Are you new to running?  Maybe you want to start, or maybe you started running during the pandemic and you are one of the millions of new “Pandemic Runners” and you want to learn more about your new passion.  First, welcome to the wonderful world of running!  Here’s your quick guide to the basics of running.

Choosing Running ShoesRunning Gear

Running is generally an inexpensive sport – you can run in just about any clothes that are comfortable.  I even remember seeing a runner almost every day in the winter running in jeans and a long-sleeved button-down shirt!  Once you get farther into your running journey, you may want to find some specialized running shorts, socks, jackets, etc.  But, starting out, feel free to wear what you have – any comfortable shorts or leggings, t-shirt and socks.

But, the one piece of gear you absolutely cannot skimp on is your running shoes.  It is so important to get properly fitted shoes and shoes that are right for your running gait and body structure.  So, go to your nearest specialty running store for advice.  You may pay a little more than buying online, but it is so worth it to reduce the chance of injury and blisters.  Many running stores have a treadmill where the shoe fitter will watch you run for a bit to examine your running gait, and others will examine wear patters on your existing shoes to find potential issues that can be alleviated with the proper running shoes.  Then, they will measure your feet and get the size right – don’t be surprised if they recommend a size that is a little different than your regular casual shoes.  Proper shoes means fewer injuries and fewer injuries means a happy runner!

The Training Plan – Take it Slowly

Ok, you have your shoes, now get out there and run!  Well – maybe not… First, if you have any health issues, make sure you talk to your doctor before starting a new training plan.  Once you are ready to start training, don’t go full steam ahead and run a 5km run.  Start slooooowly.  If you over-do it, you may injure yourself, or you may just be sore and tired and that will defeat your momentum and motivation.  As you start running, there will be days where your muscles are stiff and your legs are sore – that’s normal.  But, be aware of any sharp pains or aches that just don’t go away.  You may need to back off or go and see a doctor or physical therapist.

We recommend finding a “Couch to 5k” plan.  (You may also see it called “C25K.”)  These plans are all over the internet and they will take you from never running to finishing your first 5k.  (By the way – 5 kilometers is just over 3 miles.)  Most of these training plans include a lot of walking at first.  An example of an early “C25K” workout would be something like – warm up by doing a brisk walk for 5 minutes, then alternate jogging for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for a total of 20 minutes.  The workouts gradually progress to more and more running until you are able to run a 5k without stopping.  Yay!

Race in Europe - Running TourThe Race!

The best part of running is the race!  Only 50% of new “Pandemic Runners” plan to participate in a race in the coming year.  Running is a great sport for your overall health, and running a race isn’t required, but if you have never participated in a race, you are missing out.

My 5 Favorite Things about Racing:

  1. Community – You will see runners young and old, fast and slow all gathering together to do what we love.  All so different, but we have running in common — it’s a beautiful sight!
  2. Adrenaline – There’s something about lining up at the starting line that get’s that adrenaline pumping.  It’s definitely not that quiet solo run you are used to.
  3. Competition – Do you have a competitive streak?  A race is a great way to test yourself – having other runners around always seems to get me to run faster than I thought I could.
  4. Cheering – Goosebumps!  The cheering crowds, the high-fives, live bands on the course – you need to experience it!
  5. Celebration – When we’re done, we celebrate!  Yes, our lungs and legs may still be burning, but we all celebrate our accomplishments together at the post-race party.


All of us in the Running Community are so glad to have you join us!  Get out there for a run (with some walking, of course) and enjoy it!

Last week (How to Run Faster – Part 1 – The Plan) I mentioned that when I hear runners asking how to get faster, the first thing I always hear is that they should add intervals and speed work.  Intervals are important, but they shouldn’t be the first tool you reach for when trying to improve your running pace.

Prague MarathonA 2016 study of marathon runners showed that runners who ran intervals completed their marathon 3 minutes – 5 minutes faster than those runners who did not incorporate intervals into their training.  However, when comparing runners who ran an average of 30 miles per week during training vs. runners who ran 50 miles per week, the higher mileage runners saw an improvement of 25 minutes – 32 minutes in their marathon time!  I believe that for the vast majority of runners, running more miles should be #1 on the training plan if you want to run faster.

So, what is happening in our bodies when we run more?  Your heart gets stronger and is able to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your legs faster.  You gain muscular endurance as your mitochondria (the “powerhouse” of your cells) increase in size and quantity.  The capillaries that deliver blood to your muscles grow.  And, your muscles and tendons learn to be more efficient at the running motion – so, every step is a little easier than it was before.


I always use the analogy of a car when talking about running more mileage versus intervals.  Starting to train with intervals and speedwork is like putting high-octane fuel in your car — it’s going to help you get the most speed out of what you have.  But, running more miles consistently is like putting a bigger engine in the car.  You will be able to go farther, faster.  And, when you are ready to add that high-octane fuel, you will get even more out of it.


