The first step is always the hardest. Ray Cunningham goes over the basics that all runners need to think about when they are just starting out.

One of the great things about running is that it’s so easy to get started. You don’t need to join an expensive gym (or a club, though they’re pretty cheap), pay fees every time you run, or get lots of equipment. All you really need are clothes – and only the runners will cost more than a few quid.

I’m going to break this out to a few different sections:

1. Clothes
2. Running in winter
3. Getting started
4. Running further
5. Timing


There are a few choices for you top – a t-shirt, a long-sleeved top, or a singlet.

It’s important that your top should be a wicking fabric, not cotton. Cotton will trap moisture, get heavy and so chafe more. A wicking material will draw the moisture away from your skin, making it easier to get rid of excess heat and also offering some protection from rain. Examples include [amazon_link id=”B0037BORIU” target=”_blank” ]Nike Dri-fit[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B00264CSUS” target=”_blank” ]Adidas Climalite[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B004E0YHIS” target=”_blank” ]Mizuno Drylite[/amazon_link]… I’m sure you get the idea! A lot of races will give running tops to entrants, so you don’t need to buy too many.  You will warm up pretty quickly when you’re running, so for most of the year a shortsleeved top is fine.

For your lower half you can use shorts or running tights

Running shorts should be light and also made of wicking material.  If it’s colder, you could wear some running tights or running trousers available in various lengths.  Everyday tracksuit bottoms will have the problem that they’re not made of the right material, so they’ll get heavy and cling when they’re wet, and be too hot when it’s warm.

Socks don’t have to be anything special.  In Europe the Aldi and Lidl own brand running socks are very popular, though some people swear by more expensive brands. The key consideration is protection from blisters, so you need socks that will help get rid of moisture, and fit well.

Speaking of blisters, they are caused by a combination of three things: heat, moisture, and friction. Cut out one of those and you won’t get blisters.  Heat is hard to eliminate completely, but make sure your shoes have some ventilation.  Wicking socks (that word again!) will draw moisture away from your feet so cheap cotton socks should usually be avoided.  And of course well-fitting shoes and socks will reduce friction.  If you do get blisters, compeed plasters are the often recommended as the best treatment.


Don’t buy some runners because a friend wears them and says they’re good. There is no right pair of runners for everyone. The right pair for you depends on

– the shape of your foot
– your gait
– the amount of miles you intend to run in them
– your weight

– the conditions you’ll run in

Go to a shop where you can get expert advice, not some random “tracksuits-and-runners” shop. Gait analysis is a useful tool, but the main thing is that the staff in the shop know what they’re talking about.

Running in Winter

Remember that you will generate heat from running, so you don’t need to pile on too many layers. A long-sleeved top and running tights could well be enough. You could add gloves, hats, and a jacket – things that you can take off when you’ve warmed up.

Reflective material is an absolute priority in winter – either bright clothes, or a reflective belt/jacket on top. If possible make sure that the reflectives are on the moving parts of your body, arms and legs.  You can also buy [amazon_link id=”B0030ZKCN2″ target=”_blank” ]LED lights[/amazon_link] that strap on to improve your visibility.  A [amazon_link id=”B000MVZXHW” target=”_blank” ]headlamp[/amazon_link] is also useful if you’re not running in daylight, or under streetlamps.

Getting started

Not really equipment, but – there are a few common mistakes people make when they start running

(C) David Bradshaw

they dash off on a run, get out of breath and shuffle home thinking they can’t do it

they train too much, get hurt, stop running

they train too little, get out of the habit, stop running

they settle on an easy routine, and never improve

All of these problems have the same solution.

Set yourself a target, and follow a proper training plan to get there.

If you are just starting out, follow the couch25k running plan. This is a simple programme, that anyone can follow, works for any standard, and will get you to the point where you can run a 5k. Loads of people have followed it successfully. It’s three sessions a week, no more than 30 minutes each session, which is enough to keep you improving but should be easy to fit into your life. (If you need to repeat a week, repeat a week. If you’re having trouble completing the runs, slow down)

Find a 5k a few months away, and make that your target. Having a target in mind will make it easier to stick with the programme.

If you’ve run your first 5k and want to get faster, or run further, then set another target and follow a training plan. There are plans out there for every distance (the Hal Higdon ones are very beginner-friendly), and following a good plan will ensure you get the right mix of training and build consistently.

Running further

As you run longer distances, three issues will become more important – hydration, nutrition, and chafing.

If you’re running for less than an hour, a drink of water before you start and more water when you finish is probably enough. If you’re running for longer, you should plan to drink some water on your way around. Very roughly, a 500 mls bottle of water if you’re running up to 2 hours, another if you run up to 3 hours.

But this will depend on how fit you are, how fast you’re running, how hot the day is, and your general condition. You should be well-hydrated before your run (clear or almost clear urine), drink when you’re thirsty on your run, and drink when you get back. If you weigh yourself immediately before and after your run, the weight loss you see is down to loss of water – that will give you an idea of how much you should be drinking.

In a race (over 5 miles distance), there should be water stations every 3 miles. On a training run, your options are to bring water with you (in a camelbak or waist pack) or simply carry a bottle, bring money with you and stop into a shop on the way, or go out beforehand and stash water along the route.

You will also have to think more about nutrition for longer runs. You have to make sure you have energy to run – the best source is slow-release carbohydrates, such as porridge. But you don’t want to run too soon after eating, because the food will sit uncomfortably in your stomach. Most people prefer not to run for an hour after eating something substantial, but everyone is different.

Over longer distances, many people use energy gels. These are carbohydrate rich, and fairly easy to digest while running. There are a lot of different brands and flavours, but two basic types – the standard gels, that should be washed down with water, and isogels, that can be taken on their own. Everyone has their own preferences, so try a few different types. And try them in a training run before using them in a race.

Finally, remember that you put in is going to come out again, one way or another, so plan ahead. You don’t want to have to make a pit-stop halfway through your run. Know what schedule your body is on, and what food your stomach will react to.

As you run longer distances, you’ll notice you start to get sore in different places – where there’s a seam in your clothes, and around the nips (for men).  Use Bodyglide (or vaseline, but it’s bad for your clothes?) around the affected areas.  Use plasters, micropore tape, or nipguards to prevent the dreading bleeding nipples.

The cheapest option is to use a stopwatch to time your run, and use mapmyrun (or a similar site) to measure the distance.

Next cheapest is a watch linked to a pedometer (the Nike + for example)
The pedometer isn’t great for accuracy – basically you calibrate it by running a known distance, it says “okay, that km took X steps” and from then on calculates distance run by counting steps and comparing to X. Which is fine, as long as your stride length doesn’t change. If you recalibrate regularly, it should be within 5-10% of your actual distance. When you upload your run it will tell you (roughly) how fast you were going at different stages.

A GPS watch (such as a Garmin) uses a satellite signal to calculate your position… and your position a second later… and another second later… and so on. It uses this data to calculate how far you’ve travelled, and how fast (and will usually have a range of other features such as programmed workouts, heart rate monitors, etc). They usually cost at least 150 quid.

If you have an iPhone, there are several apps you can use to track your time and distance, such as Runmeter.

And there you go, it is as easy as that!  So all you need to do is get out there…

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