Some running tips

Before 2011, I had never run farther than eight miles. Then I found a program called USA FIT which helps runners across the country train up and run a marathon. My goal was to run one marathon and then stop, but I found some friendly folks and so I just kept running. It’s been wonderful.

If you’re able-bodied and in moderately good shape, it’s very doable to train and run a marathon. I’m just a regular guy–if anything, I’m a slower runner than most people. I’ll never place in the top three on a competitive race; heck, sometimes I’m happy to finish before the cutoff time. Yet I’ve run at least six marathons, plus a 50 mile run and a half Ironman triathlon. If I can do it, a lot of other people can too. Perhaps you’d like to run a marathon or half-marathon someday too?

In putting my time in, I’ve collected a few tips for running that I wish I’d known when I started. Warning: running is basically just you and your body, so some of this stuff will be about bodily functions. With that disclaimer in advance, here’s some things I’ve learned:

– Chafing sucks. Any time I’m running more than 5-6 miles, the friction of running can cause chafing. I recommend Body Glide for your thighs and Chamois Butt’r for your butt. You can use Body Glide for anything else that might chafe from friction, from nipples to the waistband of your running shorts. For a full marathon, consider using band-aids to protect your nipples if you’re a guy.

– Blisters suck. In 2010, I learned a secret that many hikers use to avoid blisters: wearing two layers of socks. A thin sock liner between you and regular/wool socks can help prevent hotspots and blisters. A company called Wrightsock makes socks with two layers built in. Over hundreds of miles of running wearing Wrightsocks, I’ve never gotten a blister. Your mileage may vary, of course, so do what works for you, but I love my Wrightsocks.

– It sucks to run well, then wait for a Porta Potty as you watch all the people passing you. Assuming you have a healthy gastrointestinal tract, consider taking an Imodium an hour before the race starts. Imodium is meant for diarrhea. It slows the muscles contracting the intestine, so it reduces bowel movement. Everybody is different, and you should do your own research into the issue. If you have any medical concerns at all, either talk to a doctor or don’t do it. Don’t hold me responsible if you try it. I’m just saying that it works well for lots of people.

– Friends rock. It’s so much easier to exercise if you find someone to do it with. That’s why I love USA FIT, but there’s plenty of other groups: Team in Training, or check with friends or your company. Getting up early on a Saturday morning is so much easier when you know that other friends are counting on you to join them.

– Music rocks. Running a race is a lot easier with music. I love these Sony headphones because they stay attached to your ears really well. By the way, it’s important not to start your race too fast. I normally listen to a podcast at the beginning of a race, then switch to high-energy music after the podcast is over.

– Don’t worry about your time. Regular people will never ask how fast you ran a marathon–only other runners will! Besides, even if you finish dead last in a marathon, you’re still doing better than folks who never trained for a race, and that’s the vast majority of people.

– As a slow runner, I like to start at the very back of the running pack. Then I get the thrill of passing people without as much dejection from when someone passes me. 🙂

– When I’m preparing for a race or a long run, I find it useful to make a checklist of things to bring with me. I use a Google Doc so I can scan my list quickly on my phone. For a long run, here’s my checklist: Body Glide, clothes (shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, hat), heart rate monitor, Fitbit, Garmin 620 watch, phone with tunes/podcasts, headphones, water bottle + gel or gummies for energy, Chamois Butt’r, and sunscreen. I’ll tweak that if I’m doing a run in cold weather or a really long run. I have a slightly longer list for races and triathlons. The point is that it’s easy to forget something unless you have a checklist.

– I really enjoy Fitbit and Strava as far as apps that encourage me to move more. Strava is also good for biking, not just running. Both apps include a social component where you can get your friends hooked as well.

Those are my running tips that might not be as obvious to someone who is just starting out. If you’re reading this and you’re a runner, are there good tips that you’d like to share? If so, please leave a comment!

20 Responses to Some running tips (Leave a comment)

  1. A good bunch of tips there. I used to blister terribly between my toes; I started using Injinji toe socks almost three years ago and have never blistered since. I’ve also used two layers of socks with Injinjis (a very light regular outer sock), but that was more for comfort than blistering.

  2. good tips….any advice on injury prevention, lol? probably just stop running and do some low-impact aerobic exercises (imho). the only time I used chafing sticks was in my 2nd marathon. it really helped.

    • Meg, my main advice would be to tackle injuries quickly. For small things, back off for a while. If it’s the IT band, roll it out before or after a run. If it’s plantar fasciitis, get more rest and consider rolling a frozen bottle of water under your foot. If it’s shin splints, try Newton running shoes so that you land on your forefoot, not your heel. Or go see a good doctor for any of these. But don’t let it get really bad if you can help it.

