If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

-Fred Devito

You must expect great things from yourself before you can do them.

– Michael Jordan

Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.

Unknown

You can find hundred excuses to skip your next run or go for the run and discover the strength and tenacity to tackle them.

Myself

This blog contains my learnings and experiences about running since I started outdoor running in August 2018. I am in my mid-40s now. There might be many of you who never ran before but your body can take on running anytime. In other words, you got it in you. To check if you are one of those gifted individuals, try to run 3 miles (5K) as fast as you can. If you could finish your first 5K under 20 minutes or you are planning to run at a competitive level then you may not be able to relate to my experiences but you can definition benefit from the tips about workout, recovery, and buying running gear on a budget.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in anything mentioned here. All the things that worked for me may not work for you at all. Always consult your doctor before starting running or any form of exercise. I am no way affiliated with any of the brands mentioned below. I have used most of these myself but you should do your own research before buying any of these.

Why running

Everyone has their own reason to start running. If you in decent health, you should try to keep your body active. Usually, the people I know started running because they got inspired by their friends or influenced by the hype created by numerous running events happening in their town. Here are some common reasons people take up running.

  • Great workout: No need for a gym or special equipment. All you need for running is your body and shoes. You can always find some roads or trails for running in your neighborhood. The only expense you need to put is to buy a good pair of shoes. Running is one of the best exercises to keep your body and heart healthy.
  • Mental Strength: The benefit of running goes beyond physical. Running gives you mentally strong so that you can tackle challenges at work and life. Running is also one of the best stress relievers.
  • Helps with breathing problems: Running helped me with my breathing problems, although there is no scientific research to prove the same, it might help with sinus and other problems as well. Always consult your doctor before starting running. If you are allergic to pollen or have any other outdoor medical conditions, try to run on a treadmill.

Running outdoors during winter or rainy days has its own problem. Injury from a fall or allergy attack could outweigh all the benefits. You can still try running indoors, tracks or on a treadmill.

Some common myths about running:

  • Lose weight: It is a common myth that running will help you lose weight. If losing weight is your primary reason then there are better workouts such as swimming, Tabata, Aerobics, Zumba and cycling along with diet control, which will serve you better. When you start running, you end up taking a lot of carbs in. The amount of calories burnt during a one-hour long run is less than what you would burn during 15 minutes CrossFit routine. Runners go through cycles of weight gain and reduction. Personally, I try to gain a pound or two before a marathon. You will see some runners very skinny. Its the way they were built. Their metabolism is so good that they can burn fat quickly but their diet is not much different from others. One tip for losing weight while running is to drink a lot of water as you will anyway feel very thirsty after each run.
  • More running = Faster running: This is another myth. Beginners think that the more they run, the faster they would become. More running especially long runs will add endurance so you will get mental strength to finish your half marathon or full marathon. But you need to do much more than logging distances to improve your pace. Also no matter how good they are, every runner hits a plateau after a while. You will need a coach to go beyond that if you really want to get faster. Many of us will be happy to settle down at some peak and keep practicing to maintain our best pace. Remember you are also getting older and weaker physically. Forcing your body to run faster beyond certain limits could cause severe injury especially at an older age.
  • Expensive gear is must: Expensive gears such as shoes and specialty diets are just marketing gimmicks. They are not required for getting better ar running. I will provide tips to buy decent gears (if not the best) under any budget.
  • Cannot start running after 40: There are folks who were running all their lives. Even though they are in their 70s, they can run a faster marathon or ultras than many of us. You can start running even after the 40s and I am living proof of that. You will need to listen to your body and train accordingly in order to prevent common injuries as well as recover from them. It might take longer for someone to reach the desired pace than others. Everyone is different. Set your own goals with continuous improvements. Don’t set unrealistic goals. You will reach a stage when you will start moving quickly. Just stick to your plan.

Running Gear:

No, you don’t have to break your bank to buy those fancy gears. I am going to tell you all the items you might need and how to get them in your budget.

Shoes

A good pair of shoes is a must for every runner. I would recommend keeping your running shoes separate from your daily shoes. Try not to use your running shoes for the office. They will wear out quickly. Also, running shoes are more stinky. One of the reasons for knee pains among beginners is their shoes. All our feet are different. One brand of shoe that worked for someone else might hurt your tendons or cause knee/back problems. Before you buy your new shiny pair, check which type of feet (Neutral, Pronator, Supinator) you have. Take a simple test here to find out. Other ways to look at your feet type is if it is flat or has an arch. Also check if your feet are wider or narrower than normal shoe size. Shoe sizes differ from brand to brand so after you have zeroed in the brand and model of the shoe, try them in a physical store to select the right size. I check all the review comments about going a half size up or down from standard size depending on the brand. If running shoes are very loose, they will rub against your skin and cause blisters. If they are too tight, it will restrict blood flow and cause leg and knee pain. The best time to try out a shoe is in the afternoon after lunch. Also, don’t try them in a sitting position. Stand on them for a while and then try running a short sprint in the store to check against any rough stitches especially on the sides and front.

