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Ten Things No One Ever Tells You About Running. (or: What To Get a New Runner for Christmas)

November 28, 2016

I remember when I started getting into running. I just put on my old sneakers, whatever workout clothes were on the top of the pile, and went out the door. You might think, “yeah that’s what I would do” or “well, that’s pretty much what running is, what else is there?”

A whole lot. And I only wish that someone had told me about it at the very beginning. Would it have stopped me from running? Absolutely not. But it could have saved me some time, money, and pain.

So if you’re just starting out, or thinking about starting out with running (to which I give a resounding “YAY!”), this post is for you. So without further ado, I present:

Ten Things No One Told Me About Running That I Wish I Had Known Before I Started.

  1. Shoes matter.

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The sneakers I first started running in were these old Nikes I used primarily for the gym. There was nothing inherently wrong with them, and they were fine for what I was using them for. And they were even fine for running while I was working my way up to a 5k. But sooner rather than later, things started happening. Things like pain and blisters and soreness. Someone recommended I go to a running shop and get them to measure my foot, watch me run, and suggest a pair of sneakers suitable for my stride. My first thought was “I know my size, I don’t need them” which was immediately followed by “This is gonna cost some serious coin.” The blisters soon got the best of me, so I bit the bullet and headed to the shop. Not only did I discover that my current old Nikes were completely unsuitable for running, but they were also the wrong size. I wore a size 7 my whole life (and still do in all my other shoes) but they put me in an 8 1/2 Saucony. And after a few runs, I realized they were right. And worth every penny. On a side note, I’ve been a Saucony girl ever since. I tried Asics for a while during my “minimalist” phase, but then I got tendinitis in my left ankle, so I went back to Sauconys and things have been rainbows and unicorns ever since. Which brings me to…

 

2. Injuries happen.

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This is the brace I had to wear every time I went running for months. Not to mention the first couple of months that I couldn’t run at all. Tendinitis was by far the WORST running injury I personally experienced. But if you run, they’re gonna happen. From your knee, to your IT Band, to your hip, to your ankle, and other random things that I’ve never had hurt but I’m sure someone else has, you will get injured. You will also recover (most likely). One time I was running a trail race, tripped on the root of tree, flew what felt like 5 feet up and forward (in slow motion)  and skidded face first into the dirt. My whole body hurt. I slowly got up, brushed myself off, and cried. Quickly realizing I was in the middle of the woods and there was nobody around to help me, I pulled it together, and did the only thing I could do – finished the race. Thankfully, I only wound up with a few days of soreness and some scrapes and bruises. Did I let that stop me though? NO! It comes with the territory. If you challenge yourself, you’re bound to fall on your face once in a while. It’s what you do next that really counts .

 

3. Toenails – who needs ’em?!

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This is my black toenail. Isn’t it lovely? It’s still attached to my toe, and it doesn’t hurt. It’s not my first one, nor will it be my last. They’re ugly, and they’re unavoidable. Sometimes they stay like this for a long time. And sometimes…

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…they fall off. You can still get a pedicure though. Just tell them to paint the toe. They will look at you like a total weirdo, but just assure them it’s ok, you’re a runner, and have done this before. You will miss your once cute and well manicured feet. You might pass up wearing sandals on a warm day. But eventually, you’ll wear your black toenails proudly like a badge of honor. “Yes I AM a runner.” you’ll say with pride as strangers look at your toes instead of into your eyes. It took you many miles to get them to look like that. Now go out and let the world know it.

 

4. Just say no to cotton socks.

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These are my favorite running socks. I never even heard of them until one day my husband said “I got you Balega socks – they were on sale.” Since then I bought another pair, and I plan to buy more. They are soft, comfy, and breathable – but the coolest part is they have this little lip thing at the back of the heel that prevent your heels from rubbing against your shoes.

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When I started running, I just wore the socks I had. They were cute, and were perfect for the gym. They were also cotton. As I continued my descent into the realm of running, I was getting a lot of blisters. I mentioned it to my husband (who was my then boyfrined) and he said, “Are you wearing cotton socks? Because you should never run in cotton socks.” Well, as much as I hate ever saying this, he was right. I have not run in cotton socks since. Besides the Balegas, I also love these:

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I have like 10 pairs of them. I told you I was a Saucony girl. But whatever your sock brand of choice, if you’re going to be putting in some real miles, lose the cotton. It may be the fabric of our lives, but just not the running part of our lives.

