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Read Owain's brilliant Top Tips for preparing for a new distance!
It's a new year, everyone is setting themselves New Year resolutions and some might even stick to them. January always sees the gyms packed with people trying to get fit and shed some of the Christmas pounds.
If you need proof of this, just look at parkrun. The first parkrun of the year in Edinburgh saw over 800 people attend the free event on Cramond prom! Usual attendance numbers are around the 550 mark.
People are coming out to get fit, which is great, but they are also looking at new challenges, maybe 5k is the furthest they have ever ran. Others might be looking to step up to 10k in 2019 or who knows, maybe they are looking at taking on their first ultra marathon.
Back in 2008, the New Year was just around the corner and I was one of those people who decided 2009 was going to be the year I changed everything. I hadn't ran since high school and I had put on a lot of weight while at uni. I decided that I was going to take on a new challenge in my life and I signed up to Edinburgh Marathon!
I do not recommend this approach, do not just jump two feet straight in to a marathon or any distance for that matter, it was stupid but I didn't know any better.
What I recommend is:
1) Respect the distance.
Whether it's 5k, an ultra marathon or any distance in-between, they are all hard and can take their toll on you. Just because your friend can run a 5k in 20 mins doesn't mean your 50 minutes is any less impressive. You've still covered the distance and I bet you are just as tired when you finish it as your friend is.
Training isn't just for elite athletes either. You need to get your body ready to run any new distance. If 5k is your thing and it's your first big challenge for 2019, check out the JogScotland or NHS Couch to 5k training plan. It will ease you in from never taken a step in your life in running shoes to completing your first 5k in a recommended way.
If you are going further than 5k, the same thought applies. Train for the distance, speak to people, post questions online, there are so many ways to find answers. Do your research before taking on your next big challenge.
2) Start slow.
This applies to any distance, take the first part of the run slow. Slower than you think you need to. This will hopefully mean you make it to the finish feeling strong. There is nothing worse than getting 2k in to a 5k and you realise you've blown up and you can't finish!
3) Get the right gear.
Pay for good running shoes, go to your local running shop and get properly fitted for shoes. I can't emphasis this enough. Don't skimp on the shoes. They are going to be pounding the streets or trails for a lot of miles, make sure they fit you correctly. Correctly fitting shoes will help prevent blisters and injuries and will make your running experience much nicer.
4) Listen to your body.
This might be the first time you've ran in a long time. You're going to have aches and pains but listen to your body. Some days it's just not going to be happening. Take a day off. You aren't going to lose any fitness with a day off. I'm not a fan of the running streaks - run every day in January sort of things. You need days off to let your muscle repair themselves.
This becomes even more important when you are moving up to a new distance. You're putting new stresses on your body that it will take time to get used to.
5) Enjoy yourself!
This is the most important bit of advice I would say to anyone taking on a new distance. If you aren't enjoying yourself, why bother? Running is meant to be fun, a hobby, not something that you loathe. Find the distance you really enjoy and go for it. You may never run a 10k if 5ks are your thing, you may never do a 1/2 marathon if you love the feeling of a 10k. There is no shame in that.