Another tip is for buying shoes through Amazon. Always check the prices on all the colors. In every brand, some colors go on sale for a short period in the night without any notice. Even if you don’t like the color, just go for it. Color has absolutely nothing to do with how you will feel about the shoe. It only affects how other people feel about your shoes. I have noticed that the shoe prices drop for a while between 10 pm to midnight and then go back in the morning. I was able to buy 100-120 dollar shoes for half the price using this technique, although sometimes it took a lot of patience. Other online retailers such as finishline.com and Nordstrom run deals on running shoes from time to time. Thanksgiving does not give any special treatment to running shoes but you never know. So definitely look around Thanksgiving time. Here are my recommendations. Any of these will be a good start. Try to buy two pairs, one for short runs and another for long runs. Below links might point to men’s shoes but you can find the same brand and model for women as well. Also, older models sometimes cost less (not always). For example, Brooks launch 4 might cost less than launch 6. They are usually not much different from each other in terms of quality.

  • Mizuno : This is my favorite running shoe brand. Don’t get discouraged by the prices you see in the stores. I got these shoes for $60 and $70. They are great for long runs (half marathon and up) and for all feet types.
  • Brooks : Another classical running shoes. My knee pain caused by saucony shoes, went away after using brooks. The top models of Brooks could cost more than $100 but you can find these models under $65. Great for flat feet (Neutral or under pronator). They have just enough cushion and have a glove-like fitting.
  • Altra : This is a famous brand used by a class of runners, who believe that zero drop shoes are best for natural running. I use these for short runs (under 10K). Zero drop shoes have a minimal height difference between the front part (ball of the feet) and under the heel. They are also great for wide feet as the front of these shoes has a foot like dimension when compared to the standard U shape of other shoes. Try them in store before you buy one. They are not for everyone.
  • Nike : You will see more people wearing Nike brand than any other brand in typical races. Nike has all types of shoes and pretty much every store keeps Nike brand. However, confirm that it is Nike running shoe not basketball or baseball shoes.
    • Pegasus : Marketed as marathon shoes. You will see many elite runners wearing bright red or orange pegasus shoes in races. Those runners get these shoes for free to help Nike with publicity. Don’t pay more than $70 for these.
    • Swift : If your budget is under $50 then go for this one. I personally like Swift shoes better than pegasus as they expand during running. The material is flexible and there is just enough cushion to make any type of run very comfortable.
    • Free Rn: Similar to Swift. Great shoe to start your practice.
  • Asics: Asics are the most commonly used brand for running after Nike. Their prices are quite reasonable (mostly under $60) for the quality they provide.
    • Gel Venture: Great for running in trails, wet surface or snow. They have a good grip.
    • Frequent trail: The cheaper version of the venture. Comfortable shoes. Good backup shoes during bad weather.
    • Gel Flux: Good marathon shoe under $50.
    • GT-1000 : They have one of the best customer reviews on Amazon. My second favorite after Mizuno.
    • GT-2000 : Little more expensive than GT 1000.
  • Saloman: Saloman brand is mostly associated with trail running or hikes. I use them during winter. They cost more but they last longer. The sole in Salomon shoes are usually tougher and less flexible.
  • Bare Foot shoes: There is a growing trend of barefoot running. You can check the science bout barefoot running here. For more details read the book “Born to Run“. The simple argument is that less shoe is better because humans were running without shoes for ages. You don’t have to literally run without shoes and get injured with nails or needles in the park. You can try these minimalistic shoes. It could help with persistent knee or back pain as well.
    • Vibram Five Finger: I like these but you will get weird looks if you wear them in the office. Give some time to get used to them. So many years of running with shoes cannot be undone in one or two days. I used to walk barefoot when I was young. It is a debate. Now I like cushioning when running long distances.
    • Xero : I like this brand for minimalistic shoes. They look great too. I got mine for $50. Get it if you find any deals but not worth paying $100.
    • Merrel Trail Glove: It uses a Vibram sole. Great for track running and trail running as well. Sometimes the side of shoes pokes the arch of your feet. If you are lucky, you may find these for $39 at Marshalls.
  • Adidas: You might think that Adidas shoes are cheaper than Nike. I found that a good pair of Adidas running shoes are as expensive as any other brand. I must admit, Adidas has some of the coolest looking shoes.
  • You can also check out other popular brands such as Reebok, Puma, New Balance, Saucony, and UnderArmour. I have met many fans of Saucony shoes. I tried Saucony Cohesion shoes. They were great for treadmill runs and gym workout but gave me knee and back pain for some reason. I might have a defective piece. Please check all the negative review comments on Amazon before buying any type of shoes. If it has too much cushion and missing darker rubber layer at the bottom then it is not good for running at all. Sometimes you can even get a great deal at Marshalls, TJMax or big box stores such as Kohls, Macys or Sears on these brands.


