A short while ago, another Rochester MN Moms Blog contributor asked me for tips on not necessarily starting to run, but for sticking with running for the long haul. Evidently the regular post-run selfies my running buddies insist on have earned me a bit of a reputation as a runner…which anyone who saw me attempt to run track in high school would probably have a good chuckle about. My path to this point in my running career had twists and turns, but my current running status is the most consistent it has ever been. So how did I get to this point? There are two major factors that have contributed to my success: surrounding myself with other runners, and setting goals for my running.
1. Surround yourself with other runners
In the summer of 2015, my friends Erin and Meaghan started running together on a regular basis. I dabbled at getting back into running from 2010-2014, but in an erratic “I signed up for a charity 5K so I better do some running to get ready” way. I decided I wanted to get myself in better running shape so I could join them. I downloaded the Runkeeper app on my phone, which at that point in time had free options for training programs for 5Ks or 10Ks (these now cost an additional fee via Runkeeper). Erin also uses Runkeeper, so once we became friends on there I could see (spy on) the running pace she and Meaghan averaged so I knew I needed to get down to a 9:15-9:30 average pace per mile. My starting average pace? 11:45 minutes per mile. I never would have set my sights as high/fast as I did if I didn’t have those runner ladies I knew who inspired me to get better.
Fast forward a year or two, and we have six ladies who run together on a regular basis…nothing keeps you getting out there to run like having someone waiting for you and counting on you to show up. The varied running levels of the ladies in our group keeps it so fun: a couple of our ladies are competitive-level runners who manage feats like winning races. Others of us (like myself) focus more on getting a PR for a distance. We all support each other and our respective running goals. We also laugh and talk A LOT as we cover 5-10 miles during our long runs.
Pro Tip: try and find a group that has a similar tolerance for weather conditions as you. Our group tries to follow the motto, “There’s no such thing as bad running weather, just bad wardrobe choices” and gets out there to run, even in January in Minnesota. We bail on running only if there is lightning. If inclement weather running isn’t your cup of tea, try and find a group that heads indoors during winter months.
If you don’t already have runner friends, there are many ways to find a running tribe here in Rochester. Check out the Chatty Chicks, Moms on the Run, Moms Run this Town, or the running groups coordinated by TerraLoco or The Running Room. I have attended many running events in this town and the runners welcome new friends with open arms. When I trained for and ran Grandma’s Marathon in 1996, I completed all of my training alone. I wouldn’t wish those lonely miles on anyone. Having groups of people you enjoy running with is such a gift.
2. Set an attainable/enjoyable goal. Then set another one. And another one.
Erin and Meaghan signed up to run the new Fall Med City Half Marathon in September 2015. I knew that I wouldn’t be comfortable getting myself ready to run that distance in 3 months’ time, so I signed up for the 10K. I set up the 10K training program on my running app with that race as the final date, and it plotted out a training plan for me to be ready to successfully run a 10K by then. I excel at following rules/plans, so this strategy really worked well for me. When I first set it up, I could scroll through the planned activities and see that with the exception of a longer run once a week, most of the suggested runs were in the 3-4 mile range. Having a race to train for gave me focus for my first few months getting back into running, and that was long enough for running to become a habit again.
If races don’t interest you, think about setting a goal based on your running pace. I vividly remember the first time I finished a run and my average pace ended up just under 10:00 minutes per mile. Then my next goal became to complete a 5K in less than 30 minutes. And then to complete a 3+ mile run with a pace lower than 9 minutes per mile, and then a 5K in less than 25 minutes. With running, very few people will ever win a race, so use your own Personal Record (PR) for a distance to set goals for yourself. Another option would be to set a goal for yourself to run a certain amount of miles over the course of 3 months, or even over the course of a year.
Whichever fitness app you choose, take a moment every few months to look back at the data from your running…take note of your improved speed and endurance, and congratulate yourself on making progress. Then, set yourself a new goal, lace up your shoes, and head out the door to meet your friends.