Become a Runner (or Better runner) in the New Year  

By Carla Turchetti

Is 2016 the year you are going to lace up your shoes and run your first 5K? Or do you have some 5Ks under your belt already and you think you’d like to run a longer distance, like a half marathon or a full marathon? Here’s some advice for getting from the start to the finish.

The Starting Line
Before you take a step with your feet, take a step with your mind.

“The most important thing is to make the decision this is something you want to do,” says Cid Cardoso, Jr., distance runner, triathlete and owner of Inside-Out Sports stores in Raleigh, Cary and Charlotte. “Visit a specialty store, because they are going to help you get the right pair of shoes and they can give you some guidance as well on groups around your neighborhood or different coaches or training plans. “

Training plans provide a framework for getting into running shape with advice on everything from how far to how often to run.

“It’s pretty easy to find a couch-to-5k training plan online, and those do give beginners some basic instructions or guidelines so that you do eventually get ready for a 5k without necessarily doing too much,” Cid says.

A beginning runner doesn’t need much special equipment. Dress in workout clothes in performance fabrics that are appropriate for the season, and purchase the right footwear.

“A good pair of running shoes and a pair of shoes that are right for the type of gait that you have is one of the first steps,” Cid says.

Self-starters may be fine following a training plan from a book or a website, but there are runners at all levels who prefer to join training groups for structured workouts.

“The big advantage of joining a training group is that you add the social aspect to it,” Cid says. “It becomes more fun and you develop friendships.  I’ve been running for more than 30 years but I know that if I am going to meet two of my buddies at 7am on a Sunday morning, if I told them I am going to be there, then I am more likely to wake up and be there than if I didn’t.”

There are running groups of all sizes in the area, from ones with hundreds of participants like Raleigh’s Jeff Galloway Run/Walk group, to the small group that runs through Raleigh’s Wakefield neighborhood once a week beginning and ending at D’s Bottle Shop, and plenty of others in-between. Gyms and running stores are other places to look for groups that get together for organized runs.

Stepping It Up
There is more than one way to increase your mileage. Cid says you can work toward it simply by increasing the distances you run, but that may not be the most efficient strategy. For a mix of workouts designed to increase distance and speed, he suggests plans found on the Internet or in running books.

“It’s not a personalized plan, but it gives you a guide where you do something like one recovery run, two medium runs and one long run a week,” Cid says. “By running four to five times a week you can be ready to run a half marathon in four to six months.”

Training groups are another place to find runners trying to get to the same distance goal you are. And if you want personalized instruction, there are running coaches who will develop a program just for you based on your fitness level, heart rate and pace.

Ready to Race
Most runners reach the point where they are ready to tackle a road race, no matter what the distance. Signing up for a race and adding it to your calendar is a training motivator.

“I run for a lot of different reasons,” Cid says. “It makes me feel better. It makes me a better person. But I know when I sign up for a race, I get more motivated. Now you have a goal and a time frame to work with. If you’re just running, there’s no overall plan or urgency. “

And Cid says racing makes you part of the overall running community.

Kim Reynolds, runner and owner of Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern in Raleigh, agrees that a race is a good starting point.

“Start out slowly and work up to a 5k, “Kim says. “ Just go ahead and go to that first race, and if you like it and it’s something you enjoy, (and I would say 99 percent of people do enjoy that first race), then go to the second.”

In 2003 Kim held a road race to benefit rheumatoid arthritis, which her mother battles. After partnering with Cid, it has grown to become the Second Empire Grand-Prix road racing series. Each year the series features a number of local races, all with charitable components. Runners participate in the races to compete for yearly prizes.

“These awards are not always for the fastest or most elite runners,” Kim says “You may have your average person who runs a nine-or 10-or 11-minute mile, and they ran the races, and they may qualify for the age group awards.”

The awards include a special luncheon at Second Empire.

Why Run?
So why would you choose to start running, or start running further?

“I know for me, I get clarity when I run,” Cid says. “There are days when you are stressed out with job things or family things, and the last thing you want to do is go out for a run. But then I do, and it’s amazing – that in a 40-or 45-minute period, when I am done with the run, I can think so much more clearly. Maybe it’s just that you’re doing something positive or something that you feel is positive, instead of sitting around moping or doing something that could be a little more on the destructive side. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a runner’s high, and it’s not just for people who run fast; it’s for everybody.”

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