The Magic of Miles

If I have been injured, or maybe over in Europe for an extended period researching new races and running tours, my weekly mileage drops a lot.  So, when I’m ready to start increasing again, I find that once I hit about 60 – 65 miles in week, magic happens.  Even though I’m increasing my miles, and my legs are tired, I will all of a sudden start running faster, my heart rate will drop for the same run I did the week before.  And, my Garmin Recovery Advisor will show that I need 10 – 15 hours to recover from my runs, rather than the 15 – 20 hours that it would recommend in the preceding weeks.

Now, I’ve always been a higher-mileage runner, and a 7-day/week runner, so don’t take “60 miles” as gospel.  Each of us is different and you need to listen to your body.  (It’s better to run less and be healthy, rather than get injured!)  But, I encourage you to increase your mileage slowly and see if you can find that same magic.

How To Safely Increase Mileage

Lot’s of people talk about the 10% Rule for increasing mileage.  The rule says that you should add no more than 10% more miles each week.  This is a decent rule-of-thumb, but don’t it’s not written in stone.  If you are running 4 times per week for a total of 20 miles (5 miles each run), then you may be able to add another day of running to your week without too much risk of injury.  That would be about a 20% increase.  On the other hand, if you are already running 40 – 50 miles per week, then 10% may be too aggressive.  In order to stay injury-free, you may need to limit yourself to a 5% increase.

The other plan I like when increasing miles is to step up for 3 weeks, and then step down for 1 week to let your body recover.  So, you may start at 40 miles, and in the following you bump up the miles to 43.  Then, 47 miles, and then you have a recover week where you drop it back to 42 miles.  And, then you start the process again, but the starting point is a couple miles higher than the previous month.

If that is too aggressive for you (some body’s can handle increasing mileage easier than other), then I would suggest stepping up the mileage 5% and keeping it at the new level for 2 – 4 weeks to let your body adapt before increasing again.  The most important thing is to not get injured – so, back off if you feel an injury coming on.



While I said that increasing mileage is more important than intervals, that doesn’t mean that intervals aren’t important.  Intervals are another tool to help you run faster in your next marathon or half marathon, and I’ll talk about interval training next week.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!

I’m well on my way to my coaching certification (read about my journey to coaching here).  There is so much information to absorb and to compare & contrast to my 40+ years of running and racing experience.

Running CalendarAs I’ve focused more on the technical and physiological aspects of running, I keep noticing runners in Facebook groups asking about how to get FASTER.

That’s what we all want, right?  Keep improving and moving forward – get a Boston Qualifier, break 2 hours in a half marathon, get that PR (Personal Record).  But, most of the advice I see immediately suggests intervals and speed work.

There are so many ways to run faster, and intervals and speed work have their place (and I’ll be talking about them in a couple of weeks), but the first thing you need to is to do pause and PLAN.

The plan is the most important part of running faster.  Legendary Coach Jack Daniels says that you must always be able to answer the question, “What is the purpose of this workout?”  If you don’t have a schedule of how far & how fast you are running, then you very likely don’t have a purpose for each run.

Without a plan, two things can happen — and, they are the complete opposites of each other!

  1. You can flounder.  Without seeing that 3 miles written on the calendar for today, it’s so easy to just hit snooze and sleep in.  “I will run tomorrow,” you might say to yourself.  Well, tomorrow it will be cold and dark, and that extra hour sleep will continue to entice you.
  2. You can over-do it.  Last fall I was in pretty good shape and I was running a lot.  I was building up the mileage week after week.  I was enjoying seeing those big numbers on Strava and I kept increasing the mileage until I injured my hamstring.  If I would have planned out my autumn running schedule there is no way that I would have written down those big mileage weeks.  It would have been a better thought-out strategy of increasing my mileage for a couple of weeks, and then resting and recovering for a week before I started building again. (We’ll look at the magic of building up your mileage next week!)

Where should you get your running plan?  The answer to that question depends on your goals, how far away your goal race is, your experience, and many other factors.  There are tons of great coaches out there to help guide you in your plan to run faster.  (Message me and I can help, or I can point you to a another good coach.)  There are also lots of good books – I’m reading a bunch of them right now, and I will be reviewing them here soon.  But, some classics are “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” by Hal Higdon, “Hanson’s Marathon Method,” “Advanced Marathoning” by Pete Pfitzinger, and many others.  Also, check out your local running stores and running clubs for training groups and training plans.

But, you can even create your own plan!  I think it’s important to have a plan, even when you aren’t “training” for a goal race.  You might be 8 or 10 months from your goal race, so you are not yet in the thick of the training, or maybe you are recovering from an injury and not back in shape yet.  But, having a plan — even if that plan is all easy running — will help you stay in shape, stay focused and stay injury-free.

You also need to remember a plan isn’t set in stone.  Evaluate how you are feeling each day.  Are you inching up on an injury?  Did you have a terrible night’s sleep?  Is there added stress at home or work?  It’s ok to move a workout to different day, or skip it entirely.  The only caveat is to be sure about the reasons.  There have been many workouts when I just wanted to skip it during the warm-up, but once I forced myself to get started it, ended up being a great workout.  (Always remember the famous runner mantra – “The first mile is a liar!”)

Faster Marathon RunningOver the next couple of weeks I will be talking more about how to run faster.  I will be discussing the magic of mileage, threshold training, intervals, speed-work and more.  So, stay tuned and get out there and run!