Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Running Newbie to a Half Marathon in 1 Year: Part 1 // How I Began Running, and How You Can, Too!

Thank you so much for visiting my first post here at Coffee, Scarves, and Running Shoes! To learn more about me and why I started the blog, check out my About Me page.

The blog isn’t the only exciting thing to happen in my life recently. After beginning to run just a little over a year ago, I ran the Knoxville Covenant Health Half Marathon in Knoxville TN - my first to date! I ran for two hours and forty-five minutes. People cheered me on. I cheered other people on. I collapsed in the grass afterwards unable to process the huge accomplishment that had just taken place. That's what I'm doing here, with my medal and no makeup. See, we're already getting to know each other!

I am by no means an experienced athlete. Ever since I started running, I've been getting LOTS of questions from family and friends. I started this blog, among other reasons, to tell my story as a new runner – the good and the hard times!

It only makes sense that I start from the beginning and talk about the pivotal moment in which I finally committed to a running program. It was March, 2012. I was 28 and I had never been athletic in my life. When I was a kid in gym class, I was the last person to ever get picked on teams, I could never do a “boy” push-up, and I DREADED the days that we had to run (or in my case walk/run) a mile. I was THAT girl, and I was tired of it.

Age 30 was less than two years away. I’d spent years unhappily trying different workouts that would just never “stick”. I was tired of feeling unsuccessful and unconfident in a major area of my life. I wanted to be healthier and happier.

As part of my New Year’s resolution that year, I had recently conquered my fear of joining a gym. I’d tried the elliptical, and group cardio and strength classes. My confidence grew a smidge, and I enjoyed (and still enjoy) what I was doing there. I was ready to take things up a notch and start running, but I had no clue how to begin.

Coincidentally, at my company’s health fair, I heard about a local training program called RunKNOX offered by the Knoxville Track Club. The representative there assured me I could reach my 5K goal at the end of the 12 week program.

I asked him, “Are you sure? I’ve never run before, and I’m not even sure I could run a few steps.” I was exaggerating, of course, but wanted to get my point across.

He reassured me that lots of people start from scratch and run a 5K in 12 weeks. But I’m not just anyone. I’m a special breed of unathletic.

I deliberated about it for a week. I asked my husband, friends, and family what they thought. They all gave me thumbs-up (as long as I didn't drag them with me)! I finally took a leap of faith, signed up for the program online, went out and bought my first pair of running shoes, and I was ready to start!

The excitement turned to nervousness as I approached the first practice. When I showed up to the first practice, I had no idea what to expect. I walked in to a small group of 15-20 or so people. My first observation was that everyone seemed so fit. I expected the coaches to be fit, but the participants of the program seemed pretty fit as well. In chatting with a few people, I discovered I was the newest newbie in the group. Most people in the program had already at least run a 5K before, and were looking to get faster or increase their distance.

I wanted to say, “Well, this has been great, guys…” and take off to console myself with my cats and my DVR, never to be seen again.

I also met the coaches, who I quickly discovered were all very experienced runners. This was especially true of the program director, Darren, and his lovely wife Sarah. I found out that they are both successful, elite runners that have competed both collegiately and professionally. For real. The kids don’t play.

I'm sorry, are you sure I'm at the right address? What am I doing here?

Luckily, everyone was so nice. The coaches seemed genuinely happy that we’d joined the program (even newbies like me), and wanted to help us reach our goals. I talked myself off the ledge and returned to the next practice to begin the training program. And I’m so glad I did.

By coming back, I embarked on a journey that led me to run my first 5K (and several more), my first 10K, and my first half marathon. More importantly, I learned I was stronger than I ever thought possible, became more confident, made wonderful friends, and became a happier, healthier person. Good call, don’t ya think?

