How To Start Running
There are many ways into running, as these inspiring tales from runners of all stripes show.
Running is a wonderful activity – it keeps you fit, gets you outside, and helps you meet people and discover new places. Running is also, however, not very much fun at all the first time you do it. Within minutes you’re out of breath and muscles you didn’t know existed are starting to hurt, and the idea of enjoying your surroundings or chatting with others seems ludicrous.
Stick with it, though, and after just a few outings all those benefits start become clear. If you’re completely new to running then one of the best ways to start with the sport is a Couch to 5K programme. Coach has an eight-week NHS has a nine-week programme with podcasts explaining the workouts you’ll do. If you seek out your local running club, you’ll also probably find that they put on regular beginner groups that build up to running a first 5K.
If you already fancy that you’re fit enough to tackle a 5K, however slowly, then we heartily recommend seeking out your local parkrun. These free timed events are found all over the UK and welcome all with a great sense of community. Go just once and the chances are you’ll want to go again, both to see new friends, and to try and improve your time.
Community can also be found at This Mum Runs, a group that put on free women-only runs on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings in Bath, Bristol and London, with more locations coming soon.
For more inspiration on how to start and keep running, along with some advice on avoiding common rookie mistakes, we enlisted a few of the Asics FrontRunners. This is a team that includes people of all levels – from parkrunners to ultrarunners – from all over the world who are intent on inspiring others to take up the sport. Follow the runners below on Instagram for more inspiration to get you lacing up your trainers and heading out the door yourself.
Why did you start running?
“I got into running when I realised I was no longer the fit teenage football player I used to be! I wanted to take control of my health and weight, and raise money for a cancer charity after my dad died of prostate cancer in 2007.” – Liam McEntegart (@tri_liam)
“The reason I started running was because I had an after-school detention. I didn’t want to go because I had arranged to kick a football around with my mates at the local park. I ran away from my detention and my PE teacher chased me! He called my mum and told her I need to go to the local athletics club!” – Chey Kemp (@chey.kemp)
“I wasn’t a runner growing up and made up every excuse in the book to avoid it at school. But in 2014 I decided to raise money for Parkinson’s UK and in a moment of madness I signed up for my first ever race, the London Marathon!” – Hannah Leith (@escapingthecity)
“I started running to impress my boyfriend – I secretly hated it. But soon after I started, I fell in love with it.” – Corey Melke Hinz (@coreylearn)
“I started running to get out of the house after the end of a relationship and I also wanted to raise money for charity.” – Pete Nicholson (@sprintkitchen)
How did you stick with it?
“I started because I wanted to burn calories on a treadmill, but I stuck with it because I discovered the outdoors, the trails and how amazing running is when you take it outside a gym.” – Sarah Booker(@mia79gbr)
“I kept running because I realised how much it meant to me and also that whatever I put into running I got back in terms of satisfaction and mental health benefits.” – McEntegart
“What kept me going was the camaraderie within the running community, whether that’s online, at clubs, at parkrun or within teams like ours. Seeing the progression week on week and having something to work towards gave me tangible goals and targets. When I was finishing my PhD, or whenever I’ve felt stressed or anxious, running has kept me going. It’s not about staying with running, it’s about how running stays with me – it’s the one constant in my quite hectic lifestyle!” – Becca Burns (@thisbunnyruns)
“I stuck with it after running with a local group and enjoying the social aspect of running with others. I felt part of a community in a way I never had before.” – Nicholson
“The training [for the London Marathon] was tough – really really tough. Slowly but surely I got fitter and fitter, enjoyed the training more and more, and by the time the marathon came around and I crossed that finish line I was hooked! That feeling of achievement is addictive. I love to push my limits, and run longer and longer races each year.” – Leith
“I started running again a few years after a life-changing incident and surgery in 2008, when I was told I might not be able to return to any sport, and especially running, because of the injuries I sustained to my lungs and heart. After my first half marathon in 2012, I started learning that we are capable of so much more than we can imagine. The body has an amazing ability to strengthen itself and adapt to new challenges. In fact my body is now stronger than it ever was before the incident, and I’m so thankful. I could honestly never have imagined that I would run even one marathon, let alone 20 marathons and ultramarathons! It’s my belief that the camaraderie in the global running community is unmatched to any other sport.” – Anna Pearce (@annarunsmarathons)
What mistakes did you make early on?
“When I first started out running and taking part in races I thought that I had to run as hard as I could from start to finish. This unfortunately left me picking up lots of shin and knee injuries. Over time I’ve learned the importance of listening to my body, running slower and giving myself the chance to recover. These days when it comes to races I’m still guilty – I get caught up in the buzz at the start line and adrenaline takes over, so I still tend to go off too fast and I still usually regret it when my legs start to burn! That's the best thing about running, though – we’re always learning, tweaking our approach, pushing ourselves to do more, be stronger and run faster.” – Peter Butler (@peteruns26.2)
“One of the early mistakes I made was running round the same parks in the same direction several times a week, resulting in muscular imbalance and then injury.” – McEntegart
“My biggest mistake was not trusting myself. At times my own doubts would mean I set the bar too low. Now I set much more ambitious goals. After all, it’s better to shoot for the stars and miss than regret what you didn’t do!” – Burns
“My mistake when starting out was to train completely on my own. If I’d had a running team or group to share my ups and downs with, and to draw inspiration from, I’m sure the start would have been far more enjoyable.” – Leith
“One mistake I made was underestimating the importance of adequate rest in a heavy training programme and not listening to my body, which resulted in a lower leg bone stress injury. Injuries are part of a runner’s life, and I’m determined to be a wiser runner and to value rest days as much as the training ones.” – Pearce
“My new runner tips are to take a bin bag to wear to your race to stay warm at the start. Don’t run ten minutes after a curry – I discovered this in the past week – and most importantly don’t underestimate the benefit of a decent pair of trainers!” – Booker
Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.