 

5. More salt.

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I used to eat sweets like nobody’s business. For some reason, the more I ran, the less sweets I ate. I was able to almost completely cut out candy, and I don’t even want to eat it. However, my decreasing desire for sweets was inversely proportionate to my increasing desire for salt. I never liked salt. I never put salt on anything, I scraped salt off of pretzels and I rarely ate potato chips. Suddenly, I found myself wanting chips… a lot. At first, I ate them. Then I starting thinking this wasn’t the best idea, so I switched to popcorn. I’ve eaten more popcorn in the past year than in the 39 years leading up to that point. It’s my new favorite food. I wish I had some right now. Anyway, you’re going to want salt, since you’ll be sweating a heck of a lot more of it out. Here’s a good article about running and salt on active.com.

 

6. Get the proper gear.

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That’s my go to gear for distance running. I wore all three of them for my marathon and had no problems with chafing, rubbing, being too hot or too cold or uncomfortable in any way. I have over time, spent a lot of money on running clothes (it’s cute, what can I say). Some of it has been on the expensive side, some of it has not. Some of it was great for 3 mile runs, but did not work out for 6 mile runs. Some of it was great for 6 mile runs, but did not work out for 9 mile runs, and so on and so forth. It’s hard to find the gear that works for you. Truthfully, two of my go to pieces are from Target. They have quality stuff at a great price. One sports bra that was particularly expensive wound up causing me a lot of pain. The price doesn’t matter. It’s whatever works best for you. I wish I could give you better guidelines, but everybody’s different and it’s ultimately about trial and error, but I can say watch out for bulky seams, things that are too tight, things that are too loose, and things that are made from heavy scratchy material. Try Target. You won’t break the bank if at first your don’t succeed, and odds are, you will succeed with something they have to offer – it’s good stuff.

 

7. Port A Potties become your new best friend.

I have no picture of this (thankfully). They’re gross. Even the clean ones are kind of gross. But what a wonderful thing it is to open the door to a Port A Potty while running a race, and find it stocked with toilet paper. An added bonus is when they have hand sanitizer!  But the best thing of all is when there’s no line. Port A Potties are such a hot commodity during races, that it’s a rare find when you can just walk up, walk in and go. Sometimes, during a race, the Port A Potty in the distance becomes your reason to keep going. Sounds weird, right? You’ll get used to it. And every once in a while you’ll get super lucky and a race will start/end at a location that has a REAL bathroom. It’s like the royal treatment.

 

8. Your boots won’t zip up.

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I am not complaining about this – it’s not a bad thing. Sure, you might have to buy new boots, but who doesn’t want a real reason to buy a new pair of boots?? Your calf muscles are growing. You’re getting stronger and more muscular. And you get to update your shoe collection at the same time. All good things, friends. You might even be able to stretch those old boots out enough to still fit (I did, but only after pinching my skin so hard it left a visible bruise for like 2 weeks).

 

9. The return of pimples.

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When I run, I wear a headband. It keeps wispy hairs out of my face if they happen to escape from my ponytail holder. It took me a while to find headbands that actually stayed in place while I run (I actually had one fly off during a race once and never saw it again). These Nike headbands are comfy, not too tight, but tight enough to stay put. However, a side effect of headband wearing while running is pimples. I haven’t had pimples since college and that was a long time ago. Suddenly they’re back. The good thing is that they are only around my hairline, where the headband sits, so no one knows they’re there but me. But,  geez, they sure hurt sometimes.

 

10. It becomes an obsession.

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The reason that you’ll be fine with and even welcome the first 9 things on this list is because running becomes part of who you are. When something happens that interferes with a run, I have anxiety. Missing a run is like the worst possible thing that could ever happen, and I’m beside myself trying to figure out what to do about it. Do I run twice on the next day to make up for it? Do I double my distance? Do I ditch (insert important event here) to feed my addiction? And that’s exactly what it is – a running addiction. It’s a wonderful thing. Although there are some minor obstacles to work through, it’s all worth it in the end. You’ll be stronger physically. You’ll be stronger mentally. You’ll learn things about yourself you never knew. You’ll find yourself doing things and shattering goals you never thought possible. A few black toenails is a small price to pay for living the dream.

It’s never too late to start running.

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