Advice for runners and rabbits alike

Anything to prevent an injury or set a personal record.  Illustration by Jim Carroll
Anything to prevent an injury or set a personal record.
Illustration by Jim Carroll

“Don’t go out fast”: that was the first piece of advice I got in kindergarten coming in the form of the classic story book “The Tortoise and the Hare,” along with “never eat paste,” which on drunken occasions, I’ve forgotten.

“Don’t go out fast” is also the advice I get from every level of runner. It’s the most common piece of advice in the running community, the go-to when someone can’t think of something else to say. It’s important advice, like “don’t go out in the sun without sunscreen” and “don’t wear bacon-scented underwear around German Shepherds” — advice that I have forgotten and have later regretted.

Advice on running comes from many sources, from websites (550,000,000 results for keywords: running tips), to books (three shelves at Barnes & Noble) to other runners (millions worldwide), to Keith (my ‘know-it-all’ uncle). And the two main themes seem to be preventing injuries and increasing speed.

As a new runner, I’m quick to believe anything that may prevent an injury or increase my speed. I’m very impressionable and not afraid to drink the Kool-Aid. Hell, I’d bath in it. If someone told me that wearing a banana suit would shave two minutes off my marathon time, I’d be at the banana suit store tomorrow.

There is also advice on topics like stretching, from when (after a run, but not before) to how. My marathon coach, Brian, has suggested dynamic stretching after long runs, which I now do religiously (may I have more Kool-Aid, please?). It makes me look like I’m doing yoga in the park, which is somewhat embarrassing. These dynamic stretches are designed to increase joint dexterity and blood flow along with public humiliation.

Another runner friend of mine — let’s call him Alan, because his name is Alan — saw my recent blog post concerning my painful Achilles tendons and suggested that I soak my feet in buckets of ice water to stave off injuries and increase healing. It’s so cold that it causes severe pain, which helped me find a whole new octave in my expanding repertoire of screeches. Another runner I met on a group run suggested a quick breathing exercise to relieve side stitches, which she was suffering from at the time. I found myself doing the breathing along with her even though I had no stitch (does this Kool-Aid taste funny to you?). Looking less like a runner and more like a Lamaze coach, I managed to get the technique down in just a few strides.

The other piece of advice I often hear from runners is to have fun — something I hope to remember at mile 22 , along with “don’t eat paste.”


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