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10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Running

I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the seven years that I’ve been running. Setting out before the sun comes up on a hot summer day, putting on layers upon layers on a wet winter afternoon, bonking, DNF-ing, and PR-ing races, trying different shoes, trying different fuel, doing long runs, speed work outs, and running of course reading countless books, magazines, and internet articles on running. Sometimes it feels like the only thing I haven’t done in running is actually doing a marathon. Maybe one day though. πŸ˜‚

It’s safe to say I’ve been around the block a few times. Literally. So here are 10 things I wish I knew when I started running.

1. Speed Is Relative 

The comparison trap is a very easy one to fall into. Especially if you’re on any form of social media and follow all sorts of badass, super speedy runners. And that’s great for them!

But the thing is, speed is relative. What’s super speedy for you might be slow for someone else. A hard workout for one person might be a easy run for you. It’s all relative.

It’s best to not compare your paces to anyone else’s because it’s all different for everyone! You do you and be proud of your accomplishments! No matter what they might be!

2. It’s Ok To Walk

When I first started running I was under the impression that didn’t “count” unless you ran the whole time. If you had to walk then you weren’t a “real” runner. But that’s just not true!

Once I learned about the run/walk/run method and how many people actually implemented it, my life pretty much changed. I was able to run farther and faster (yes, I’m still a slow runner, but remember, speed is relative πŸ˜‰) when I took walking breaks. Sometimes those breaks happen for about a minute after each mile, sometimes on bad days I walk up hills, sometimes I do more structured intervals of 90 seconds of running 30 seconds of walking, and sometimes I don’t walk at all.

But just knowing that I can take a walk break if I need to catch my breath, change up my rhythm a little bit, take a sip of water, eat a little something, walk up a hill, or just need to mentally collect myself, I can! It doesn’t make me any less of a runner! How cool is that?

Seriously though the run/walk/run method made a huge difference in my running life and I suggest you look it up! Jeff Galloway has some really helpful books on the subject!

3. “Bad” Weather Makes Tough Runner’s

Referring back to my first point, bad weather is also relative. For me, “bad” weather would be anything over 75 degrees (I’m a baby in the heat, what can I say! πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ˜‚), on a humid, sunny day. But for other people that’s PERFECT running weather.

But back to my point, when I first started running I spend a good majority of a summer running on a treadmill, and there’s nothing wrong with treadmill running, but running in any kind of challenging condition is going to make you so much tougher! Physically because you have to work harder and mentally because you have to push through your mental barriers to keep going! Which are both important things to learn to do if you’re going to do any kind of racing or just have big goals that you want to accomplish, but those lessons also can be easily applied to other situations in life!

Obviously if it’s too hazardous outside it’s best to swap your running days or stick to a treadmill, but if it’s possible I think we should all brave harder weather whenever we can! It really does toughen you up for a hard race! Or other potential difficult situations!

4. You Need To Size Up Your Running Shoes

Maybe just by half a size or maybe even by a whole size, because here’s the deal, your feet swell when you run. And if I would have know that I wouldn’t have lost a toenail during my first half marathon. πŸ˜‚

What happened in my situation was I had bought my running shoes in my normal size. Which is fine for non-running activities but I quickly learned that 10 miles into a half marathon your feet aren’t the same size as they were when you started. Which means your toes are going to be jamming into the front of the toe box of your shoes and that can cause you to lose toenails. It’s not fun. πŸ˜‚

So don’t be like me during my first half marathon. Size up your shoes and give your toesies plenty of room too move in the tie box of your shoe. But not so much room that you’re tripping over excess shoe or feel clumsy in them! No clown shoes needed! Unless that’s your thing I guess! πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ˜‚

5. Safety First!

A lot can happen on the open road, trail, or even your gym treadmill.

It’s a good idea to always tell someone where you’ll be running and how long you anticipate being gone. That way someone has an idea of where you should be and when they should start looking for you/seeking help if you don’t show up on time (but I also recommend a call or text of you’re taking longer than anticipated.

