Actually Useful Running Tips

So your a fresh faced new runner or one that’s hardened by many miles pounding the pavement or trails. Either way there’s probably something here you haven’t read before. None of the tips below are the crap you read in every single printerest pin. Yes hills and speed work are important, wear some sunscreen for your future self’s sake and get some new shoes.

These are things I’ve picked up running IRL but as of right now, no plans to every marathon! I’ve run more in the past year than I did in any previous year but I switch it ip. This year I crossed half marathon off the  bucket list and I think it might be olympic triathlon distance next year. I might be slow but I run, and every runner can use some good tips!

Useful Tip One: Know when the sun is in driver’s eyes!

You know that moment of your post dawn or pre sunset run when the sun is on your back and it seems you are glowing from behind. Your shadow is long and stretched out directly in front of you so you can check out your form? All that’s missing from the opening credits of your superhero marvel movie moment is a cape!  Yeah, that’s the exact moment drivers can’t see you due to the glare in their eyes which is worst just as the sun rises or before it sets. No joke one of my old bosses got git by a car and spent time in a body cast after a collision like this. If your shadow is in front of you or you feel backlit BE CAREFUL!

Useful Tip Two: Train your drivers!

For a brief moment in time, about four years, I lived in a neighbourhood with wide boulevard streets where the roadway was separated from the sidewalk by 8 feet and a line of trees. There was also an extensive trail network that was used heavily enough that it felt safe. It was a deciding factor to buying in that area actually. But now I live in a rural neighbourhood with almost no shoulder on the twisting turning provincial hiway where the largely ignored speed limit is 80 km/hr. About one third of the drivers are older and have handicap permits and there is still little chance you’ll encounter a cop or roadblock so drinking and driving is pretty common place. Do I have the right of way at the few intersections that exist, yes. Am I a road user entitled to a lane if I so desire, yes. Is giving me 1 m (3.3 feet) of space the law here, yes. Does ANY of that happen, HELL NO! In the summer, when it’s not hunting season, I use the trail behind us more but there is no lighting and is pretty deserted except for a lot of ATVs. There are a few runners but we are pretty few and far between. So for my safety and the safety of other runners I feel it’s my duty to train my drivers to co-exist with me. This comes in two parts, making yourself incredibly visible and safely taking up the space you need to run. Most running clothes and sneakers have reflective details but that’s not enough out here. And just don’t buy the dark ones no matter how cute they are.

I add lights and a plethora of reflective gear to my arsenal. If its dark I wear a led light bar on my chest, a flashing blue light on my back, attached to a tag or strap on my sports bra, shirt or jacket and a headlamp (over a padded headband) along with light coloured gear. I have made a reflective headband, ankle (these are the most visible since headlights are angled down) and wrist reflectors, a hat made of ‘heads up’ reflective yarn and have attached reflective tape to my running jacket. Ask a sewist or knitter in your life to help you out its all very simple and easy with material available from any fabric store. You never regret putting on the item that keeps you from getting hit. My mechanic who is also our volunteer fire chief (yes it’s that rural) once asked himself ‘what idiot it that all lit up, Oh it’s Richard’s idiot!’ and on two separate occasions my step son denied knowing me when he was driving with his friends. You should consider this reaction your minimum for defining visibility success. You should be well enough lit that its a reasonable reaction that not seeing you means the driver should probably have their licence revoked.

Now to taking up your space. I run facing traffic on the side of the asphalt typically on or just past the white line, the shoulder is just to uneven and narrow not to. Now I do pull over onto the shoulder for on coming cars even if it means walking or gasp, stopping. In most jurisdictions any road user be it bicycle, walker , jogger or horse is actually entitled to a whole lane but that would be akin to suicide on this road. What I suggest is not yielding at an intersection when it’s clear that the driver sees you and you have the pedestrian right of way. Giving the appropriate hand signal, I try to aim for the arms in the air rather than the one finger salute, when a driver blows past you in a marked intersection or crosswalk. Pull onto the shoulder somewhere between the first possible and last possible moment when a car is approaching. If you always yield the right of way when you don’t have too, it slowly but surely erodes our functional right to be there and the next runner might be statistic. It also trains the drivers where YOU run to be on the lookout!