If you’re considering running, here are some things I recommend:

  1. Get a good pair of running shoes. I found a local store that fitted me for shoes. By watching me walk, they discovered I needed stability shoes to correct the way my feet roll when I walk or run. Who knew?
  2. Get some basic clothes for running. Running clothes were a whole new fashion frontier for me (and may inspire a future post). Although I now have an unhealthy obsession with Lululemon, you don’t have to invest a lot of money on clothes in the beginning. Try getting a couple of short- or long-sleeve workout (synthetic material) tops, a couple of workout shorts or pants (cropped/capri length are my favorite as they are comfortable and flattering), and - ladies - a high support sports bra. You can find great deals at Target, sales at department or sporting goods stores, stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls, or even outlet stores. Later on, you may want to consider a fancy watch that calculates your pace and distance via GPS (there are smartphone apps that do this as well). In the beginning, you only really need a basic stopwatch.
  3. Make sure that you’re ready to run. Since I hadn’t been working out much, I started out on the elliptical (walking is great, too) a couple of months before I started running. I believed this helped me get in slightly better shape before beginning this journey. I suppose I should also throw in a disclaimer here to “consult a medical professional before you begin this or any exercise program.” (It's also a good time to introduce you to my Terms and Conditions page)
  4. Find a training program in your area, or find a friend or group of friends to embark on this journey with you. I personally know people who have trained by themselves and have achieved huge accomplishments running. I tip my hat to those people, because they have succeeded where I have failed. There are running resources and plans out on the internet that have helped many if you want to go it alone. Call me a purist, but I prefer to use the Internet for its intended purpose – looking at cat pictures. You have my encouragement any way you want to pursue running, but joining a structured program was great for me for several reasons:
    • Expertise – The program laid out the days I should run each week, how much I should run, how to transition from walking to running, etc, and I could always go to the coaches with questions.
    • Accountability – when you have a scheduled time to work out and people to meet, it becomes a part of your schedule instead of something you procrastinate. This especially helps my lifelong procrastinating husband. If only our practices could incorporate home improvement projects…
    • Making friends – This makes running fun and bearable. You encourage each other, joke and laugh together, vent about life, and sometimes complain about the workouts. You can also ask your friends questions about what you're encountering in your training, and share experiences with each other.
  5. Be open-minded. This was the hardest part for me (and still is). I had to open up my mind to believe that the group accepted me, and that I could accomplish the training at hand. Sometimes I would look at the workouts on the schedule and think the coaches had lost their minds. But I surprised myself by accomplishing the workouts. Trust in yourself. Easier said than done, but there is no greater advice I can give you.
Have you recently began a running or fitness program? Did you overcome any physical or mental hurdles to begin? What tips do you have for anyone pursuing a new fitness program?


P.S - Thanks for reading my first post! You can continue reading about my running journey here. I also hope to share my other passions such as cooking, gardening, and other projects in later posts.

*I was not compensated by RunKNOX for this post, nor is RunKNOX affiliated with this blog in any way. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences as I began running through the program. The views expressed in my article are solely my own.


  1. Amy - I am so excited for you & cannot wait to read more of your running journey as well as all the other wonderful tips I am sure you will share! Congrats on your big launch day!!

    1. Thank you so much, Tracey, for the amazing pictures and support! I'm excited to share more soon!

  2. Amy, I enjoyed reading your first blog. You are very motivating. I look forward to more posts.

    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the article. There will be plenty to come!

  3. I can relate so much. I also never ran in my life and was not at all athletic. I started in support of my daughter. You were smarter than me though - I waited until 41 years old to start!

    1. That's awesome! I know firsthand that it's difficult to begin, but it's never too late! Congrats! :)

  4. Congratulations! I loved reading about your running journey so far. Running is something that completely changed my life, and I love meeting other people who love running too! I just ran my first marathon in April, and it was seriously the most incredible feeling.

    1. Thanks! It definitely has changed my outlook in every area of my life, and it's wonderful to hear from people who have also experienced it! Congrats on your marathon! I hope to run my first full marathon next year.