If you’re running on the road ALWAYS run against traffic, so in the US that means you should be on the left side of the road. That should give you a few more seconds to spot any potential issues and bail into a ditch if you have to. It also makes you more visible to drivers.

Always wear clothing that is easy to spot from far away. Anything reflective is your friend! A blinking light is a MUST if you run in the dark and I HIGHLY recommend that everyone wears a Road ID!

Mine has my name, birth year, spouse’s name, phone number, and relationship to me, my blood type, my penicillin allergy, and a quote on it, but you can basically add anything you want to it! I think these are super important to have, just in case.

If you have to run with headphones (guilty!) always keep the volume low enough so you can hear what’s going on around you and just try to be aware of your surroundings in general.

Obviously that’s just and incredibly brief overview of some key points, but I think they’re important things to keep in mind!

6. Racing Is Fun But It’s Not A Necessary Part Of Being A Runner

Don’t get me wrong, I love participating in races! But 2020 had different plans for all of us and IRL racing wasn’t possible for a lot of people. Myself included.

As much as I missed having races on my calendar to set goals for, I learned to find a different kind of purpose for my running. And while I’m looking forward to doing a few actual races (looking at you fall 2021!) I am glad I was able to find a different kind of joy in running!

So if racing isn’t your thing I say don’t do them! Running can be so much more than starting lines, finisher medals, and participant t-shirts.

7. Vaseline Is Your Friend

Slather that shit anywhere you have chafed, might chafe, or under any part of your running gear that might rub you the wrong way. Literally.

For me that means on my thighs and the sides of my feet in the summer. But I’ve heard of people putting it under their sports bra straps, the waistline of their shorts, nipples, armpits, honestly the possibilities are endless!! Plus Vaseline isn’t all that expensive so go crazy if you’re haunted by the memories of getting into the shower after a long run and experience the stinging only freshly chafed skin can bring.

Another thing you can use Vaseline for is any exposed skin on a cold run! An nice layer of it is supposed to help keep those areas warm! I’ve never tried it but some people swear by it!

8. Hats Are Much More Functional Headbands

Ok but seriously, they really are! When I first started running I never considered wearing a hat. I just pulled my hair back with a hair tie and headband. But I have really thick hair and that never really kept it out of my face. Something that really annoyed me. Then one hot summer I started wearing a hat to keep the sun off of my face and I realized that I should have been doing just that from the very beginning. First off, a hat keeps my hair out of my face better than any headband ever has. Plus you can use it to keep the sun, rain, snow, dust, or whatever out of your eyes. And in the summer you can put some water or ice in it to help cool you off a bit. You can’t do that with a headband haha.

9. You Need To Fuel Your Body Properly

I’m not a nutritionist so I can’t tell you what the proper way to fuel your body for running is (and it’s different for everyone anyway!).

But I can tell you that eating right and eating enough is incredibly important! You can’t run your best if you aren’t eating enough!

And treats and not necessarily “healthy things are a part of a healthy diet! So there’s no need to restrict yourself to a ridiculously “clean” diet!! Veggies, fruits, complex carbs, proteins, and fats are all very important as well!

Give your body the very best of you want to run your very best. Sometimes that means a nice fruit smoothie. Other times that means pizza.

10. Find Your “Why”

When I first started running my “why”, the reason and motivation for taking up this weird and wonderful sport in the first place, wasn’t a great one. I was trapped in a bad cycle of body dysmorphia and food restriction. My “why” was literally to burn extra calories and let me tell you that is NOT a good reason to take up running.

Sure, running does burn more calories than a lot of other forms of exercise (roughly 100 calories per mile, depending on your build and metabolism). But that’s really not enough to keep you going when the going gets tough.

If you actually want to stick with running long term you need something more substantial than that! And it can’t be something super rigid or just one big goal. For example, there is a pretty decent sized population of people who have run a marathon and then never run another step in their lives.

