for those who love the outdoors

12 March, 2024


Learning to run - where do you start?

Always wanted to learn to run but don't know where to begin? Find our top tips below on where to start and how to succeed


I began my own running journey just two and a half years ago – which seems unbelievable really when I consider how far I have come. Initially completing Couch to 5K, then moving to a local running club to start running regularly with others, joining Parkrun on a regular basis and then gradually increasing my distance. Two years ago I completed my first 10K race and have since run multiple others, then 10 miles and just recently my first half marathon. 

Meanwhile, I also became a UK Athletics run leader and coach and have since coached scores of new runners to learn to run 5K and beyond confidently. So if you are a newbie to running, where do you start and what are the top tips from someone who has undertaken the same journey?

Make yourself accountable           

If you can find a local running club that offers a couch to 5K programme that’s a great place to start. You’ll get the support of a local coach / run leader and will meet other like-minded people who are all going through the same experience. However, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have one close by then there are other ways that you can get the same support. 

Find a friend (or two) also interested in learning to run, download one of the couch to 5K apps and arrange to meet one another. If you can’t find someone close by then see if you can find a virtual running partner. When I first started my own C25K programme my friend and I lived around 200 miles away from one another. We screen shotted pictures of the app each time we completed a run and sent them to one another to prove that we had done it.

Get a cheerleader

Get yourself a person or people who will be your cheerleader. Put your runs up on social media, find someone who is already a runner and talk to them about what you have been doing, tell your friends, your partner, your kids and your Mum. Join Strava and track what you have done. 

It’s amazing how much the support and kudos that you get from people really helps to keep you motivated and the running community certainly knows how to celebrate success – where else do you find a sport where you get a medal at the end of every race just for taking part?

Don’t worry about pace

The mistake that I always made when I tried to run was to go out to run 5K at the same pace that I would try to run 100 metres. I had always been a sprinter at school and was naturally quite quick but would then try and maintain that pace when running longer distances. 

When you are first learning to run further keep it slow. One of the best things I discovered when I became a run leader was how to slow myself down while pacing other people which helped me to work on increasing my distance. You have plenty of time to work on pace once you are able to run 5K comfortably.

Warm up and stretch out

I used to wonder why one short run left me unable to move for days afterwards and why I would constantly injure myself. Make sure you take the time to do a dynamic warm up before you start – this is not just a few stretches, you should be gradually raising your heart rate and working through things like squats, lunges, leg swings, high knees, fast feet etc before you start. Save the static stretches for after the run and hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds. This will make an enormous difference to recovery and injury prevention. 

Don’t stop

No I don’t mean while you’re running. If you have to stop then stop, a 5K is still a 5K if you have to stop for a moment – but once you reach the point where you’re able to run 5K then make sure you keep on doing it. Find a local running club – these are not just full of athletic 20 year olds running around a track in their running vests and shorts – generally they’re aimed at a whole range of different ages and capabilities. 

If you aren’t able to find a club nearby then look for local Parkruns which are held every Saturday morning at 9am in thousands of locations globally. There will almost certainly be one somewhere near to you. If you are unlucky enough to have neither of those anywhere close enough then maybe start some chat on social media groups to see if there is any interest in informal meet ups with others to run together. My local run club started in just that way with only a handful of people and now has grown to hundreds of us meeting four times a week.

I hope that this has given you some inspiration to feel confident to start your own running journey. It really is an amazing experience and one that is worth every ache, pain and blister just to get that banana and medal!

Lisa Oleary

O A IG 16

Lisa O’Leary is a 48-year-old wife and mother of two teenagers. Reaching her early 40’s her teenage children were quick to let her know that they already knew everything so she discovered she had time to offset her sedentary desk job and become a little more active. Since then she has learned to snowboard and horse ride, hiked up Mt. Snowdon, completed multiple 5K, 10K and 10 mile races, several mud runs, one half marathon and trained to be a UK Athletics Running Coach teaching beginner runners. Her mindset is that if you’re going to have a mid-life crisis then you may as well do it properly.

More articles from Lisa Oleary

Related Articles

Most recent articles by Lisa Oleary

Most recent articles in RUNNING