Useful Tip Three: Get the most out of you phone battery

Whether its epic long runs, an older phone or failure to plan, all of which I’ve dealt with, running without tunes, GPS and audio markers is terrible, not to mention the safety of being able to make a call if you need to. In fact not being allowed music is the WORST part of triathlons IMHO. All you have left are the voices of doubt in your head. So follow these steps to maximize your battery while on the road. Close all your apps except what you need for your run. Dim the screen as much as possible and switch into low battery mode if you can. Shut off your screen once you start and every time you activate it on your run (I find this makes the biggest difference of all). And if you anticipate an issue keep your volume as low as you can tolerate until the halfway point and check your remaining power. If you’ve got 60%ish left turn it up and power home! Some earphones also have batteries inside that provide a volume boost. I’ve used these in the past but now I have  a new phone. Also bluetooth can suck your battery a bit too so consider wired headphones, but I NEED it for my watch! PRO TIP: Use an old phone, switch out your sim and pair it with any devices for rainy runs or races. These tips might get you through and you can leave your fancy new phone at home safe and dry!

Useful Tip Four: Voltaren BEFORE long runs

Any place you know is going to hurt, voltaren it up before you head out the door.  Your welcome!

Useful Tip Five: Bank some miles early in your training plan

You already know about base milage from pinterest right? Its important! You can’t go from 3 km twice a week to week one of a 12 week marathon training program an expect not to get injured! Learned this the hard way more than once, does this still count as learning then? Get your base milage a little higher than it needs to be before you start your plan and in the first few weeks ‘bank’ a few extra miles. This is important for two reasons. The real one is your won’t feel so bad when you skip a run or cut one a bit short later in the plan. And if your me… you’ll still get your special in app ‘trophy’ and attaboy on race day when you finish!!

Me finishing a half marathon and hearing my special ‘attaboy’ congratulations!

Useful Tip Six: Knock off sneakers are a thing

There are knock off sneakers on EBay and Amazon. Bought ’em on Ebay seen ’em on Amazon. The $30 deal on those kicks that seemed to be too good to be true was, they arrived and they were counterfeit. I wore them for 500 miles (800 km) and it turned out ok. They had the picture of the real deal on the listing though, probably copied from the adidas website. I saw some this month on amazon the toe box on these is smooth the one in the picture is not. Check and double check online or buy in store but now your warned, they are out there!

Useful Tip Seven: Rock the music Fartlek

Farleks are where you run slower than average for a bit before running faster than average for a bit. But it’s always like 90 seconds or 0.4 k, which is impossible to keep track of and depressing when your like wait that was only 27 seconds? So instead I put on a super fast song and go all out and then chill out a bit during the next one which I choose a slower one. Not as scientific but way easier. You can use a ratio of fast to slow that mimics the distances or times in your training program if you want to get all technical and stuff.

Useful Tup Eight: Race fees add up and aren’t always charitable 

So I love doing races for the challenge, I aim for middle of the age group. I love to hit average! I love the fun of all those happy excited runners lining up and taking off. I’m sorta down with the shirt too I guess, working on a quilt of them actually. But I really REALLY race for the medal, yes that’s right the participant medal! Maybe we shouldn’t hand them out to kids like candy, maybe we should. But I’m I grown-up dammit, Gimme my friggin’ medal. I even display them proudly on this hanger I made ! But man do those fees add up!

My medal holder with bibs and a PB (slow -) chalkboard

We often justify it by saying its for charity but is it really? I became aware of this at the pre-amble speech of a triathlon. The new director said it used to be for profit but now it was all volunteer and 100% of profits now go to charity. This got me wondering and I did some digging. Our big race is the Bluenose and 20 000+ participate.  It costs a million dollars to stage, race fees cover 1/2 and a big bank forks over the other $500 000 for sponsorship rights. The 10k runs up to $90, great medal though!

