By: Kendall Oakley

I never liked running. Growing up, my elementary school P.E. program required annual physical fitness benchmark testing. Part of this series was running one mile for time. Let me tell you, young Kendall struggled HARD. It’s not easy to teach elementary school kids how to properly pace themselves, and I vividly recall how quickly the abdominal cramps began to set in. Fast forward to middle school. I played volleyball and softball under the same coach. After every practice (and I mean EVERY. SINGLE. PRACTICE.) she would make us do a timed mile around the soccer fields. Through this conditioning, I became a more effective runner. But by no means did I enjoy the mile-a-day treatment. By the time I got to college, I ran maybe once every couple of weeks.

The summer after my freshman year I got back into running. I knew that I wanted to challenge myself, so I started going on runs with my friend who ran cross country in high school. I still remember how much I struggled on our first run. It was painful. Pushing your body in any way is painful, and I was pushing mine to no end. Even though I felt like I was going to keel over during the runs, I loved the sense of accomplishment and sweet relief I felt afterwards. To this day, I try and run at least three times a week and do about three-four miles per run. Am I the fastest? No way José!! Am I satisfied with my progress? YES! I love the way running makes me feel and I love being able to share that with others. Whether it’s going on runs with friends or talking about our favorite running routes, I love the community that running fosters between people.

From one amateur runner, here are a few tips that helped me believe in myself and keep going.

1. KEEP GOING! I cannot stress this enough!! It will be hard. SO hard. Not all runs are equal. Some are hard. Some feel like you’ve been a seasoned runner for years. Some just straight up suck. Throughout all the trials and tribulations, you have to remember that even the shortest run is better than no run, and that progress isn’t made overnight. Again, KEEP GOING!!

2. Look into sneakers that work for YOU. This is pretty important. Your body is your biggest predictor when it comes to running. If your legs, feet, etc. hurt early into a run, it might be because your shoes aren’t properly catered to your needs. I personally have low arches and I pronate, which means that my feet roll inward when I land on them. Because of this, I need shoes that have a little bit more support in them than others. It helps me feel comfier when I run and it’s better for my arches. Every body is different, but it’s important to be cognizant of how your body is responding during runs, and to pay attention to the shoes you’re running in.

3. Run with a friend. Whenever I’m not feeling super motivated, I always text one of my running buddies to see if they can join me. Running with a friend helps me stay motivated and holds me accountable for going on said run. Plus, it’s nice to have someone to chat with! There are also plenty of running communities and clubs in Pittsburgh (generally everywhere else, too), so if you’re in need of some extra support, be sure to check those out!

4. Cross training is key. If you see yourself wanting to become more serious about running, make sure you cross train a couple days a week. Running every day is great and all, but in order to get faster, you’ve got to get STRONGER. Weight training is the most obvious way to go about this but remember to give your legs a rest! Go swimming, use the rowing machine, anything that doesn’t focus on your legs.

The beauty of running is that it’s simple. It’s basic. It’s intuitive. No, I’m not saying that it’s easy for anyone to go out and run three continuous miles. Rather, it’s simple enough to step outside your door and go on a run. Compared to other sports, it doesn’t require fancy equipment or expensive uniforms. All you need are a solid pair of sneakers and motivation! Most importantly, you don’t have to be a champion marathoner to call yourself a runner.

Kendall and her friends before a 5K