Want to Become a Runner? This post is for you.

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from a reader who was looking to get into running. She said that she wanted to start increasing her mileage, but didn’t think she could do it. She asked for advice and to hear about how I first got started running, and what’s written below is what I told her. I figured given my second half marathon is coming up on Saturday, this post would be well timed! If you want to start running but don’t know where to start — this post is for you.

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I wasn’t always a runner.
You might read my blog now and think that I’ve always been able to run 10 miles, or 11 miles, or even 13 miles — but that’s not the case at all!


When I first graduated from college in 2004, I ran occasionally, but I’d never run more than 3 miles. I mostly stuck to using the elliptical and weight machines, but every once in awhile I’d go for a run on the treadmill, or outside. But I still couldn’t make it past the 3 mile distance.
In 2006, I signed up for my very first 5k race. It was the “2nd Annual Gulf Coast Relief 5k” for which the proceeds went to help revive the New Orleans area following Katrina. A big group of my friends and I all signed up for the race (which was basically the whole reason I signed up), and I remember being so nervous and excited that morning standing waiting for the race to start. And then — what a thrill! Races have such an incredible energy because there are so many people — both on the sidelines AND in the race itself! I loved running among all the others in the early morning light, listening as we passed people cheering us on. It was over in a flash and I was SO proud crossing that finish line! My first race and I was hooked. (If only I had a photo from that race!)


Flying high from that accomplishment, I decided it was time to delve into the world of over 3 mile runs. Tentatively, I agreed to sign up for a 5 mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day, 2006. My dad, uncle, and brother also signed up for the race, which really helped my motivation. I remember that race as being the day I really believed that I could run longer distances. Running is never easy, no matter how much you do it, but that’s part of what makes it great. It’s always good to challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone!

It wasn’t until 2009 that I delved into the world of longer races (10k’s, 10 milers, and eventually my first half marathon), but that first 5 mile turkey trot was what gave me the confidence to really believe I could do it. I remember signing up for the Army Ten Miler while I was still living in Prague and being SO excited and nervous about it! Races have really been the best form of motivation for me to increase my mileage. I returned to the U.S. that summer excited to start challenging myself and increasing my mileage for the race!


Previous Race Recaps:


I can’t believe that I used to barely be able to run 3 miles and now I’m about to run my second half marathon on Saturday in DC! As you all know, I’ve been training with a big group of my grad school girlfriends, and on the one hand, I feel like we just started training, but on the other hand — it seems like FOREVER ago that we had our first few group runs!

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It’s been a fun (but challenging!) couple months of training and we’re all ready to rock this weekend. Here’s to what will hopefully be a great race and a great weekend!



If you’re a runner, how did you get started? And if you’re not a runner but want to become one — tell me how you’re going to start :)


  1. 1

    I started with running small intervals on a treadmill. I had never run before in my life aside from the required mile in gym class, which I walked most of.

    I remember the day I ran my first mile non-stop. Then I ran 2, then 3, etc. I signed up for a 5K race, then did a 10k, and am now training for my 4th half marathon.

    My sister was inspired to start running as well, and had some really great success with the couch to 5K program, because it helped her figure out how to add mileage slowly.

  2. 2

    When I was in 8th grade there was a 5k race that also had a 1 mile youth run. I participated in the 1 mile run and came in first place for females. My Mom did the walk because she wasn’t able to run a 5k and was too old for the 1 mile run. She made the decision that day to run the 5k the following year, and not to be outdone by my mom, I told her I would too. We both signed up and did all of our training together and then ran the 5k together. I then was asked by to join the cross country and track teams at my high school. I LOVED running in high school.
    In college, I didn’t run nearly as much. I was asked to join the cross country team but I did not have the time. It wasn’t until 2005 that I started running again and signed up for my first 10k race. Since then I’ve run a lot of different distances, including a half marathon… and I’m registered for my first marathon this October!
    Good luck at your race this weekend.

  3. 3

    What a great post! I still consider myself a new runner (and probably will even when I increase my miles) so I’m glad you wrote this post. I’m also enjoying the comments!

    I’m currently doing the Couch to 5K program with the free podrunner podcast, I suck at watching the time so hearing a bell ring when it’s time to walk/run is the best for me. After the C25K I plan on doing the 8K training program on the same podcast and then the 10K. Watch out now! Christina will be running in a hood near you :)

  4. 4

    My dad ran marathons when I was growing up, and I started running with him when I was 12 or 13. Then I joined high school cross country my freshman year and have been hooked on running ever since!

