With the arrival of another New Year, comes the perennial vow to get into shape, and with this comes the decision to finally take your running seriously. Motivated by the desire to shed some extra pounds, reduce work or family-life stress, or merely the opportunity to make new friends, more and more people flock to their closest athletic store and join a running group to train for their first big race. As a veteran of more than 75 marathons and quite a few ultra marathons, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of the Ten Golden Rules of Running to help with the transition from “weekend warrior” to “avid runner”.
1. There’s only one bad word when it comes to our sport, and that’s “jogging”. Unless you’re comfortable getting the death stare from a member of the running community, don’t use the word: “jog”—and I mean not in its verb form, gerund form, or noun form!
2. There are no shortcuts in this sport. If you show up for your race having done only half the training, be prepared to pay the price. One of the most beautiful qualities of running is that you get back what you put in. Dragging your butt out of bed and showing up for your running group or solo run pays dividends in terms of not only improved performance but also a general feeling of well-being.
3. Brace yourself for this inevitable question from your aunt, neighbour, or a total stranger: “How far is your marathon?” Believe me when I say this, you may not think this is a big deal now, but this question will start to drive you bananas like nails scraping across a blackboard.
4. If you sign up for a race, and you get a race shirt, it’s not “cool” to wear it in the race, or even to wear it before the race. If for some reason you don’t end up doing the race, I believe the proper protocol is to quietly bury the shirt in your backyard. There is one exemption to this rule—It’s acceptable, and sometimes even enviable to wear a shirt for the same race given on a previous year.
5. Our sport has become so popular that in many races, we are herded like unruly animals into race corrals. If this is the case, don’t lie about your pace just to get assigned a higher seeding. You’re not going to win the race, so there’s no sense in causing unneeded congestion in the first 500 meters of the race.
6. If you’re embarrassed about bodily functions, this sport may not be for you. Get used to lining up for porta-potties and marking your neighbourhood trees, buildings, and bushes like a stray dog. Before you know it, you’ll be able to identify all of the public washrooms along your running route—You’ll also have a few faves!
7. Remember the 10% rule is a Cardinal Rule! Increase your weekly milage by more than 10% at your peril. This rule is closely associated with “Rule Number Two”—There are no shortcuts in our sport.
8. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Dress appropriately and you’ll have a much better run regardless of the weather conditions. As a side note, when shopping for running apparel, it’s never a good idea to drag along your spouse or partner. Trust me…It’s worse than shopping for back to school clothes with your mom.
9. Be safe out there! Wear reflective clothing, slow down if the traction is poor, inform someone of your running route, buy a RoadID, run facing the oncoming traffic, and hydrate and fuel your body appropriately.
10. Finally, don’t be a running snob. If you pass another runner while you’re out on your run, smile and wave. If a colleague or a family member asks you about your new addiction, fly your freak flag high! You’re a runner, and you’ve joined the best tribe on the planet!