If there’s one piece of advice Latoya Shauntay Snell wishes she had received at the beginning of her running journey, it’s this: “You don’t have to look or run like a gazelle to be a runner.”
Even without that advice, the 35-year old Brooklyn-based runner persevered from her first, few tentative strides back in 2013, and today, she’s got a list of over 200 running event finishes to her name. Snell makes a living inspiring others through her freelance writing and star influencer status, blogging under the handle the Running Fat Chef. “I came to the sport for weight loss, but it took reframing my mindset to stick with it,” she said.
Mirna Valerio, 44 — aka the Mirnavator — got into running with the goal of feeling better following a 2008 health scare. She had run in high school but like many adults, fell off her fitness regimen as a busy lifestyle took over. Her return to the sport began with just one mile. “It was hard and painful both physically and emotionally,” she admits. “But I met myself where I was and one mile became two, and then I built from there. If you want to be a runner, you have to run.”
Like Snell, Valerio has now run hundreds of races — and the longer, the better. Both women will tell you they found their love of running one step at a time. “You need to be patient with yourself and practice loving yourself,” said Valerio. “Running is an expression of self love and taking a holistic approach will lead to a better experience.”
You don’t have to look or run like a gazelle to be a runner.
Morgon Latimore, whose Latitude Pure Coaching business comes with the tagline “empowering all athletes,” agrees with this approach. “We want our athletes to have a healthy mind, healthy body and happy life,” he said. “Too many people are intimidated by running, looking at marathoners, Ironman finishers and really fast athletes. Instead, look at your own life and start where you are.”
Ready to run? Get started with these 3 tips
If you’ve never thought of yourself as a runner, Snell, Valerio and Latimore are here to say give it a try. They’ve got three tips to make the experience more enjoyable and less intimidating.
1. Build slowly.
Focus on the moment you are in, not where you want to go. “You will get there,” said Latimore, “but pace yourself and be patient.”
Sometimes that means pulling back. “Give yourself permission to take breaks if you need them,” said Snell. “I’m a sponsored athlete and yet, due to the stress of the pandemic, I didn’t run for several months because I couldn’t motivate. Take breaks and do something else if you come up against a road block.”
If you want to be a runner, you have to run.
Valerio adds that it’s ok to take walk breaks if you need them. “Start at a conversational pace,” she said. “If you need to walk, walk. Then start back up again, and the next time, try to go a minute or two longer.”
2. Embrace the suck.
Even the most experienced of runners will tell you, not all runs are going to feel good. “I’d say there are about three of seven days when I think it sucks,” admitted Snell. “There are going to be rough days.”
When you first get started, you might be a bit overzealous and then hit a wall. “Your mind will get tired and you’ll get burned out,” Latimore cautioned. “You’ll tell yourself you’re not good enough, that it’s too painful, that you don’t want to go on. Prepare for that wall.”
3. Mark the small goals.
Even if you get knocked down by a bad run or two, getting up and back at it is important. “It takes a couple of weeks to notice the benefits,” said Valerio. “But pay attention to small things — you’re less winded, or you’re sleeping better, for instance.”
Latimore agreed. “You have to celebrate along the way,” he said. “Notice your progress in pace, or maybe you hit seven days in a row of training.”
Wherever you are on your journey, take heart that with patience and grace, you can reach your goal and become the runner you never thought you’d be. said Snell: “Breath by breath and step by step. You’re capable of doing anything and remember that you’re an athlete if you show up.”