Maybe it's the hot neon lycra, the tiny water-bottle waistbands or the sultry sweatiness a runner exudes while hammering the trail, but there's just something about that slender yet strong physique that makes one long to be a runner. With all that talk about that mythical "runner's high," there's something to say about striving for health, cardio fitness and an all-natural, altered state of elated consciousness.
So can anyone be a runner? "Heck yeah!" exclaims Michelle Poirot, FootZone marketing and events coordinator. "It's amazing to move your body through this stunning landscape that we live in, and running is a great method to really experience and see all that we have here in Central Oregon." So, we hope we don't jinx it when we say, the trails are finally thawing out and it's time to go running! With the Salmon Run on April 9 kickstarting this race season, it's time to get into gear.
Dust off those kicks
"What we're seeing is that finally, after this crazy winter, people are starting to get back to it," says Poirot. "There's a lot of sentiment from runners that they are months behind on their training." If you've found it difficult to stay motivated when thawed trails turn into slush after this soggy start to spring, keep the momentum flowing by erring on paved roads or going indoors on the treadmill. Diehards may bristle at the idea of forgoing the oneness with nature for a stale gym, but what treadmill training lacks in variability, it does make up for in precision and control — important if you are practicing a goal pace before an upcoming run.
If you've been slow to the start, don't overdo it. Poirot cautions, "It's wise to race at where you're at. It's hard to gain a bunch of mileage in a short amount of time without getting hurt. Maybe you're not quite there yet to run a half marathon." She recommends adding 10 percent a week of extra length for your long run. So if you're comfortable running three miles, add only 0.3 miles a week to that. If you're keen on racing, most runs such as the Salmon Run or Happy Girls (on May 27) offer 5k and 10k options to their half-marathon.
Find a group run
"If you're having doubts or you're struggling, it is definitely helpful to have a group to run with," adds Poirot. Getting out with friends makes you not only accountable, but has been a proven method in reaching those goals faster. Plus, there's a little phenomena that occurs when you run with spectators. It's called social facilitation — and it's science! Numerous studies stemming all the way back to 1897 have concluded that we generally perform better when we are in the presence of others and have an audience.
A bit of ego perhaps? Probably. But group runs will push you to set a quicker pace, and give the added bonus of encouragement—very handy when you're slogging up a steep incline. If the thought of being the last one in the group unnerves you, test the route ahead of time by making a few solo runs — but know that there's no gain if there isn't a bit of pain... even the anxiety-driven mental kind, which is arguably the biggest hurdle in starting any new endeavor.
If your friends are too busy indulging in the 101 other outdoor recreational activities Bend has to offer, or they prefer napping on the couch (hey, it's an activity!) then sign up for an intro 5k, 10k or half-marathon training group. FootZone, Fleet Feet and our Outdoor and Athletic section on page 46 offer plenty of options. Other great resources? Central Oregon Running Klub, Bend Area Running Fraternity and Bend Babes Brews and Running Crew... yes, that really is a thing.
Embrace (figurative) stumbling
Every pro had to start somewhere, so don't be dissuaded if you've run a quarter mile and your lungs feel like they're on fire, or you gave up after a few sessions. "The biggest stumbling block for new runners," Poirot says "is that they go out way too fast! So within a quarter mile they are ready to die and they don't think they are runners." She advocates starting off with a run-walk ratio, slowly building to 5k. "Everybody assumes that in order to show up for even a 5k running group you have to be a runner. That's not the case." You can get off the couch and run a 5k in as little as six weeks, which is where a structured running group can come in handy. A coached group provides structure with someone asking you what you've had trouble with or has the expertise to pinpoint issues you're having, whether it's your knees, joints or breathing issues. Invest in a decent pair of running shoes that are lightweight and both support and cushion your soles. And remember, running, apart from being one of the best and lowest-cost ways of getting into shape and living a healthy life, also carves out time for yourself. "It clears my head," says Poirot, "and that time to think and connect with nature is my motivator."
For your own motivation, check out:
Half marathon, 10k, 5k and Little Fry Kids Run
Happy Girls Women's Run
Half-marathon, 10k and 5k