How to Make the Most of Your Run

Beginning a new training program can be difficult.  Starting a new training program after almost four months of resting a hurt foot can be excruciating.  I’m out of shape, the old pains like to peek in at random times, and my motivation is lower as physics takes over and this object begs to remain at rest. 

To give a little backstory, last July I was training for the Dublin half marathon.  My training was going well, and I was on point for a PR.  I was starting to get little twinges In my foot at the time, but nothing anywhere near large enough to worry about, just pains at the end of the long runs.  Then the rolling hills of Ireland kicked my bum.  The land was beautiful; I’m pretty sure there is a special shade of green reserved for Ireland.  In spite of their beauty, the hills were more than I had trained for and my PR eluded me. 

Right after my disappointment in Dublin, I kept on training pushing forward for the Loch Ness marathon.  This is when my foot started bothering me.  I’d head out for a run and pain would shoot through my foot; but only when I was running, the rest of the day I was fine.  I took my vitamins, did some strength training, stretched my muscles, all of the little things I could do to help myself physically.  I also worked the psychological angle, trying to build up my distance and my confidence at the same time.  It didn’t work well. I couldn’t get my distance up, and I entered the race almost completely untrained.  While I finished, it wasn’t pretty.

I took some time off, one month with no attempts to run.  When I started back I took it slow, but the pain persisted.  Now, after four months of resting, running, and repeating, I am desperate to get back to where I used to be in spite of the psychosomatic injury that will not go away. 

Coming back is hard.  So far I have done great at making the least of my run, but to get better I need to remember how to make the most of my runs. 

1) Build mileage slowly

Distance running is training your legs to go farther, and faster, to move through the pain.  fasterPsychosomatic or not, pain should be dealt with carefully.  Push hard enough to get stronger, not hard enough to get hurt.

2) Don’t be afraid to walk

I have done many races, and most of them I have walked at least a little.  My last disastrous marathon had me walking the last 12 miles.  I could have thrown in the towel when I knew I couldn’t run any farther.  By not being afraid to walk I crossed the finish line, and I don’t feel any less for slower pace.

3) Change up your music.

My 12 year old has started to branch out in her musical tastes, choosing music she hears outside of the house.  Trying her music doesn’t always work out for me, but it’s a good time to try out her weird pop emo rock music.

4) Unplug from everything

Unless you are in a hospital bed on life support, unplugging yourself can be vital to creating a healthy mindset.  I am one to listen to music on a run.  I don’t do well with silence, left alone with only me.  Even with music playing, I get most of my good thinking done on a nice long run.  After a short time, the music fades to background noise, and my mind is churning faster than my feet could ever hope to move.  Worries, life issues, frustrating plot points, all have been worked out before on a run.


5) Play road kill bingo

I live in a small town, on the edge of farm country.  There are many open roads where the traffic moves quickly.  Naturally this leads to several animals who don’t make it across the road.  Of course taking a bingo card on a run is not practical.  This is an easy version; 4 or 5 different animals on one run equals bingo.  Strange animals are worth double points, such as the 18 inch koi fish I found on the side of the road.  Find a human and get automatic bingo.  I’ve only known one person who found a person, and I wasn’t entirely certain they didn’t put the there in order to win.  When they told me the body was actually just really drunk, I knew it was a plant.  I do not accewpt his win.

6)Tweet your run

Don’t send out the ultra perky “Five miles, feeling great!  :)” tweet.  I prefer to tweet the objects found on my run.  Two 18 inch koi fish, a condom and six empty red bull cans.  A pair of boxer briefs, an open pack of deli meat and latex gloves.  I am afraid of what my neighbors do at night to leave these objects behind.

7) Sign up for a race

Working towards something can help you move.  Between virtual races, (a medal for an everyday run), theme races, (groups of excited people who may or may not be in costume), and destination races, (Athens, 2014 baby!) there are so many options.  The race itself is fun, but you need the training races to make it there.  With the pain I was in after my untrained marathon, trust me, you don’t want that.

8) Make up your own race

Last year my older brother logged 1000 miles.  I thought about meeting his challenge and aiming for 1000 miles this year, but decided on the more modest 500 miles.  I figured if I do my 500 miles, I can always do 500 more.  It might not be a race exactly, but it is a challenge that will require me to get out the door regularly.  I have to get at least 41.66 miles per month, or 9.6 miles a week.  Suddenly the tiny three mile run I was debating skipping seems a little more important.

9)Take a day off

I should be running right now, instead of sitting in my sweats writing.  However a combination of sore throat, sore foot, and headache, I’m prescribing myself a day off.  Sometimes it is okay to skip the run.   It’s not always better to get out there.  Resting is an important part of training.

10) Just move

After you finish being lazy, get back out there.  Run, walk, hop, skip, crawl; any movement is better than none. I might be taking today off, but tomorrow I will come back stronger.


For anyone who doesn’t know, I am not a doctor.  I am not anyone who should be giving medical advise to anyone, including myself.  I am not a running coach, and I have zero expertise in the subject of running.  This is a list of ways I try to keep myself moving.  Not all of them will work for you.  I do not guarantee results in training or happiness in your life from following or not following my advice. 

Road kill bingo and found on my run tweets are ways to make the gross things found on a run, slightly less disgusting.  I do not recommend touching, tasting, or smelling anything you see on your run.  However if you want to hear more about what I found on my run, or share what you find on yours, follow or tag me on twitter @sh_bradford.


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