Running Tips for beginners – by ultra-distance coach and athlete Robbie Britton
May 09, 20234 min read
Starting out on the wonderful journey of running is as exciting as the night before Christmas. Each day of training, each run, brings new feelings, progression and a sense of self-improvement that helps make it such a popular hobby.
But as time goes by the gains start to get a little harder to come by and these tips below will help any new runner keep riding the wave of progress.
Through all of this, it is always important to listen to your body and not get too carried away with pace, effort and volume of your training. Building steadily and sensibly over time will leave you with a foundation for a long career of running ahead.
When we start there is often a temptation to dive straight into the never ending business of buying kit. A good pair of running trainers, some comfy shorts and top and quality socks are a great place to start, but find your feet before stocking up on multiple pairs.
A good all rounder, that allows you to experience both the roads and local trails, as well as race your new friends at parkrun, is key for your first pair of running kicks. You want something not too heavy, but durable, with a tread underneath that can handle a bit of mud but remains smooth on the tarmac too. The holy grail of running shoes.
You might not need to buy too many T-shirts either, as those first few races you will want to keep the race tees given at the end to show off your new skills. After a while you might prefer to get some trees instead of tees though.
At the beginning it might all feel quite hard (and don’t be afraid to add in walking breaks to help) but as you get more accomplished in your running you will start to wonder how to train.
For a large part it will be about gradually increasing how much running you do, with a sprinkling of faster running in there as well. But don’t fall into the trap of doing every run as hard as you can.
A bit of variation is key. It doesn’t matter what pace you run, but you should be able to tell the difference between your easy and your harder running.
If you want to try some sessions then simple fartlek workouts, with thirty seconds fast, thirty seconds easy, or lamp post to lamp post, are excellent places to start. The next step after that might be joining your local club to get some guidance too.
The idea of toeing the start line with a whole bunch of professional looking elite athletes might be daunting, but try not to worry too much. Not every race is akin to the Olympic 5, 000-metre final and you will find more beginners like you, than not.
Local events are a great place to meet other runners, push your own training and find out what PB stands for and why it might matter to you in the future (Hint: It’s a personal best and they are lovely to get).
Depending on where you live there might even be midweek or small-scale events in the local park and parkrun is all over the UK now. It might not be a race, but you can still race everyone around you, if you like.
The idea of competing against others needn’t put you off too much. Everyone is competing against the distance and the event first and foremost. A shared camaraderie is easy to find at a trail or road event and the longer it is, the more you see people teaming up to overcome adversity together.
Invariably as you progress you start looking at longer races, but as soon as you’re going over seventy to eighty minutes it may be beneficial to start taking snacks. Both in training and racing it will help, but especially in racing when you are working hard.
Our body carries a built-in energy storage of glycogen in our muscles. It’s mainly what we use (with a bit of stored body fat too) to power ourselves forward when we run.
The longer you go, the more likely this can run out and you experience the dreaded ‘bonk’. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but when running longer for the first time having some energy gels or just some snacks from the cupboard at home can help avoid reducing your pace in the latter stages.
When you race a half marathon and above it is good to plan out your nutrition beforehand. Start to think about how many grams of carbohydrates per hour you are taking on board and practice your long runs beforehand to train your gut (more about this in 1001 Running Tips).
The last tip for today might sound a bit flimsy, but it’s been proven with hard science to work. Smile.
I like to have at least one smile per mile, but if you work in kilometres I don’t have a rhyme for you. Stretch those facial features all of the kilometres? I’m not sure that works.
Anyway, make sure you’re enjoying your running, it doesn’t have to be a chore and if it is it could be a sign you need a rest, an easier pace or a change of scenery. Even when it gets tough, a smile sends a message to your brain that life is good and we can keep going.
You’re at the start of your running journey and it can take you to some wonderful places.