Other ‘big races’, that I knowingly participate in are more like big business and are a paying job for their organizers. However they are not usually up front about this. There is one which I did and loved that sponcers a kids running team but the cash is largely directed into the organizers pockets. Digging around the about pages and linked in reveals the organizer owns the consulting company listed in the fine print on the about page of the race. But several pages are dedicated to promoting the kiddie running club and empowerment through running. I’m cool with that but it’s not all that up front and it’s an expensive one. You get three medals if you do two races though so, yeah its cool!

Add up the cost of those fancier medals and it adds up quick. There are tones of fun, timed races that are admittedly smaller but proceeds do go to charity and you still get a medal! I’ve been doing more of these lately and a couple bigger shiny ones a year only. The last one I did was a trick or treat trot in the next small town over to benefit the YMCA’s after school program. The kids made the medals themselves! They were plywood and twine, still counts! Cost $25 for the race and included a cotton shirt for the quilt. BONUS!

Did I mention it was a halloween race? Me as Chase the Ace after my YMCA 10k

I check the timing sites website for smaller, cheaper upcoming races so I can be in the know for some economical, truly charitable bling!

Useful Tip Nine: Multiples of shoes and braces

We all know that running shoes break down over time. Most are made go a material called EVA foam. This does not mean that you can expect to run in them for EVA, and EVA and EVA, see what I did there! After 800 miles you should dump ’em for sure, some will only last 300 miles. Depends on a lot of things the shoe, the runner and the surface. Personally I’ve had some get to the 800 mark but I usually get about 450 miles or 700 km. But this isn’t  another buy some new shoes post. Any braces you use also have a lifespan, Their stretchy can just stop working as well or the velcro might wear out and it won’t stay shut. You should have more than one pair of shoes an probably extra braces too, here’s why.

One thing is some people say EVA takes more than 24 hours to ‘bounce back’. I’m not really sure about the validity of this but it can’t hurt.  If you are training for a half marathon and buy some new shoes to start your training program and wear these exclusively they’ll be shot on race day since the average training program is about 550 km or 350 miles. It also takes a while to break shoes in, again every runner has a different sweet spot for shoes but I would ideally like there to be about 250 km on a pair on race day. Even a 10k running program can be 250 km so if you’ve had yours for a wile you might need a new pair of kicks too.

Another reason beyond breakdown, to have multiple braces and or shoes is wetness. Sometimes it will rain your sneakers will get wet and then they will need time to dry. Also no matter what sort of non-smelly space age technology your brace claims to have it will sometimes start to smell and you’ll have to wash it and hang it to dy.  I sometimes throw mine in the dryer on its own for a bit anyway since the heat seems to refresh the  elastic and the velcro. Since I have two it’s cool. I can go for a run while I let it dry!

Useful Tip Ten: You need a foam roller here’s how to make a huge one for $10

Okay so I kept reading about foam rolling being the shit for speed, recovery, injury and changing your life in general and I was like, nah… Then I tried it and yeah you need to too! However $60 is way, way too much money for a small sized kinda hard circular bar.  I find that it helps with how sore you are after a long or hard run which is kinda good I guess. What this translates into is the degree to which you want to jump in front of a car during a recovery run.  It’s way lower if you foam rolled after the last one. Before I started rolling it out after a long run or some speed work I dreaded the next run, in fact I often skipped it, delaying the inevitable. My legs felt like they were useless, lead filled and on fire all at the same time. It would feel like that for at least 6 long, slow and hard km. I thought it had to be that way and the next run after that was still unpleasant.  If you take five minuets to roll it out then your recovery run just feels like a crappy day out which gets better after about 4km.

Truthfully you might have something laying around you could already use but this is what I made.  I bought 3 ft of pre-cut ABS pipe and some foam pipe insulation in the plumbing section of the hardware store and taped it on with tuck-tape. You can skip the foam for a super hard roller and use any sort of tape you have lying around but you probably will want a helper to tape it up.  For about $10 you end up with a huge one that requires little co-ordination to use compared to the smaller versions on sale for a lot more. The ABS pipe comes in a variety of diameters so you can pick the one that looks good for you and fits your budget!

Not pretty but my DIY foam roller is huge and it works!

These are some big things and some small things I’ve picked up, hopefully you found something useful here. PLEASE share any tips beyond the usual you’ve picked up in the comments so the rest of us can learn from your knowledge the easy way!



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