Running 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Picking Up Your Miles


Illustration by James Coreas.

There is something immensely satisfying about the act of putting one foot in front of the other and logging miles on some of the DMV’s stunning trails — particularly now. I imagine future anthropologists looking at Instagram as an artifact of the pandemic and concluding that half of all Americans took up baking while the other half started running. Not that this has to be an either/or proposition, as I like going for a run while the dough is rising. It’s the perfect amount of time and makes me think I have earned the carbs.

When I started running, my biggest fear was boredom. I thought plodding along for miles and miles would be frustrating and infuriating. I pictured myself giving up halfway and taking a cab home. If I’m honest, there were times those feelings surfaced, but I never hailed that taxi. 

At the beginning of my running journey, my legs were deeply unsure about this whole “exercise” thing, and I suspect they would have sent a strongly worded letter to management, had they been able. Through taking it slowly, not pushing myself too hard and having the right gear, I began to look forward to lacing up my sneakers. Those complaining legs quickly became willing partners, and my runs became a daily mental escape from stress by taking in some scenery, quieting my mind and getting some of that needed exercise.

D.C. is a runner’s city: scenic routes, classic races and fantastic running groups to join. If you’re just starting out, be sure to go get fitted for some running shoes by a pro at a running store, pace yourself with shorter mileage and try running on different types of terrain to see what you like. Pavement is good for the sure footing, but trails are kinder on your joints — just slow down and watch where you’re stepping. Runners are part of a wonderful community and I’ve made some great friends along the way, so don’t be afraid to join a group. They’re always welcoming to new runners.

Advice + Wisdom from Pacers Running Community Lead Elyse Braner + DC Front Runners Coordinator Socrates Tiglao

District Fray: What is your training advice for a new runner?
Elyse Braner: For somebody who is just trying to build up their mileage, I recommend a program of walking and jogging. Start off repeating 30 seconds of jogging and a minute of walking, eventually decreasing the amount of time you’re walking and increasing the amount of time you’re running.

What’s the best part about joining a running group?
Socrates Tiglao: Meeting new people. Front Runners, for example, has new people joining every week, and it’s like adding to your running support group. When I first joined, I instantly felt at home and welcomed, even though I was a newish runner.

What do you wish you had done differently when you first started?
Tiglao: I wish I had started earlier! I did have a few minor initial injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and tendonitis, but I recovered and my body got stronger.

Running shoes and clothes aren’t just for fashion. What are the must-haves for beginners?
Braner: Having the right pair of shoes is going to make or break you. If you are in uncomfortable shoes or shoes that will make you prone to injury, you’re not going to continue the activity. If you go to a local running store like Pacers, they will put you through a running assessment to help you find the right pair of shoes that fits your budget. Going into summer, make sure you’re wearing lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics.

What keeps you running?
Braner: The community. I’m a very social runner and I love meeting up with groups and friends.
Tiglao: For me, it’s my health. It’s therapeutic for me right now. Work and life can be stressful and sometimes you need to just get away and do something you love. Even if it’s just a few miles, it’s meaningful for me.

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