Your “why” will definitely change over the years. Mine went from just being a calorie burn, to proving people wrong (my WHOLE life I was always told I was un-athletic and I BELIEVED that for the longest time), then it turned into me proving to myself that I can do hard things. At certain times it was just to keep me sane. That turned into me running just because I thought it was fun. Right now my “why” is running to keep myself and my unborn baby happy and healthy. And to help relive some of the aches and pains that come with pregnancy. πŸ˜‚

Your “why” could be that your using running to fill the void after you lost a loved one. Or something to help you recover from an addiction. It can be a celebration of life! Maybe you overcame cancer or you run for someone who can’t anymore or who never could in the first place.

Everyone’s “why” is different and deeply personal. If you haven’t found yours I STRONGLY recommend taking some time to sit down and really think about why you run and what you actually want from your running. Writing it out in a journal, blog, Instagram post, or even just a scrap of paper can be very helpful in this situation. But I really think everyone who runs should really take some time to consider this! Even if it does sound a little “out there” to you. πŸ˜‰

Well, that’s it from me!

Is there anything you wish you had known when you started running?

Gobbler Grind 10k 11/10/19

Yes you read that correctly. 10k. Not half marathon. Hahaha I’ll get there, but first let’s start where we left off yesterday. πŸ˜‰

So after we finished the Longview half (which you can read all about here), Luke drove us to Garry Gribble’s so we could get our race packets since that running store is relatively close to the start/finish area of the Longview half. Well, it’s closer to there than it is to our house anyway. πŸ˜‚ So we went there, got our stuff, and then went to 5 Guys to eat because that’s our post-race tradition now!

After that we went back home, hung out at my house for a little bit, went to bed, and then got up at 5:30 am to do it all over again.

Except when we got up and started getting ready I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to do it all again. My hamstrings were tight and hurting but I do think of I would have paced myself properly I could have done it! But my dad is a less experienced runner and isn’t a good pacer. πŸ˜‚. But he said he was hurting 3 steps into the Longview half and the last 3 ish miles were a struggle for him. So I started thinking we needed to drop down to the 10k. Which I told him. But as we were getting ready he was adamant that we signed up for two half marathons so we were going to do two half marathons.

On the drive to the starting line (which Luke so graciously did again so we wouldn’t have to worry about it) I was still trying to convince him that this was a bad idea, but he wasn’t having it. So, we arrived at the starting area, parked, and walked (well my dad limped) to the port-o-potties.

Now, I absolutely love everything about this race, but my only real issue with it is that there are no where near enough port-o-potties for the amount of people who participate. We got there over and hour early so there was no line yet, but we knew from our experience last year that the line would get RIDICULOUSLY long and span most of the parking lot. So we used the facilities early and while we still could.

The starting line before everyone showed up.

Anyway, once we were done I put my foot down and told my dad we were dropping to the 10k. I thought that one or even both of us would end up getting hurt if we attempted another 13.1 miles. So I walked to the packet pick up area and switched distances, so he kinda had to as well. πŸ˜‚ I think it was for the best though.

After getting our new bibs we walked back to the truck and hung out in there for a while since it was a chilly morning and we had arrived so early. By then the line for the port-o-potties was already super long and getting worse by the minute. There was no way we’d be able to use them again and actually start the race on time. And yet we continued to drink water and coffee. πŸ˜‚

With about 10 minutes until the race started we walked out to the starting corral but I had to pee REALLY bad. I decided I couldn’t wait so I walked into the woods, found a big tree off of the trail a ways, and peed there. I used to run on this particular trail EVERYDAY when I lived in an apartment near by, and I still go there to run every once in an while, so this definitely wasn’t the first time I’ve peed in that woods. πŸ˜‚ A few minutes later my dad did the same thing and THEN we went to line up in the starting corral.

A few minutes later we were off!! Not gonna lie, I was super stoked that we were only going 6 miles that day instead of 13. Plus I was very excited to be at another race! Especially since I don’t race very often. I mean, look at that smile! I was loving it!!

After the initial excitement of starting wore off we slowed down quite a bit. We were both feeling that half marathon from the day before. πŸ˜‚ Several spectators and race volunteers recognized us from the day before though so that was pretty cool!!