  5. 5

    As a kid I’ve always been very active – hiking, volleyball, swimming, running, anything sport related was an happy place for me. Eventually I joined the cross country and track team, I clearly remember the night they gave me my “official” team outfit – I felt proud like a warrior :) During college I quit the team but still went on the occasional run, but as I graduated from college and started working, exercising kinda slipped off my mind ;) I have been very inactive the following years, until the the day of my 30th birthday, when I told to myself “OK, it’s now or never”; I ran 5km that night, before going out celebrating. That was the best gift I could do to myself!!Now, almost two years later, I run everyday and I am training for my first marathon, most importantly, running is my happy place again. :D

  6. 7

    This is such a wonderful post! I have always played volleyball. Jumping and short sprints. That’s all I did. However, running a marathon has been on my bucket list forever so I signed up for my first marathon in June :-) I’ve been training and it hasn’t been easy but like you said, the challenge is one of the best parts of training to run long distance!

    Good luck this weekend! You will do wonderful!

  7. 8

    I started running with my mom, and later that year, we ran our first half marathon together. It was so much fun & motivational to have someone to run with & bond over long training runs.
    I agree with you – don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Signing up for a longer distance race will challenge you to run longer.

  8. 9

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. When I first started running, I couldn’t run a mile!

    If you’re looking to start running – take it slow, and listen to your body! My first time out, I did a combination run/walk – I slowed down when I needed to and completed only a mile. I continued that for awhile until one day, I ran the whole mile! My excitement caused me to continue increasing each week – 2 miles, 3 miles, and then, last September, I ran a half marathon! I’ve never thought of myself as a runner, but now I’m hooked! I have 3 5ks lined up this spring!

  9. 10

    You know I’m just now getting into running and slowly increasing mileage a very little bit at a time. I fully intend to run a half marathon sometime this year. I think what motivates me to keep pushing is the feeling of exhilaration at accomplishing something new on a run. It’s such a personal challenge and always something new to challenge. Love it every time so far!

  10. 11

    I used to hate running in middle school and high school. Besides PE I don’t think I ever ran a mile.
    Then last September I got an email from a camp I used to work at telling me about a 5k they were having to raise money for a new cabin. I had just gotten a gym membership and a trainer at the gym so I decided to see if I could do it.
    My trainer mentioned something about the Spinx Marathon (and 1/2) and for some reason that stuck in my mind. I wanted to be a runner like her.
    It took a little while to catch on. (I didn’t register for the 1/2 marathon until 3 weeks before hand…I had been training though. Just didn’t want to commit.)
    Somewhere between September ’10 and October 30, 2010. I became a runner! I am so excited and I’ve already signed up for the full marathon this coming October!

  11. 12

    Thanks for this post! It really does seem like people who classify themselves as “runners” have been doing it forever. I just started more seriously in January and I’m liking it so far. I sometimes run 4 miles but normally I run between 2 and 3. I would love to eventually run a 1/2 marathon, maybe within the next year. In the meantime, I’ll increase my mileage gradually since I’ve gotten injured before by running for too long when I wasn’t ready for it.

    • 13

      I think anyone can consider themselves a runner, whether they are just starting or running marathons! It’s all about owning it :)

  12. 14

    Great post – I only started running a little over a year ago and signing up for a half marathon was my motivation! Races are addicting:)
    And you’re absolutely right that running is NEVER easy…the personal challenge is what makes me love it!

  13. 15

    Maybe someday I’ll be a runner. You sure make it look appealing! Right now, I’ll be a walker. :)

    • 16

      I love walking, too :)

    • 17

      I would love to be a runner. I tried once working my way up to 3 miles and then I became pregnant. I have not ran or even walked a full mile in almost 4 years. I am a single mother now and not sure how to do it with my 3 year old. :) any tips? thank you

      • 18

        Hey Tonya! Have you heard of the Couch to 5k program? It’s a great (free) tool you can use to make yourself a plan to get back up to 3 miles. Here’s a link: You can do this! Regarding having a 3 year old, can you use a jogging/walking stroller? Another idea is to join a gym that has daycare as an option!

      • 19

        I started out almost 3 months ago on the treadmill doing walking/running intervals. It was a 10 week program but after 7 weeks I could run 30 minutes straight and over 2 miles. I then started running outside. Running outside is WAY harder so don’t get discouraged if you can’t go as far at first.

        I have a double jogging stroller and run with my two kids (2.5 years and 11 months) 2 to 3 times a week. I can do 2.5 miles pushing the double jogger now. I am going to do a couple 5Ks this summer and just started a training program for a 10K, 5 months from now. It is definitely doable even if you have kids. It will actually make you stronger. I think if I train while pushing them, then when I do the race it will seem much easier.

  14. 20

    Great blog, Anne! I’m a new reader and am training for my first half marathon in April- I’ve really enjoyed the information that you share.

    This is random, but is one of your running buddies Lauren E from Dallas? She looks just like a girl I went to high school with. If so, tell her I said hi! Best of luck this weekend- can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    • 21

      Yes!! I just told Lauren to check this comment – she was excited! :)

    • 22

      Ummm..small world Ursuline friend :) Anne is one of my good friends here at UNC for the Masters of Public Health program! I’m running in DC with her & our other friends this weekend! Best of luck on yours Caroline! They’re so much fun!

