Starting to Run


As the flowers bloom, so do the numbers of runners on neighborhood sidewalks. Seeing gangs of happy runners can be both inspiring and intimidating. Their presence nudges me to get out there too, but for others they spark self-doubt. “Could I do that?” they dubiously wonder.

My good friend and colleague, Tracy Worrell, is determined to join the growing throngs of runners for the first time this year. Tracy has ambitiously signed up for her first triathlon. She is participating in a trainingprogram through the Y, but she prompted me to offer tips to the many other runners like her who will take up running for the first time this spring.

For backup, I called local expert, Ellen Brenner, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Brighton and Greece. Fleet Feet offers several wildly popular programs for beginning runners. Currently, its No Boundaries program, geared to people of various fitness levels from walkers to those training for a 10K, boasts more than 200 people.

Here are Brenner’s top tips for aspiring runners.

Start slow

It’s OK to walk when you’re starting. “Always start with a plan that is more walking than running, ” Brenner said. Alternating between walking and short running intervals helps your body adjust to pounding the pavement and helps you avoid getting burnt out. Trying to run a full 5K out of the gate could be deflating or dangerous.

Be social

Another trick is to find a partner or group to train with. Nothing is more powerful than sharing your triumphs and setbacks with someone who is going through the same thing.

Have proper footwear

Running is a great sport because it requires so little equipment. That said, take great care and invest in a pair of running shoes that are right for you. Running shoe experts can help analyze your gait in stores and steer you toward a pair that might help you avoid injury, Brenner says.

Be patient

Brenner’s last piece of advice for beginning runners is to be patient. Being comfortable running takes time.

Spring is an excellent time to take up running. You have months to build confidence and routine before the cold settles in. Fleet Feet’s current No Boundaries program is at its midpoint, but another session starts up in June.

Hickerson of Penfield, an assistant professor of journalism at Rochester Institute of Technology and marathon runner, writes The Fair-Weather Runner blog at