So the first few miles of this 10k were on the roads around Corporate Woods Park. So obviously there are big corporate buildings, some side walks and parking lots, and we were on the road and not the trail (yet) but it was still very pretty. Especially because of all of the fall colors!

After about 2.5 miles we turned onto the trail though. And this is the section of trail that I really did run or walk on every single day for 3 years and still often one back to. It’s not like being out in the woods somewhere secluded or anything like that, but it’s about as close as you can get in Overland Park, which is a huge city, so I’ve always been very fond of this trail and I very much enjoyed getting to do a race on it!

Anyway, for the second half of this 10k we finally settled into a good rhythm and what felt like a very consistent pace. We cheered on the other runners going the opposite direction and at this point and until the very end we never passed anyone but we were also never overtaken by anyone else. So that was just interesting.

At about mile 4.5 we turned around and started heading back the way we came, making our way closer and closer to the finish line! I think at that point my dad was very ready to be done, but I was in super high spirits and enjoying myself very much!

Finally the finish line was in sight! We sped up a little bit and finished with smiles on our faces! We got our medals and some post race cinnamon rolls and then wandered around a little bit to see what goodies they had to offer at all of the booths set up out there.

We got free bananas, chocolate milk, a mini ice pack, among a few other things. We also met the social media manager of the race which was super cool! She saw us out on the 10k course and cheered for us which of course we returned, but we didn’t know who she was. I thought it sounded like she recognized us and of course it turns out that she did! We interact quite often on instagram! I just didn’t know what she looked like because she runs the race’s Instagram page. But anyway we talked for a little bit and that was pretty cool!

Hahaha and one of the race photographers at the finish area also got several photos of of which I thought was neat! They even got Luke in one of them! πŸ˜„

And that was pretty much it! A little less exciting than the half marathon I guess, but I thought it was a lot more fun.

After we were done hanging out at the race we went to 5 Guys of course! It’s our post-race tradition after all!!

Then we headed back home. Luke headed out to go golfing but I stayed behind this time because my dad wanted to leave after he showered. So he did that, we packed up his truck, and he headed off to Illinois where he was going to meet my brother who had left in their camper that morning before we went of to our race. Our busy and fun filled weekend was officially over. Not gonna lie, after my dad left I spend a lot of time laying on my couch like this before I finally got up to shower and collect myself. πŸ˜‚

And thus ends the adventure of two races in two days. They weren’t both half marathons, but I think we made the right decision switching to the 10k. Plus back to back races are impressive no matter what the distances are!

Well, that’s that on that!

I’ve got a 5k coming up on Thanksgiving that in doing by myself and I think that’s gonna wrap up my racing for this year. It was a good one as far as race experiences go, I think!

But anyway. That’s all for now!

Until next time!

~Ashley

Longview Half Marathon Recap 11/09/19

Sloth Running Team strikes again!!!

Yeah, just ignore how messy my bathroom is. πŸ˜‚

As you probably already know, last weekend my dad and brother drove from Colorado to Kansas so my dad and I could tackle the Longview Half on November 9th and then the Gobbler Grind Half on November 10th.

Two half marathons. Two days. No big deal, right? πŸ˜‚ Well, it might have been less of a big deal if either of us we’re actually trained and prepared to run the equivalent of a full marathon over the course of two days, but due to a plethora of reasons neither of us were.

That sure wasn’t going to stop us from trying though!!

So my dad and brother got here on Friday and honestly things just moved very quickly after that! After they got here Luke drove my dad and I to the KC Running Company store so we could pick up our packets and so my dad could get himself some Honey Stinger to fuel both of these races!

Packet pickup was smooth and uneventful, like it usually is for these smaller, local races. I’m cool with that though! I don’t need some big event surrounding packet pick up. I’m happy to just get my stuff and get out of there so I can start thinking about the upcoming race!

Anyway, after we got our stuff we went to Bo Ling’s for dinner. Because obviously Chinese food is the ideal pre-race meal. πŸ˜‰ I mean, I got noodles though so that counts as carb loading, right??