  15. 23

    great post! I love thinking back to the days when running 2 miles was seriously a struggle…I’ve come so far and I try to use that story as motivation for friends who are just starting out and think I have always been able to run like I do now. Definitely not the case!

  16. 24

    I started running last fall with the Couch to 5K program. It was exactly what I needed! Like others have said, I can still remember the day I ran a mile without stopping! I’ve run 3 5K’s and am now running anywhere from 45-60 minutes 4-5 days per week and have signed up for my first 10K in May!!! I’m also working on getting faster, since I feel slooooooow. But I’m doing it, actually running, without stopping, so I’ll take it!!!

  17. 25

    Good luck this weekend! I’ve run 5Ks, a 5 miler and a 10K, but I don’t really consider myself a runner because I think of running as such a chore!! I totally envy people who love it :)

  18. 26

    I find myself getting excited for you, Anne, on each and every one of your races. You are a fannetastic motivator, so please don’t give up your blog when you graduate. You have the best blog I have every read, simply because of your optimism and motivation. Can’t wait for the run down on Saturday’s race. Good luck on your test today and your race on Saturday.

  19. 28

    Wonderful! I’ve just started running for distance (sprinter and jumper in a previous life), and it’s tough going. Never my strong suit, making it 0.5 miles continuously running is a feat — and I’m not even remotely out of shape! Maybe I just need to find a great group to train with. Love going with my fiancée, but I’m usually left in his dust (after I tell him to “just leave me”). Ha. Thanks for the encouragement, and congrats to all your hard work and success.



    • 29

      I would definitely recommend finding a running group or buddy – there’s a lot of websites online (meetup is a good one) for just that! It’s so much more enjoyable to run with friends (or new friends)!

  20. 30

    I am not really a runner, yet. I am currently more of a biker. So far I have completed 2 5k’s (one a few wks ago), and I am signed up for a 42 mile bike ride, the Warrior Dash, my first triathlon, and a century this year! I am hoping to get a few more 5k’s in there for fun! Maybe next year I will train for a longer run…baby steps!
    I’d love to meet up while you are in the DC area this weekend!!! When and where?!
    Good luck on the half marathon!

  21. 32

    I started running after I picked up my a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I had constant back pain for at least 12 years up to that point and the reviews on the shoes saying they helped was why I looked into them. When I realized I could finally walk without back pain and after talking to a coworker about how he walked a 5k I figured I would give it a shot again. Once I realized I was able to run without back pain I was hooked 6 months later (last weekend) I finished my first half marathon and am looking for a marathon to do later this year. Thanks to Vibram I love to run! And I was always o e of the people who would say why run of no one is chasing you.

    • 33

      Interesting! I’ve never tried the Vibram Five Fingers shoes but I’ve been wanting to for awhile. I wish they weren’t so expensive… I’m worried I won’t like them!

  22. 34

    Thank you so so so so much for posting about your beginnings as a runner! Me and my friends just committed to doing a 5k together and I’ve been doing more and more running. But it’s very hard for me, I can really only comfortable run/jog 30 minutes at a time! And that’s like, only 2 miles! But I really really have been working on just getting OUT and running, and not worrying about mileage or time yet, just getting out and running and getting comfortable I think is what is good for me for the time being. I want to gradually run 5ks and 10ks and just keep doing more, like you did.

  23. 36

    Great post, Anne! I had a similar experience of starting slow and gradually increasing my mileage over time. Setting reasonable, realistic goals–and then creating a healthy, safe plan for achieving them!–is a great way to encourage yourself. I started with a 5k and then, over the course of the year, gradually bumped up my racing to include a sprint triathlon, and then two half marathons and then, most recently, a trail 30k. Before I did that, though, I read a LOT of information about running–everything from training, resting, nutrition, stretching, hydration, to clothing–so that I could be safe and healthy in my running life. Building up my mileage slowly and educating myself along the way helped me become a happy runner. Thanks for this great post and for sharing your inspiring journey!

  24. 37

    Great post! I love seeing all your photos and reading your race recaps. I’ve been looking to move my mileage beyond 5ks and the info about how you did it is really helpful.

  25. 38
    Alex Rodeck says

    Awesome topic. I always enjoyed running in high school, but never pressed above the 10K distance, and usually just stayed at the 5K. I finally committed to my first “real” distance run this past year while on deployment. I had a lot of free time and an i-Pod full of music that needed listening to. I had some really good advice from a couple of friends who marathoned and finally ran the Air Force Half-Marathon last September. What a great time! Hope you have a great run this weekend!

