So you want to start running?

So you want to start running? Well you have come to the right place, and taken the first step. Now there are many types of people who want to start running and I have been many of those people. At different times maybe, but you’re not alone. I have been the youngster that showed promise at school. The international runner who thought he didn’t deserve to be there. The mid-life crisis man wondering where time has gone and how he ended up in the shape he is in. The reluctant press ganged charity 10k recruit. The person scared to run in case people saw him. The one too shy to join a club. The cocky one who thought he could turn the clock back over 20 years and be as good as he was at school. Every single one.

I’ll assume you aren’t the promising youngster, but if you are then magic, keep running but enjoy it. Don’t end up like me and be lost to the sport by the age of 20 due to the stresses of pressure, and bored with the same old routine. Mix it up and do different things.

I’m guessing that you are a little bit older then, and fancy giving it a go. Here is what not to do. Oh aye, I’ve got previous. I had absolutely no intention of ever running again. The whole thought of it made me squirm, but peer pressure can make you cave in. I was roped into doing a 10k with some other guys I knew and knew it would be a good way to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Care after I lost both my Dad and Sister to cancer in the space of a year. Then that would be it. Never again. 12 weeks until the 10k and what I am about to tell here is all true.

Over 20 years since my last run when I had thrown my spikes at the Scottish selector at Grangemouth Stadium. I had no running gear. But I wouldn’t need anything fancy. I was an internationalist, it would come back quick. Off I went to Sports Direct and bought a pair of Hi-tec Silver Shadows and some 3/4 length Umbro trousers. Sunday March 20th 2011. I had just turned 40 the week before and off I went to Strathclyde Park. It’s about 5 – 6 k around the loch and I did it plenty as a youngster. So I stick runmeter on my iPhone and I am ready to go. Nothing ambitious, lets go for about 30 mins or so. Quick fag and off I go. Yeah, I was smoking 30 a day at this time. Start off at a decent pace as I always did. When I was young. 250 metres, first half bend done and someone has jumped into my lungs, crawled through them and then put concrete and iron into the inside of my legs. The visions for anyone watching would have been surreal,me in my Silver Shadows sprinting along, stopping, almost collapsing to the ground, walking, then trying to run again, maybe 50 metres and repeat to fade. I gave up and stopped when runmeter told me I had got to 5k. 43 minutes and 2 seconds. I had stopped the clock a few times too, so I was probably nearer 50 minutes. Aye arrogance not the answer for that first run, so don’t, don’t and DON’T do those things. A major lesson, forget how you used to be whether that was good or bad.

So what did I do that worked? There’s a few things I did that got me to that starting line and round that 10k. I got a better pair of trainers and some comfy clothes. I didn’t break the bank but some lycra shorts in my case (again a no no, but I learned). The best thing that I did? I got some company. I can’t understate the importance of company when starting out. That other person is your rock, your conscience, your restraint and someone else who gets what you are doing. I had Jim who was doing the 10k as well and was marginally in a better shape than me, but for weeks we would meet up and build it from scratch. We had a wee loop down at Ravenscraig that was maybe 800m long. We started off jogging to one lamppost, the walking to the next. It was horrendous but we got that wee bit better each time. We were then running one side and walking the other. Then we managed to do a full loop without stopping. Sometimes I wanted to stop, sometimes he did, but we encouraged each other and we did it. He had adapted better and two weeks before the race he wanted to show me a wee route he had made. 78 minutes later I had completed my first 10k, conned by that smug bearded fop. So yeah, company, build it up slowly and you WILL surprise yourself.

addictive hell 10k, start running

The 2011 MHFS 10K, 56 minutes of addictive hell.

