Congratulations! If you’ve been following our guide – more or less – right from the start, you should now be able to run for 15 minutes or more without stopping. Most importantly, you’ll have achieved your goal: you’re now a runner. Even better – you’ll have also created a base for taking your running and interest in the sport even further.
The most obvious way to take your running further … is to go further! Just as you’ve been doing for the past 18 weeks, build up your mileage or the time you’re out running gradually.
Most experts suggest that adding no more than 10% per week is the best way to avoid injury and fatigue. Remember, too, that the 10% figure is a maximum, not mandatory. Even top athletes don’t ramp up their mileage or speed constantly without time for rest and recovery. So, do what they do: extend the distance or time you run gradually. Hold the distance or time steady when you feel you’re starting to struggle, and start building up again once your new routine feels a bit too easy.
When you started following this programme 18 weeks ago, entering a race was probably the last thing on your mind. It might still be – but take our word for it: you’re more than capable of it. If you can run for at least 15 minutes, taking on a 5k is a more than achievable challenge. Many new runners don’t understand the appeal of racing. If they’re not going to win, what’s the point? Well, not winning is the point. The vast majority of runners – everyone at runABC included – take part in races not to win, but to challenge ourselves. Choosing a target race gives us something to aim for, and a way to measure our own progress against ourselves, no one else.
On top of that small, local races in particular are fantastically social affairs, which generally involve cake afterwards. There really is no down side! But where to start? With hundreds of free, timed events to choose from each week, your local parkrun is a great choice for your first race. parkruns can vary in terms of terrain, but they’re all 5k and they’re all friendly, informal fun. Most are child and buggy-friendly too, so you can even bring the kids. If you’re nervous about taking part in a race, volunteer as a marshal first to get a feel for what happens on the day.
Once running has become an established part of your life you may want to take things on to the next level. Joining a club is one of the best ways to keep your momentum going. A lot of new runners think that clubs are just for the hardcore racing snakes among us, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most clubs are over the moon to have inquiries from new members and do their utmost to make beginners feel welcome. Even racing snakes were beginners once too – and most club runners take a lot of pride and pleasure in sharing their love of the sport with others. And remember: now that you’re a runner it won’t be long before you start encouraging beginners yourself – and the virtuous circle we started with the first instalment of this series starts all over again.