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Gotta Run: 10 things I’ve learned about runners

Remember that the 15th Annual Bare Bones 5K is on tap for Saturday at Knox Middle School. The run/walk benefits Relay for Life and kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with the 5K. A half-mile fun run follows on the Knox track. This course uses a segment of the Salisbury Greenway and ends on the track. Great dri-fit shirts, plenty of food and some very unusual awards add to the fun. Go to www.salisburyrowanrunners.org for more information.

Having spent the biggest part of my life as a runner, I have been fortunate to enjoy quite a bit of time around other runners. I’ve learned plenty from them and thought that today would be a great time to reveal my findings on a few of the truths and myths about this unique group.

  1. It is not true that all it takes to be a runner is to lace up a pair of running shoes and go out the door. To add comfort, especially for a beginning runner, get real shoes. Not the cheap ones often bought for color and style. Getting the right shoe from an expert trained in proper fit and choice base on foot specifics and running goals will make a ton of difference considering that each foot strikes the ground 1,000 times per mile. Using the latest fabrics for shorts, etc. add to that comfort.
  2. It is true that runners love to talk about running. While runners as a group are usually pretty bright, I find that a bigger percentage are less extraverted than the general population. But nearly all runners can’t wait to talk about their running. While not too talkative before a race, just watch the camaraderie following one. And nothing is a better conversation starter when two people meet than to discover that both are runners.
  3. It is not true that every run is a good one. Generally, we have a few signs of how an upcoming run might be by the time we go out the door. The oddest thing is that often these early signs don’t hold true once the run gets going. On some days, heavy legs persist, and on others those legs seem to have extra spring.
  4. In a continuation of sorts from No. 3, getting plenty of sleep, hydration, the right foods and even using the right equipment doesn’t necessarily mean that the upcoming run will be a good one. Nor does getting too little of these things mean that we’ll experience a poor outing. There is no way to recreate what made Tuesday’s run be so good by doing exactly the same things prior to Friday’s run. It’s part of the appeal of running for me.
  5. You will get a great post-run feeling that will last for hours. That is true. Even a poor run when you feel slow and sluggish will still lend to a relaxed, yet confident feeling that just makes everything find its proper perspective. As previously mentioned in this column, the post-run feeling is somewhat akin to the best possible legal drug.
  6. It is true that becoming a new runner is not easy and the experience will have long uncomfortable segments. But each day gets easier. Still, an accomplished and long-time runner will have training days that just hurt. Yes, they do! Plus, true racing is really hard and painful if you give your best. The result is an increased level of the fantastic post-run feeling.
  7. It isn’t true that you will get the perfect beach body just from running. While I think that running is the best overall exercise, you must remember that nutrition, cross-training, and personal habits play into the equation. What is true is that you can make dramatic enhancements to your one and only body by including regular running in the mix.
  8. It isn’t true that being tall and having a long stride make for a better runner. In truth, the best runners in the world are the Kenyans, and none of them are tall. It is very unusual that a tall runner becomes a long-time runner for various reasons, one of which is that they are better suited for other sports. Forcing your stride to be longer is a common mistake, once again especially for new runners. The secret for better and quicker running is to develop a quicker leg turnover. Strive to keep your foot strike below your hips, not out in front of them.
  9. Stretching before a run is not proper. Yes, for many years, we were told to do just that. Fitness professionals have clearly established that proper muscle stretching comes with warmed up muscles. Therefore, if you feel especially tight before or during the early part of a run, go ahead and run for a half mile or so and then take the time to stretch. Best stretching comes after the run, elongating the muscles while they are most pliable.
  10. And for my final and favorite truth/ myth — no, running does not ruin your knees! Personally, I have just crossed over 76,000 running miles in my lifetime. In 2012, I had to have arthroscopic surgery on one knee due to a loose cartilage issue. Dr. Humble at Salisbury Orthopedics found the inside of my knee to be in great shape. Fitness professionals say that regular physical weight bearing exercise adds to the quality of life.

While making this list, I thought of a few more but will save them for later. Smile when you go out for your run!

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net. Learn more at www.Ulearn2run.com

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