This is not the guide to read if you are planning on running marathons. It's not even the guide to read if you're planning on running half-marathons. It's not the guide to read if your aim is to run sub 50 minute 10ks. Nor is it the guide to read if your aim is to run sub 60 minute 10ks for that matter.
It's not the guide to read if you want to become the world's best runner and it's definitely not the guide to read if you want to work so hard you vomit after each run (because by the way, when you do that, it means your body has been put through too much and you're an idiot, not that you're super awesome and hardcore.)
This is the guide to read for those people who have been running for years and yet still turn an alarming shade of red after they've been running for 5 minutes. This is the guide if you have never run before but kind of want to do a bit of bimbling about around the local park or up and down the street you live on. This is the guide to read if you know you don't really want to run, but feel like you ought to go out and run off that entire packet of Digestives you just inhaled.*
For I am the above person. I have been running for years. I've done a couple of 10ks and a couple of 5ks. But I'm never going to reach the dizzying heights of sub-60 anything, unless the sub-60 you're talking about is a sub-60 second eating of a packet of crisps.
So here is my guide to mediocre running:
1. Your first outside run is terrifying - so do it ridiculously early in the morning when there's no-one about. I got up at 7.30am on a Saturday to do my first outdoor run, which consisted of a run to the nearest park, once around and back again. You will feel like a weird person and be convinced everyone is staring at you but they're really not, and anyway...
2. Stuff those people on the street - those lazy bitches are walking whereas you are running. Or jogging. Or probably running at a pace that some people could keep up with at a fast walk. Whatevs. You have trainers on so you win. And whilst we're on the point of running in public...
3. No-one knows how far you've run. I was serious about the red face - I look like I'm going to collapse after 1km, but I look exactly the same after I've run 8km as well. So instead of feeling embarassed that you look out of breath, pretend that you've run 13 miles already and you're allowed to look a little tired. If you have the breath, as you're running past someone, try and say "Whew! 12 miles done already in 20 minutes, I am caning it today!"
4. Stay clear of all those running CDs and dance music. Those CDs have their place, especially in a race, but those running CDs are full of songs which are of a much faster tempo than the one at which you're running at. Trust me, as a mediocre runner, those songs are too fast. I was having massive issues being able to run at one point, I was just too tired to keep it up so I had the brain wave of listening to podcasts instead. Now I swear by them - you will find that you will settle into the pace which you are comfortable at and listening to people talking is so distracting you won't really notice how long you've run for and you'll be happier to continue for longer until you get to the end of it. This is perhaps the greatest tip I can give you.
5. If you live in a hilly area try and find a route that has more downhill that uphill in it. I nearly died when I moved to my current residence away from the flatlands of Hull. This place has some serious hills and I did some nearly serious keeling over trying to run up them. So don't. Don't make life any harder for yourself than it already is. You're already running for god's sake, don't force yourself to go up a hill if you don't need to...and if you can't avoid them...
6. ...Walk up them. Until you run up a hill you don't know how godamn fricking hard it is. It burns your legs and your lungs and people who live in mostly flat areas, who occasionally run up a small incline are not able to appreciate how hard it is. I didn't. I had no idea what a hill was until I moved here. Living at my sister's was bad, but at my new place I have no choice but to run up a hill if I want to get home - it sucks. Try your best to run up them but do not feel bad if you can't...
7. ...But using your arms will help you get up them. When someone first said that to me I raised my eyebrows and thought "Okaaaaay, thanks for the advice crazy person" but actually it does help. You don't need to be swinging them as though doing your best steam train impression but focusing a bit more on pumping them as you go up the hill does seem to help. At the very least it distracts you from the burning pain in your thighs, followed by the total loss of sensation in your legs so it's good for that if nothing else.
8. Everyone has a 'Wall' to get past. Yours is admittedly a little earlier on than other people's, but it's a Wall nevertheless. Mine is about the 2.5km mark. Yes that soon. You will want to stop running, you will feel as if you can't take any more breath into your lungs but try and just run a little, tiny bit further and suddenly you will inexplicably feel ok and can run much further than you ever would have thought possible when you were up against the Wall. If you really can't get past the Wall...
9. Just walk!** This is one I have battled with personally so often in running and one that I'm still not entirely at ease with. Sometimes when I feel like walking there's a voice in my head chanting "Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" And this is ridiculous. Walk for a small bit - pick a point further up the road that you will walk to and then start running again. It will be hard, (that's why you should try to keep going if you can), because starting to run when you've been walking is a tough mental challenge but you'll have had your rest and be ready to run for longer.
10. Cut yourself some slack. You won't be the best runner. There will be no-one you can run with because no-one runs as slow as you. You look like a beetroot and your hair is sticking up all over the shop. You get blisters in weird places because your flat footed and even the special trainers for flat footed people don't really help. You get pains in your knees and shins and even your back sometimes. But you're running. You're running when you could be walking or sat on your backside in front of the TV. You may be a mediocre runner but you're still a runner. Take pride in your mediocrity and those people who go on about how fast they run and how brilliant they are and yada yada yada? Don't listen to them, they're not good for you. And actually there are far more of us mediocre runners out there who can sympathise and help you through your aches and pains and trials and tribulations. Let those others run the fastest race they can - they can be up at the front on their own, I'm happy at the back with the rest of my Mediocre Buddies.
*Mediocre running will definitely not burn off the calories of an entire packet of Digestives. It might burn off one, two if you're lucky.
** This point is null and void in a race. People who don't run the whole 10k, half-marathon or marathon are at the receiving end of my wrath and fury. It's called the Great North Run, not the Great North Walk, you cannot bring home a medal saying you've done 10k when you walked for most of it - that's just doing what millions of people do who go for a ramble on a Sunday afternoon.