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Begin running

Just starting to run

Where to run

May 24, 2018

If your just beginning to run then it’s worth spending some time choosing a training route. It’s important to find somewhere safe, in an area you feel comfortable. As a beginner balance and mobility are often restricted and this should be taken into account when choosing a location. Running technique and concentration suffer when tired, making a trip or slip more likely.

The obvious place to start is right outside your front door, although this is not necessarily the best place to begin since pavements offer a hard, unforgiving surface to run on that can make injuries more likely. There are often uneven, missing or protruding slabs that can trip the unwary.

Some people are embarrassed when they start running and don’t want their neighbours to see them run. If you feel this way then try to find an alternative location otherwise training runs will be stressful rather than enjoyable. Confidence seems to build quickly as training progresses and most people soon overcome their embarrassment.

Tarmac provides a softer surface, but if you choose to run in the road traffic is obviously going to present few dangers. Camber can also lead to uneven distribution of weight during running and running on the camber of same route regularly can lead to imbalances and injury.

Both roads and pavements in cities involve dealing with exhaust fumes which in addition to being unpleasant are also hazardous. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I’ve seen many runners training at 4 am to avoid the problem of traffic and heavy emissions, although fortunately that’s not something most of us have to contend with. If you do run in the road then run against the traffic and wear high visibility clothing.

Parks often have tarmac paths with less camber and no traffic. They can be great places to start running with the added benefit of clearer air. Although free of traffic, parks sometimes have enthusiastic dogs that like to chase runners. One plan of action in this case is to stop until the dog is under control or has decided to chase someone else. The usual running safety precautions are particularly important in parks and quieter areas.

Grass provides a soft surface when damp but a hard, bone jarring surface like concrete if very dry. Grassy areas are often uneven, with concealed holes and mounds which can cause you to lose balance or twist an ankle, especially as a beginner. Wet grass is slippery, while finding traction in mud can be very difficult without the correct running shoes. Despite some of these drawbacks many people prefer running on grass.

Forest and off road tracks offer a pleasant environment to run in and are often fairly soft. They can also be uneven and contain hazards such as concealed tree roots and overhanging branches.

The running track offers a great surface for novice runners being soft, level and an accurately measured distance. The outside lanes have easier bends to follow. The inside lanes should be left clear for experienced runners who may be timing their runs. Its a good idea to periodically change direction so that one side of the body doesn’t get more strain than the other around bends.

Wherever you decide to begin running the important thing is to get out, get started and have fun while you run.

4 responses to “Where to run”

  1. lesley roebuck says:

    Thank you so much for your plan. I have just started running/jogging so I have printed off your running plan schedule and fixed this to my fridge for daily motivation and focus !
    My problem/worry is the area that I live…… By the sea in Turkey, on a hillside. There are no flat areas….all steep up hills or down ! I am used to WALKING in this area as I walk my 2 dogs everyday but running is hard going. Any tips ?

  2. beginrunning says:

    @ Lesley Roebuck – It sounds like a beautiful location but if the hills are steep it could present a few problems.

    Since the beginners plan is aimed at keeping the heart rate low, trying to run up hills will cause your heart rate rise fast and you to tire very quickly. Perhaps the way round this would be to walk fast rather than run. You’ll know if your in the right sort of range if you can talk while walking. You could try using the plan timings with this method but you may need to adapt it to suit. The important thing is that your not working so hard you get breathless very quickly.

    Another issue will be the additional strain on joints, ligament and muscles. This will expose any underlying weaknesses and can lead to injury a lot faster. Running uphill causes the Achilles tendon to stretch more than usual and can cause knee problems. Running downhill can cause shin splints, knee problems and means the quadriceps will have to be stronger to stabilize the knee. You should watch for these issues even if regularly walking fast on steep (or not so steep) hills and stop at the first sign of any pain.

    Sorry if this sounds a bit negative but if you try the fast walking approach at least you’ll know what to watch out for. One big bonus you have is your motivation and once your endurance and strength has built up I expect you’ll be running up and down those hills. Good Luck!

  3. Deb mc says:

    I am nearly 49 over weight, I have started week one, purchased a timer which really helps, I am fairly fit as I cycle but I live in Spain so have to run off road for some and hills for other bits, would it be better to just run along the very quiet road turn and come back or carry on with my circuit of different terrains, oh the road is a little hilly also, ps it’s this site the got me trying running again thanks.

  4. beginrunning says:

    @Deb mc – apologies for the late reply. It would be better to avoid difficult terrain and hills, especially when your getting started. It makes it a lot harder, more difficult to pace and more likely to cause injury. Once you’ve found your feet then you can try introducing more challenges on routes. As your strength, balance and fitness improves you’ll be able to judge what sort of terrain you can handle. Good luck!