consult with these people for advice if you wish, but in the end, choose the goals and methods that work for you.

Zippers: Don’t run in a single item of clothing where zippers come in contact with skin, or you’ll find yourself chafed beyond comprehension. It’s a shame the alphabet ends with Z, because this is the most important (and most painful) running lesson I’ve learned.

What running advice would you add? Tweet us at @RunCompetitor or share on the Competitor Running Facebook page!

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). Susan lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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