At the end of our meal we all opened our fortune cookies and shared aloud fortunes as a group does when eating at a Chinese restaurant. Luke and I both got typical “fortunes” but my dad’s was absolutely PERFECT for our situation!!

After we ate we had to run to tractor supply and then Walmart to pick up a few things, then after that we headed back home where we got our gear ready, set our alarms for 5:30 am, and then went to bed.

Race day morning was dark sand chilly (my favorite!) but the sun was supposed to be up and shining by the time we started. My dad and I ate, made coffee, and got dressed pretty quickly. Luke (he offered to drive us) got up around 6 am and by 6:30-ish we were headed to the start line!!

Unfortunately we ended up almost completely stopped on the highway. Later, while we were running, Luke overheard some people talking about the traffic we almost got stuck in. Apparently someone had hit a deer and that caused such a mess that it completely backed up the highway. Luckily Luke got off the highway before we got completely stuck in the traffic so weren’t stuck in that mess.

Getting off of the highway and going around did add some time to our drive though. Not much, but you’ve got to get to the start of this race early if you want a decent parking spot and if you want to use the port-o-potties. They seem to have the same issues directing traffic into the designated parking areas every year, and they never have enough port-o-potties. Especially considering now this race is a half, 10k, and 5k, so a lot more people are participating than they did in previous years (hahaha remember this is the 5th year I’ve been to this race! πŸ˜‚).

Very pretty view from our walk from the truck to the starting are.

And of course we ran into those same issues. Parking was a bit of a hassle, but it wasn’t too bad. We still had to walk a ways to the actual starting line, but no where near as far as we had to last year. But we were getting down to the wire as far as time goes, and we still wanted to use the port-o-potties. Which of course had a huge line… But we got in it and waited our turn. We waited for a little over 10 minutes, missed the national anthem, but we both did finally get to go!! By the tine we were both done the announcer was calling for 30 seconds until the start time and there were still a bunch of people in line!

We made it just in time though! And luckily we line up in the back so we didn’t have to fight through any people to get to where we belonged in the starting corral. We had time to snap a quick photo and then we were off on our my 5th and my dad’s 2nd 13.1 mile journey!

We went out fast. Too fast for two slow people who had little to no training. πŸ˜† For about the first 3 miles we hung with/in front of the 3 hour pace group. They were a lot of fun and we joked with them for a little bit. We are the party in the back and it sure felt that way!!! We also drank the beer that an aid station was handing out a little after mile 3. I’ve never done that before, but I decided a while ago that the next race I was offered alcohol while running I was gonna take some! Hahaha and I’m glad it did! It was only a little bit of beer, but it made the next mile a lot more fun. πŸ˜‚

At about mile 4 we started fading. I figured we would though. I knew we went out too fast and pushed too hard during the first few miles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and I’ve told him this at every race we’ve done together πŸ˜‰) my dad is bad at pacing. And occasionally it drives me, who is a little more experienced at this kind thing, a little crazy. πŸ˜‚ Ah well, we were having fun! As you can definitely see in this photo taken a little after mile 4.

After this point we began our slow slog through some hills. They actually weren’t even that crazy of hills but they felt that way at the time. They actually changed this course last year so this was the first time I’ve run the new route and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I probably should have looked up the course map and description, but I didn’t. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ˜‚

But like I said, there was nothing really too crazy. And the last several miles were a net downhill.

Anyway, I’d say things really took a turn for us around mile 7, you know, about halfway through the race. πŸ˜‚ that’s when we REALLY slowed down and then eventually we just ended up walking all of miles 8 and 9.

At around mile 8 we turned onto a really nice gravel trail. It was super nice to go from asphalt to gravel in the last miles of this race. Plus it was SUPER pretty on the trail! The views there are much nicer than they were in previous years. πŸ˜„

I think mile 9 ended up being close to an 18 minute mile. That was tough for me. Physically because weirdly enough running was less painful than walking. But mostly mentally. Knowing we had three more miles to go. And we were walking. Ugh. I was mentally DONE at that point. Hahaha but again, the views were GREAT!

