Plan to Start Running?

The Happy Pacer Series – Episode 01: Introduction to Running

Everyone can be a runner. Humans are one of the few species that don’t have in-born endurance to run for long distances, but are able to train for it and become remarkably good at it. Our cooling system, upright position (which minimizes sun exposure) and relatively large lung capacity help us to overcome our high energy cost. Another advantage we have is the ability to motivate ourselves to run further and faster, but more on that in episode 2. Let’s talk about some important points to get you started.

“Running is easy”

Sorry to spoil the party, but it isn’t always the case. It is hard for a beginner, but don’t let that dissuade you. A few runs and the hardship turns into fun! Without correct guidance and support, many who start to run may give up – they may not achieve what they set out for and get demotivated. The reason why they don’t reach their goals is because most of the time these goals are way too ambitious or are set in a short period.

“You have to start where you are and not where you want to be.

I’ve seen a lot of people go out as fast as they can on their first runs and give up after a few hundred meters. Instead, start slow, build up your stamina and after you reached your distance goals, train to go faster. Even the best marathon runners in the world do a lot of their runs 25 to 35 percent slower than their race pace, so there is no need for you to go full out and pretend to be the next Eluid Kipchoge.

The goals you set out for yourself should be realistic and easily obtainable. Planning a 5K race a month after your first run is not a very good idea and it is even worse if you base your target time on some records. Instead, start at least 3 months before your first race and don’t focus too much on the time. Enjoy the experience of your first race, let the crowd carry you and you will be pleasantly surprised of your finish time. From that point on you can focus on running longer and faster.

“There’s just so much information out there.”

An important aspect of running is guidance. It’s best not to follow “health” websites that only post articles (mostly with click-bait titles), but to get the information from respected running websites and magazines that have been around for a long time. The best way still is to surround yourself with people who have experience, those who started from zero and now are running for 15 or 20 years, or connect with an experienced coach who can tailor programs and schedules specific for you.

The Happy Pacer series here plans to bring you all sorts of information about running on a bi-weekly basis. Next time, I will focus on motivation. How to get going and how to stay motivated.

This article is contributed by Gert Rijkx – a certified athletics coach from the Independence Pacers Running Club. More about Gert can be found at:

Photos by Spencer Dahl and Glenn Carstens-Peters