  26. 39

    P.S. Running races was what got me serious about running, too. Until that time, running was for training in prep for other sports. Glad you’ve had a similar experience!

  27. 40

    hey anne… i met your mom today in charlottesville, and i told her i’d write and say hi. i’m a fellow foodie who’s an RD and just started my own food blog. great to find like-minds! (other than the running part… good luck, btw.)

    • 41

      Hey Gretchen! My mom just mentioned you to me – always fun to meet fellow foodie RDs! We just checked out your blog and your photography is STUNNING! Keep it up :)

  28. 42

    The longest distance I’ve done is a 10K which sounds so short compared to a half mary. Will be thinking of all of you running on Saturday. Wishing you good weather and a fun run.

  29. 43

    I started running with 1 mile. And it practically killed me. ;) This was right after freshman year of college, and the late night eating had taken its toll, both physically and mentally.

    Then I progressed to 2 miles. And I started to really look forward to the alone time. The “me” time. Slowly but surely, I worked my up to a regular 3 and eventually ran my first 10k. Now I’m training for a half and loving it.

    I think the important thing is to not push too hard at the very beginning, which only promotes burnout. Slow and steady is the way to go. :D


  30. 45

    Congratulations on your Marathon!
    Your timing was incredible!!!
    You’re an inspiration to us, “non-Marathon” runners…
    I’d love to join you on my first one?
    (especially, if we go out for a great Italian dinner the night before…..woo-hoo!!!)

    Kudos once again!
    ps I never posted a blog before, this is fun!!!!

  31. 47

    Wow, this blog and the comments are really inspiring! I’ve always been more of a walker and dancer rather than a runner. I may have to check out the C25K program. My only deterrent is that I don’t like exercising alone outdoors (I live in a rural area). How do you get past that??

  32. 49

    I loved reading this post! I’m training for my second half marathon right now, and I just wrote a very similar post on my own blog about how I got started. I hope it isn’t tacky to post a link, but this is the post:

    Like so many people, I used to hate to run because I felt so self-conscious. I always wanted to be a runner, but I’d start and then stop because I’d get so frustrated that I couldn’t run farther or faster. I started and stopped SO many times before I was finally able to let go of all that and just enjoy it. Now, I love to run for so many reasons, but mainly because it’s been so instrumental in my own self-acceptance.

  33. 50

    I enjoyed your story. I run alone and perhaps it is not a good idea. Running with a supportive group and actually participating in races helps. I am yet to run in a race yet. Still unsure if I can do it.
    You can view my story of running here
    Right now I am taking a break and hope to resume my training in 2 weeks.

  34. 51

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for awhile now, especially recipes, but I came back and re-read this post about running because today I just signed up for my first half marathon! It won’t be until next spring, but I will be training with a group of friends from an awesome place where we all work out, and I’m really excited! Thanks for a great blog site!

  35. 53

    funny – I started running 2 and 1/2 years ( 5 days, 4 hours) ago – but who is counting ? :)
    I couldn’t even run around my block without stopping!

    I used the Jeff Galloway method – and have since run 8 half marathons and, last fall, I ran the Chicago Marathon! Run/Walk method really works! Another great book is Running For Mortals by John Bingham – lots of great newbie advice there. Also – find a running group in your community, 6 am runs are so much easier with company.

    I love reading about other people’s running experiences! Running is for everyone – I can not describe the exhilaration I feel crossing a finish line – i encourage everyone to give it a try.

  36. 55

    I just recently started reading your blog and I’ve been finding it very useful in many ways, so thank you for all the excellent posts. After reading this post, I couldn’t help but think back to my start into the running scene and I posted my story to my blog. I just started running earlier this year and finished my first half marathon (also my first race) back in October. I love reading about how other people got started into the sport and how their experiences have affected them. I’ve also had a lot of my friends asking for advice and to help them get started, so that’s exciting as well. Thanks again for sharing your experiences and knowledge with all of us!

  37. 57

    I consider myself a run/walk/hobbler, I can run/walk/hobble 3.5 miles in a little under an hour. I did my training with a couch to 5k trainer, which made it interesting (there was a fun backstory). I was asked by my American Heritage Girls Adult leadership, if I would be interested in running a 5k with them in March (I was only half way through my training), but figured, what the heck! I am so excited. The hardest is part of the whole thing, was starting! Now, if I don’t run every other day, for whatever reason, mostly a schedule conflict with one of my kids, I totally miss it!

  38. 59

    I’m in the same position of wanting to push myself farther. I’ve run quite a few 5k’s but I’d like to dive into the 10k world this year. And for ultimate goal of running a half marathon in the near future. Posts like yours are great inspiration to reach for it :)


  1. […] a runner, how did you get started? And if you want to become one… tell me how you’ll start! Here’s a post all about how I started running, written on the eve of my second half […]

  2. […] Want to become a runner? This post is for you. […]

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