So a little after mile 10 I did something I swore I wasn’t going to do. I left my dad behind. Oh man, I felt shitty doing it, but I just couldn’t keep walking like that. It was KILLING my hips. A little earlier in the race he told me to go ahead and at this point I just had to.

So I went back to running and I actually ended up passing most of the people that had passed us over the last 2 or 3 miles. That was kind of a fantastic mental boost for me! Also the few people who I ended up talking to who weren’t part of the race but weren’t really spectators either (they were just out walking the trail I guess) helped too. One guy with a HUGE, happy looking pit bull told me I was doing great and that I was almost there. I could have hugged that man if I weren’t on a nice roll at that point. Hearing those words were literally the best thing to ever happen to me. At least it felt that way at that moment. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

I think that happened around 12.7 miles. And I only know that because I had checked it on my watch a few minutes earlier. I don’t typically like watching my watch during hard races or workouts. It just makes it seem like the misery is dragging on and on. But I NEEDED to know how close I was, ya know? πŸ˜‚

Anyway, once I knew how close I was I could hear the announcer calling out names. So I sped up a little and ended up passing this couple who were also in the race. I guess after I did that I slowed down and they sped up because I heard then getting closer. I decided I was too close to the finish to let them pass me so I sped back up and turned off of the trail and onto the road to the finish before they did.

I crossed the finish line at 3:19:32. That was the biggest relief of my life! πŸ˜‚ I was so happy to be done. I don’t even care that this was my second slowest half marathon time (with all of the factors going into this race I knew it would be slow), finishing was a FANTASTIC feeling.

After I got my medal and had my timing chip clipped off of my shoe, and found Luke, I got my snacks and then had one of the active releases therapy people who were there stretch out my hamstrings. That was fantastic! It felt great after all of that walking! Hahaha apparently they weren’t ready to deal with all of that walking which was weird, but I guess does make sense. Walking is a different motion than running and I wasn’t ready for that.

Anyway, after that was done it was only a few more minutes before my dad came in sight of the finish line. The 3 hour pacer has walked back along the course and found him and ends up walking with him. He said she was great and played all sorts of music for him on her phone. She let him cross the finish line on his own though. He finished his second half marathon in 3:34:56, while I screamed and cheered my head off. 😁

After he finished we watched the very last guy finish. He carried a full sized American flag with him the entire way which is pretty badass. Then he was quickly followed by the very last pacer. She’s the sweeper who makes sure everyone makes it and that no one technically finishes last. We talked to her a little bit out of the course this year and found out that she was going to be at the Gobbler Grind the next day as well. My dad and I are also fairly certain that we talked to her during the Gobbler Grind last year as well. Either way, she’s one awesome chick!

Once we were done cheering for the last runner, my dad also went to the active release therapy booth where he had him work on his hips. It looked painful, but he said that it felt progressively better every time the guy moved his leg. πŸ˜‚

And then we were done! We walked back to the truck and Luke drove us to Garry Gribbles so we could pick up our packets for the Gobbler Grind. Then we went to 5 Guys for burgers, which is now our post race tradition. 5 Guys is already pretty good but their burgers taste even better after completely a half marathon!! πŸ˜‹

After we ate we went back home, where I promptly made hot chocolate and then took an ice bath. Getting into the ice bath initially sucked as it usually does, but after that it actually felt sooooo good on my feet, hips, and hamstrings. Those were all really hurting at that point. But completing a half marathon on basically no training will do that to a person. πŸ˜‚

Then my dad showered while Luke and I went to Walmart because he had promised my dad and I pies after we finished, so he bought us a pumpkin pie and an apple pie. πŸ˜‚ So that evening me, my dad, my brother, and Luke hung out in my living room, eating pie, and getting ready for our race the next day. At least I was attempting to do that anyway. πŸ˜‰

Aaand I guess that’s where I’m going to end! This post is long enough as it is anyway.

So I’m gonna try to have your Gobbler Grind recap tomorrow! So wishing you the best until then!

~Ashley