By Hannah Lees
You’ve built up to it – trained for it, worked for it, longed for it for months. Finally the big day comes and it’s amazing and you feel huge emotions and you celebrate your great achievement and people congratulate you. And for a little while you slip it into conversations and tell people “I ran a really long way for charity and I raised loads of money” and people go “wow! That’s amazing”. And it is and you’re very proud.
And you don’t go for a run for a few days after the race because you need to recover. But after a bit, despite the fact that the ache in your legs has subsided, you realise that you still haven’t been for a run. And there’s a little niggling thought in your mind that says you should probably go out and run, but you don’t. You don’t because your training plan ended on race day. You don’t because you didn’t massively enjoy the last few weeks of training with the long runs that took up a large chunk of your Sunday and left you feeling tired and hungry and a bit grumpy. You don’t because you’re catching up with the things you neglected. You don’t because you don’t have to, because there’s no race looming, no pressure and no accountability. You don’t because now you’ve had a break it’s going to be really hard to go back.
It’s not unusual. A lot of people will stop running after a big race. Some will have a break for months or even years. Some will never go back to running. So, what should you do if you don’t want to be one of them?
The first thing to do is simply to get your trainers on and get back out there. Provided it hasn’t been months since you last ran you should be fine to just go!
Think of a place where you’ve enjoyed running in the past and just go for a run there. Don’t stress about your pace. Leave your running watch at home and run tech-free. If you spot something interesting, stop and take a photo. If you meet another runner, smile and say hello.
If you need some extra encouragement invite a friend to run with you. You could even ask them to choose the route - it stops you over-thinking. It’s been said by wiser people than me that running is 90% mental. I honestly believe that’s true. Relax and remind yourself why you started running in the first place.
If you have had a few months off running you will probably need to start back gradually. Don’t be afraid to do some run-walk intervals. They really are the best way to regain your running fitness. Building up gradually will reduce your risk of injury. Most running injuries are due to trying to do too much too soon. Your fitness will come back and it won’t take many weeks to start feeling like a runner again.
Once you’ve overcome that initial hurdle and got back into running ask yourself some simple questions: What do you want to do now? Did you enjoy your race? Would you like to do another one? What distance do you most enjoy – 5K, 10K, 10 miles, Half Marathon? Or do you want to try a different challenge – an obstacle race or off-road running, or even a totally different sport?
You don’t have to target a race. You could work towards a new PB at parkrun or running a minimum number of miles each month. You are much more likely to regain your running habit if you have a goal and if you set times in your diary to run and train. Write your goal down or tell someone such as a friend or family member – someone who will offer your encouragement… or take you to task if you’re slacking!
And finally, think about joining a running group. It’s a great way to meet other runners just like you and make friends, as well as to get some great coaching which will help improve your running and keep you focussed. The England Athletics RunTogether website is a great place to find a friendly running club near you.