  3. I’m also a slow runner; but I’d add fat to my adjectives…slow, fat runner.

    Anyway, I love the list with one exception: music. If you haven’t already, try running without the music (new 30-day challenge?). I found it became an even deeper meditative experience. I get lost in thoughts, have new ideas, and clear my head more than I was able to while running through Led Zeppelin, Beethoven, and Van Halen.

  4. Hi Matt-
    So did you ditch your hoodie and sweats at the race start in Hopkinton?

    Do they still play Aerosmith’s ‘Take Me To The Other Side’ after the gun? They did when I ran it eons ago in 1996. Keep your posts coming my friend. Super duper stuff:-).


  5. Thanks for sharing your running tips! I find the idea of listening to a podcast vs listening to music to adjust your running pace very interesting; I never would have thought of that. What podcasts do you like to listen to?

    • I enjoy This Week in Google, This American Life, and The (Stephen) Tobolowsky Files. The next tier (for me) is Roderick on the Line, Freakonomics Radio, and TED talks. I’m giving StartUp a try as well.

  6. Some really great tips! I love the podcast to start out suggestion.
    And I know what you mean about meeting great friends. The running community is like my family these days.

    Back of the pack is where it’s at. Middle of the pack ain’t bad either. I don’t think front of the pack will be something I will ever know but I still feel amazing after crossing each and every finish line.

  7. Hello Matt, I can say that you are doing well. One more thing, I will put one Gogle in my list. but now I can not run because of back pain 🙂

    Thank you Matt!!

  8. I found that Under Armor underwear has really helped to prevent any chaffing. For socks I use Falke left/right socks – they have ventilated sections and cushioned sections.

    How is the fit on the Sony headphones? Right now I am waiting for my Kickstarter Freewavz ( which hopefully work better than my Jaybird Bluebuds.

    BTW: I find a good motivator and tool to track your runs – syncs with Nike, Garmin etc –

  9. 2 tips from a keen runner with a few too many miles on the clock.

    1. Train without a watch. Its inspiring to see your times falling when you’re getting fitter, but once they plateau the watch becomes a stick to beat yourself with. You should run because you enjoy it, because it makes you feel good. Not because you’re faster than before.

    2. Always vary your route. Seeing new stuff takes your mind off how you might be feeling. If you repeat your route its hard to resist comparing with previous outings (it hurt less at this point last time). And as your body learns the routine, it becomes less beneficial.

    Keep it up.

  10. Hi Matt!

    Thanks for these great running tips. 🙂 I really liked this one – “Don’t worry about your time. Regular people will never ask how fast you ran a marathon–only other runners will!”

    You are enjoying the vacation. Keep blogging.

    Best Regards
    Miraj Gazi

  11. I have found that if I control my breathing it really helps my endurance…

  12. Great tips, Matt! I recently started running – I just ran my 100th mile! I asked a running Dr. about gels and gummies and he recommended eating dates instead. They take up almost the same amount of space and are a natural energy source instead of processed. In addition to running, cutting out processed foods was another primary goal in staying healthy.

  13. i will follow your tips
    good job matt

  14. awesome tips. here are some more…
    > foam roller. buy one.
    > tennis balls are cheap deep tissue massages in disguise.
    > broken toenails come from too small shoes.
    > track progress somehow. your choice on if it’s weight-loss, speed, distance, etc. but find something you can check in with over time to see success.
    > cross train.
    > running more does not necessarily make you faster.
    > when racing, finish in a way that you’ll do it again.
    > know the difference between pushing yourself and hurting yourself.
    > nothing new on race day.

  15. Spot on, Matt! USAFit changed my life, although I too am a slow runner. I can’t say enough good things about running with a group — especially USAFit.

    In 2011 I ran NYC Marathon. At the starting point, I was excitedly and nervously standing around with 49,000 other people and happened to look down at the person’s shoes next to me. She had an AustinFit (part of USAFit) tag on. Small world that we ‘found each other’ and ended up running the entire race together!

    Thanks for the tips — will have to try Imodium….never heard that one before.

  16. Hi Matt!

    Thanks for these great running tips.

  17. I don’t want to compare fitbit numbers now! Srsly, thanks for the tips. I have been wanting to get back into running and plan to use these tips to kelp me get back in shape.

  18. Thanks for the tips. Want to share my personal experience. I broke out of my laziness after many years and started running directly without toning up my body. I could have walked for one month before running, but i wanted to reduce my weight quick…finally i got running knee problem and sat at home for 6 months.