Other Gears

The most important part of running is to keep yourself comfortable and hydrated. Other than a decent pair of shoes and sweat-friendly clothes, you don’t need anything else for running. Please make sure that the clothes you wear during long runs can protect you from elements and do not cause hypothermia or skin irritation. Experts recommend to always dress for the second half of the entire run as our body usually warms up very quickly.

I use the following list of items for my running practice and races. These are mainly nice to have items.

  • Socks : Yes you need to pick the right socks for running, otherwise your feet could develop blisters and other skin problems. There are expensive socks made just for running but I prefer these
    • Danish Endurance : My go-to socks for half or full marathon.
    • Sports no-show socks at “5 Below” store. It is a store brand not sold online. $5 for 3 pairs.
    • Amazon Essentials
  • Head bands : If the sweat on your head bothers you during run you can try bandana (handkerchief made in India) or try these magic headbands. They are soft and absorbent. They can be used in many ways. I use them on head or neck. It also protects my ears during winter. You can also use running caps or caps with a built-in headband. Caps work best when there is scorching sunlight rain. In winter I prefer skull cap.
  • Underwears and undershirts: I won’t recommend any particular brand of undergarments here but do your own research. Use the kind, which does not rub against your skin causing rashes especially during long runs. Try to avoid thick cotton ones.
  • Mobile Apps : My favorite is “RunKeeper”. You can also use Fitbit or MapmyRun.
  • Sports Watch: I would recommend a GPS watch such as Garmin Forerunner, only if you have a budget for one. Otherwise Fitbit watches work great. I have not tried apple watch or Samsung gear but any watch, which could track your heart rate and distance will be helpful for your training. If you plan to carry your phone for running then you don’t even need any sports-watch. You will need to measure and track your pace during your practice sessions. A simple stopwatch with a good estimate of the distance traveled can be applied to the pace calculation formula here.
  • Music Players and headphones: I prefer using a tiny mp3 player with Bluetooth capability so I can leave my bulky phone back home. Also, I don’t want to drain my phone battery with continuous music. I like Wiwoo. You can get many deals on the Bluetooth earphone in Amazon. Even discount stores sell sports bluetooth earphones as low as $10. Cheaper earbuds lose charge quickly so it is worth buying the one which has a long lasting battery, lightweight and sweat proof. Some of these have a volume control bar in the middle which keeps sliding to one side and cause distraction during the running. Wired earbuds are not bad but they can be distracting sometimes while running. One word of caution: Using headphones is hazardous during road running. You won’t be able to hear car sound while crossing an intersection or a car backing up. Also, do not depend too much on music for your runs. Many times my headphone or music player stopped during long runs. You should be able to run without them without losing pace.
  • Song Playlists: You can create playlists with your favorite music before the race. I try to prepare a separate playlist for different parts of the run. Intermix some songs or music with words, without words, some with deep trance-like feel while some upbeat music to fire you up and finish strong. If you have Amazon Prime account, there is a vast selection of running mixes free to download in the Amazon music app.
  • Water Bottles: Try to get a lightweight BPA free water bottle to carry during practice runs. You don’t need water bottle during races as there is always a good coverage of hydration centers. Usually, they keep Gatorade also. If you are going for long runs in hot weather, you can buy one of these runner friendly water bottles.

Road Safety and Self Recovery

Whether you are running on the road or in trails, you should take certain safety precautions.

Practice Runs and Running Plan

If you are practicing for an upcoming half marathon or full marathon then you should create a backward plan leading up to the race. Here are free running plans you can use. I would recommend printing them out.

These books have cool tips for planning your practice runs and pacing your run.


Running Inspiration and Race Day Tips

When you have some free time, you can watch these videos to get some inspiration and get a sense of the experience, runners go through, during a typical marathon run. Some of them are about negative experiences. You may or may not bonk during your first marathon but it is a possibility. Never watch the negative videos just before the race day. You might get scared and hold back rather than pushing yourself hard enough to do the best. It happened to me once. You should run at least one long run of 17 or higher miles during your training plan. It will give a fair idea of how much your body can take on race day. No matter what, you can do much better on race day than your practice runs because of the adrenaline rush and the crowd support. If you can get your family or friends to support you on the race day, that would be best. If you are running alone like me then try to draw emotional support from the cheering crowd and volunteers.


Running workouts and stretching tips

These are some of the curated links for YouTube videos, I follow for my running practice and recovery:

Running Events

You can find running events near you on these sites. I try to book all my events for the whole season upfront in the month of March and block my calendar. You don’t have to book so many days early but booking a little bit ahead could save you on entry fees and some events organizers give T-Shirts only to the first few hundred entries.

In my next blog, I will share some race day tips, nutrition tips and how to avoid hitting the wall or getting bonked during your race.