I just ran my 6th Bloomsday race. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a huge event that brings out runners and walkers alike. The course is only 7.46 miles long but features "Doomsday Hill"… which is a nightmare for many unconditioned folks (I've seen many people vomiting and fainting at this point of the course).
Bloomsday was the first race I ever ran after losing all of my extra weight. And I've run a total of 16 races in the last 6 years.
One thing I can tell you is that becoming a runner can SUCK in many ways.
Sure, there are many great aspects to running… and it's by far my favorite activity. However, if you want to take running seriously and run races, get faster, run further, etc… there's a price to pay.
If you're considering running as an activity… here's what you need to know:
1. You will get injured.
There's no way around it. It may be a small injury like muscle soreness and cramps or a much larger issue like a torn Achilles. Or maybe you'll develop plantar fasciitis, shin splints, weak ankle issues, hip problems, knee discomfort, missing toenails, blisters, chaffing, bloody nipples (for men), etc. Overuse injuries are VERY common for runners. I mean, what would you expect after running miles and miles? Some injuries can be prevented by doing more cross-training, skipping the static stretching before running, and switching up your running routine.
If you've experienced any of these pains from running, congrats… you're officially a member of the club. Then take about 2 days off to recover from a small injury or soreness.
2. It will cost you time.
Just to stay "in shape" for the sake of any physical activity, you need to exercise regularly. That will cost you 2-3 hours a week at the bare minimum. If you're interested in training for a distance race, it will require much more. For a 5k, you can expect to spend 3-4 hours training each week. For a half-marathon, it will be about 6-8 hours. For a full-marathon, you will spend 8-10 hours (3-5 hours of that will likely be dedicated for a long-day run). Marathon training is very much like a second job. Your free-time will now be taken up by running. This is okay if you are the type of person who can stay dedicated over the course of many months (most people can't). You'll learn to schedule everything around your running schedule if you're in it for the long haul (marathon training). You may find yourself waking up earlier to get a morning run in instead of waiting until afternoon. Training may just force you into becoming a "morning person". *GASP*!
3. You may go broke.
First off, you must have good shoes (at a minimum). Poor running shoes leads to all kind of foot issues and bad performance. Your shoes should be retired after every 400-500 miles on average. Expect to dish out anywhere between $50-$150 for decent running shoes. Then you also need moisture-wicking apparel and socks (good socks will cost you around $10-15 PER PAIR). If you're serious about running, you'll require hydration belts, bottles, and/or a camelbak. If you have shin or calf problems, you'll want to invest in calf compression sleeves. If you have knee issues, get knee braces. If you don't particularly enjoy chaffing, you'll need for Runner's Glide. If you're running long distances, you may want to invest in a heart rate monitor and GPS watch to track your performance. You'll need some sort of fuel in the form of sugar to prevent major fatigue (this can cost $1-2 per energy gel x 4-5 gels per 20 mile run). You'll likely need a constant supply of electrolytes to replace what you're sweating out. You'll need an abundance of sunscreen if your run outside during the day. You'll need a gym membership or a treadmill at home if you prefer running indoors more. You'll need supplements and equipment to deal with the muscle soreness, such as a simple foam roller or an electrical stimulation machine. Getting regular massages is also highly recommended.
Oh… and you want to run races? That'll cost you about $85-110 per race on average (if you don't register early). That doesn't include the costs of travel and hotel accommodations, by the way.
4. You must be prepared.
Distance running requires a lot of forethought. If you forget to do something or pack anything, you're screwed. This is probably the hardest part for many people. If you forget to have a bowel movement before you head out on your run, you might have the worst "runs" ever (har har har). If you don't have enough sugary energy gels, you may experience the worst muscle cramps ever (and "hit the wall"). If you don't wear a hat, visor, and/or wear sunscreen, you're gonna be really burnt. If you eat too much before you go out, you might have an upset stomach (wait 2 hours). If you drink too much coffee, you might have to unexpectedly go number two. If you're mp3 player isn't fully charged, you'll have no music to listen to for all of those miles. If you're running after dark, you need reflective gear and headlamps. If you're running in the middle of nowhere, you must have some sort of protection. If you're a woman, you're probably not ever going to feel safe running alone. Have your running routes mapped out (if running outdoors), know the conditions of your route, otherwise that's another surprise.
5. People won't understand your desire to run and will poke fun at you.
You may have friends and family that just don't get it. They'll tell you you're addicted to the "runner's high". And they may actually be right. They'll listen to all of your complaints about running and think you're a glutton for punishment. But what they really see is that you no longer have time for karaoke nights at the bar on the weekends. They notice you've developed a commitment to something that takes away from the time you get to spend with them. And maybe… just maybe… they are a little envious of your passion.
With all of that said, running has been one of the best experiences of my life.
It's the only physical activity that I've felt 100% free, alive, and empowered. It pushes your body and mind to the limits. It strengthens your grit and determination. You honestly become a bit of a warrior when you've pushed yourself that far out of your comfort zone, time and time again. Is it worth it? To me, yes. Will I be running for the rest of my life? Maybe… but in the end, it may look a lot more like walking. Running isn't for every one. The pain is not worth it in many cases.
So, consider yourself warned.
Are you a runner? What experiences have you had that made you second guess your running experience?
>>Not sold on the whole running thing now?
Check out this fitness personality assessment that may help you figure out what physical activity if best for you.
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