May 25, 2023

Three Things Thursday: Running Advice

This is kind of an unusual topic, considering I haven't been running (at least not regularly) for a while now. That's not to say that I don't think about or read about running, though! I still love the topic--I just don't love actually doing it right now, haha.

Anyway, I thought I would write the three best pieces of advice I've received in regards to running. They are invaluable to me!

1. If it feels too hard, slow down.

I used to think that there was no way I could run. I always skipped out of the mile in gym class and I didn't do sports in school. I didn't run a single step until I was in my late 20's.

When I first started running, I couldn't go far at all--which is to be expected, considering I'd never run before. It just felt SO HARD. I couldn't understand how anyone could run for three minutes, let alone MILES at a time. It seemed impossible.

When I told my brother about how hard it felt, he told me to slow down and he guaranteed that I would be able to run for at least twice as long. He said even if you're running so slowly that you could walk faster, it's totally fine--just go as far as you can and it will get easier. That sounded very far-fetched--twice the distance?

Well, lo and behold, it worked! I was able to run much farther and I wasn't miserable the whole time, either. I ran so slowly that I'm sure a turtle could beat me in a race, but I went the distance.

2010, before I discovered sweat-wicking clothing. I can remember exactly how a cotton shirt feels when it's plastered to your skin.

It got much easier after that. Now, as a certified running coach, I give this same advice--always. Especially with the kids on my cross country team! They come up with ten billion excuses about why they can't run, and I just tell them that cross country is all about running, so they have to run. If it feels too hard, though, then just slow down. No stopping. And *all* of the kids on the team were capable of running a mile without stopping--just by slowing down.

2. Run your easy runs EASY, and your hard runs HARD.

This advice is everywhere--look at any running website, magazine, book, etc., and you'll see that an "easy" run is meant to feel EASY. There are physiological and biological reasons for doing slow runs, which I won't get into, but the slow runs are super important to become the best runner you're capable of. And running slowly 80% of the time can make you a faster runner in general. It certainly worked for me. (A book that I found very informational about this is '80/20 Running' by Matt Fitzgerald.

One thing that I do slightly differently from a lot of running plans is that I suggest walking for recovery between interval speed work rather than a "light jog"--I find that when I walk, I'm able to recover much more quickly and then I'm able to run much harder on the speed interval. I put everything I have into sprint workouts--while walking the recovery periods--and I think it makes a big difference in training.

I love how strong and determined I look in this picture--that look was totally fake! Inside, I was thinking, "Don't blink, just stare ahead. Hurry up and take the goddamn picture already! Don't blink... and go ahead and exhale." (In just about every race photo I have, my eyes are closed, so I was determined to keep them open for this one.)

A "middle ground" type workout would be a threshold (or tempo) run, which is run hard (but not an all out sprint). Basically, when doing speed work I run as hard as I can WHILE STILL BEING ABLE TO FINISH at the same/similar pace. So if I start sprinting for 60 seconds but I can only make it 30 seconds before I feel like I'm going to die (and then my pace drops off), that's too fast. I want to be able to run for the full 60 seconds as fast as I can without slowing down. It takes a few intervals to really get the feel for the correct pace (almost always, my first interval is too fast).

3. Every little bit "counts".

My running has evolved over the years (from existent to non-existent--hahaha!) but something I remember in the beginning was that I believed my run didn't "count" if I stopped to pet a dog or say hello to a neighbor or chat with my parents while running by their house, etc. I didn't stop for *anything* because I thought it wouldn't count as a run.

A spectator offered Jerry and I a shot of bourbon during the Detroit Half-Marathon in 2015. Our run still counted!

Later, I also didn't really "count" a run if it was less than three miles--I have no idea where that number came from or why I chose it, but the thought of going for a two-mile run (well, there was no thought of it because it didn't exist in my mind at the time).

For a long time, I believed that run-walking didn't "count". When I was injured and was run-walking frequently, I realized that it's not necessarily easier than straight-up running. Regardless of how hard it feels, though, I think run-walking totally counts! (Jerry and I ran/walked the race in the photo above)

These days, I think it all counts. A short jog around the block that includes a walking break and stopping to tie your shoe? Totally counts. Stopping midway through an out-and-back run for a Slurpee before turning around and running home? Absolutely counts. Running with a friend whose pace is much slower? Still counts.

Stopping to dig your purple thong out of an icy sidewalk, then having to collect your own unwanted underclothes all along your route? Definitely counts.

Also, and this should probably be its own category, *nobody cares what your pace and/or race times are*--so don't compare your running to someone else's. It took me a LONG time to stop caring about my pace, but running was so much more enjoyable when I was doing it slowly!

And there we go... three pieces of running advice, passed along, that helped in my own running journey. I think I'm finally starting to feel some running inspiration... 


  1. I ran my first half-marathon in four years earlier this month (Pittsburgh--highly recommend it, such a great race!) and it was my slowest half-marathon ever, but IT STILL COUNTS! My goal was to finish, and I did! When people ask me how it went, I say it went great, because even though I walked parts of it, and even though my time "sucked", I saw it through. After losing fitness/gaining weight during the pandemic, I wasn't sure I'd ever run a half again, so I'm proud that I crossed that finish line.

  2. Fabulous advice! I'll be sharing these tips for sure.

  3. Great tips. I struggle with comparing myself with others. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  4. Every single word you typed, is the best advice. When I see anybody running, I wave and smile. I know how it makes them feel. It doesn't matter how far, how fast, none of it matters. If we take long breaks off, then do it again, all of a sudden we just get into the spirit and the next day, do it again. I've been off and on all my life, but when I'm on, I feel great.

  5. Whew does #3 speak to me hard. If I could I would go back 4 years ago and slap myself in the back of the head when I was beating myself up about needing to drop to a walk during a workout. It was an unnecessary mental block that took me so long to get over (heck, I still have to fight it sometimes). It. All. Counts!


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