Things I wish I’d known when I started running

Please enjoy this guest post while I am off running 48.6 miles!

When I decided to take up running a little over a year ago, I was completely new to the sport.

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I decided I wanted to make a healthy life change and jumped in with both feet—I signed up for a half marathon before I’d ever run a mile. The next few months were a crash course in running—I bumbled my way through a training plan and across the finish line. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about running. Here are some of the things I wish someone had told me before I laced up my shoes for the first time.

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  • Shoes matter: In the beginning, I thought all running shoes were created equal. Boy, was I wrong. It took me months to step out of the outlets and into a specialty running store, but once I started wearing shoes that suited me, I was amazed at the difference it made.
  • Function over fashion: What you wear when you’re running matters. Running in the cotton race t-shirt? I only made that mistake once. Training for a race in the south means moisture-wicking clothes are your best friend, and when the weather turns cold, it is really important to have clothes that suit the chilly temperatures. It took me awhile to find the pieces that fit and suited me best—and luckily, there are so many companies that make functional, cute running pieces that sometimes it is hard to choose. Bottom line: good running clothes are worth the investment.
  • Consistency is key: Deciding to run a long distance race is a commitment, and it takes dedication and consistency. You have to be ready to put the effort in, especially as a beginner.
  • Chafing happens: I didn’t discover body glide until after my first half marathon. My first long, humid, layered half marathon. The thought of it still makes me shudder.
  • Learn how to recover: It took me awhile to learn how to recover from a long run, and that everyone recovers differently. My magic combo is foam rolling, Epsom salts and the occasional massage.
  • You have to find the best hydration plan for you: I trained for my first half pushing a jogging stroller—which meant I had plenty of room for a water bottle and refills. When I started running without my kid, I struggled with hydration. Should I carry a water bottle? Get a hydration belt? It took me awhile to figure out that my preference is to just carry a bottle, and to take advantage of the water stops during races.
  • Use gels and chews: When a volunteer handed me a gel a little over halfway through that first half, I was hesitant to try it. Once I did, though, I was completely converted. What a difference it made! I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to discover the benefits of them.
  • Make friends (on the running trail and virtually): Running started out as a solo activity for me, then I started to make friends at the starting lines of races. What a friendly group of people! I joined some online forums and groups that connected me to runners in my area and all over the country—it’s a great way to get support, cheer people on, and learn about races you might not know about otherwise.
  • Plan ahead: Some races fill up quickly, some races are chosen by a lottery, and some races have time requirements. If there is a race you really want to do, make sure you do your homework. If you miss a deadline or the race fills up, make it a goal for the next year.
  • Keep it fun: Most of us aren’t professional runners, but we often forget that. It is easy to get caught up in tracking our pace, getting a PR or filling up our medal hangers with shiny bling. Don’t let it all get the best of you, and remember that running should be fun.

QOTD: What do you wish you had known when you started running? What was the best tip you got?

Allyson Brandt lives in Atlanta, GA, and can be found blogging at

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  1. What I wish that I knew when I started was the importance of strength training for the pelvic girdle. Runners are notorious for muscle imbalances in our hips. IT Band, Patellofemoral Syndrome, Piriformous, etc….If we don’t keep those guys happy, running will be a literal pain in the butt, and you may have to stop running. A good strength plan does not have to be long. Just do it!! 🙂

  2. I’ve been at this running thing on and off for two years, ran a 10 miler race, and a handful of 5k’s. This time I am taking things a little more seriously and my first stop was at a specialty shoe store for fitted shoes and inserts. Plantar fasciitis is no joke!

    My tip: intervals are your best friend. They will help you go the distance and can make you faster.

    I keep hoping wondering if I will finally take up the run.

  4. i wish i would have known how important speed training was! it wasn’t until my 3rd or 4th half marathon that i incorporated interval speed training and my time drastically improved!

  5. Great tips! You’re so right about clothes and shoes- it takes some trial and error to figure out what works for you.

  6. Great list! I wish I had known how important cross training was!

  7. Great guest post! 🙂

  8. Love this!
    I wish I’d known that it would hurt. For months. Until my body got the hang of using all of the muscles that I’d never used before.

Mentioned elsewhere:

  1. Things I wish I’d known when I started running

    Please enjoy this guest post while I am off running 48.6 miles! When I decided to take up running a little