I also discovered parkrun. Oh really, if you haven’t heard of this you have to. Loads of free timed runs on a Saturday morning of 5k for runners and walkers of any level. Register once and thats it. There is bound to be one near you with runners from 15 minutes to over an hour. Really look at it. I did my first in just under 27 minutes. What a boost it was, and the camaraderie is amazing. I’ve ran them from Strathclyde Park to Paris to Livingston. If you ignore everything else I write about please don’t let this one go by you 🙂

first ever parkrun, start running paris parkrun second place, start runningparkrun pacing, start running

parkrun, from my first in 27 minutes at Strathclyde Park, to a second place in Paris, to pacing others, every one as magical as the other.

That’s stage 1, to many of you it’s not relevant, you can run already. So now what do you do? Don’t make my second mistake and think that because you run you can eat what you want. Added into my stopping smoking and then having a back injury I put a further 3 stone on. Oops. Be careful. I had the bug again. I had succumbed,and stopped smoking, so what do I do? I didn’t want to relapse and I wanted to keep going so I found a group. I heard about Jogscotland and it probably changed my life. Strong words but totally true.  Although, like many of you will be, I was excruciatingly shy, I went along. 10 week blocks of building up your running, check it out here . Different levels, from couch to 5k, up to advanced. I was here a couple of years and moved up the groups as I also started to combat my weight gains. By now I had my trainers of choice after getting my running gait analysed to see what shoes would suit me. Worth doing runpeeps, believe me. Why jogscotland? It gave me the confidence to run longer. It gave me people to build up with, people running at similar levels. It made me less self conscious about myself. It transformed me and I was then ready for the next stage, joining a club.

So you’re the type of person now that’s fit, can do 10ks etc comfortably but want more. Check out your local clubs. Most clubs will let you try them out for a few sessions with no committing to join. Use that, find the club that’s right for you, and the people that you feel comfortable running with.

a good running group, start running

Half man, half horse, find the group that works for you.

I was worried about being left behind and not being good enough. Yep, bet you’ve said that to yourselves plenty as an excuse not to go along. I was surprised when I went along how varied the runners were. The speedster racers aye, but also the ones trying to improve and others who just enjoy running and want to continue doing it. I joined Motherwell AC with a 22 min 5k best, a 46 minute 10k best and a half marathon of 1.52. Three years on, and at a not young age of 46 I’ve got them down to 17  mins, 37 mins and 1 hour 27 as well as my first marathon this year.

breat cancer care pic VLM, start running

racing a local 10k race, start running

Now racing 10Ks and completing a marathon.

And for me it’s the club structure. Running itself is great but I was introduced to things I had forgotten about and things I didn’t know existed. Hills (oh you need them), intervals, tempos, track work, fartlek, etc etc. It mixes it up and helps you build other parts. This year I have raced distances from 800m on the track up to a marathon. You know I will never win a prize for anything now, and I actually experienced my first last place this year (a 46 year old out of his depth in a short track race) but the changing it up and trying new things keeps my love for the sport. You know I could go on here for pages but I am stopping you from running by having you read more. Get those trainers, get out there and let your mind drift. Hit the parks, hit the trails, hit the roads, and run, talk, dream, think through your problems, switch off, whatever you want, to me it’s still the best therapy in life I can find.

At any level you will find the people who want to knock you down. Don’t let them stop you. People do and will shout things while you run. It becomes water off your back. I get it when I run. I get abuse for writing blogs. People will always want to demean you but don’t let them. Do it for you. Advance yourself the way you want to, not the way the internet warriors think is how you should be. You will get to know your own body and know how you can push it, but others sitting on their couch or on their iPad will never know you the way you will. The best advice here is to learn the difference between being brave and being stupid. But you will have to learn that yourself and you WILL make mistakes 🙂 Don’t stress it. It may annoy or irritate others, but you are doing it for you and never forget that.

Award winning blogger Mark Gallacher, start running
The Most Irritating Runner in Britain


So you think you want to run? Prepare to change your life for the better. Jist Dae it!

Mark Gallacher’s award winning blog “Markgallmac – the most irritating runner in Scotland?” can be found at and Mark will also regularly feature on The Run Bible as a guest blogger, his and other bloggers can be found here