Local runners share their racing motivation, tips

Sarah Rentzel Jones begins a morning run with her group at the Days Mill Rail Trail Stop. (Photo by Jason Plotkin)

for Smart

Sarah Rentzel Jones’ motivation to start running came from an unlikely place.

“I had been wanting to run for awhile, and I got a flier in the mail from the Leukemia Team in Training program,” said Jones, the pastor at St. Peter’s (Lischey’s) United Church of Christ in North Codorus Township.

“At that time, my dad was battling leukemia and I thought I would run in his honor. He died the next day, and I started running in his memory.”

That was last April. Since then, the 30-year-old mother of three ran the Hershey Half Marathon in October, and she has no plans of slowing down.

“I’m running an average of 15 miles a week right now, and the most I did was 25-30 miles each week when I was training for the half,” says Jones. “When I have a goal in mind, I work toward it like it’s my job.”

Jones trained for the half- marathon with a Team in Training group, and she sings its praises.

“It was awesome to train with a group. They gave us a training plan, and we ran our long runs together. When you’re getting up to eight to nine miles at a time, it’s good to feel like you’re not alone.”

For Jones, the benefits of running are more than just great exercise.

“It’s a stress reliever,” she said. “You can pound out your stress. And you also get a feeling of accomplishment. You feel like you’ve really done something.”

What you need

All you really need is a good pair of running shoes and some moisture-absorbing clothes.

Visit a specialty running store to be fitted for shoes. Knowledgeable staffers will watch you walk or run to see how your foot strikes the ground, and will determine your foot type. It’s best to replace shoes every 400 miles.

Throw out those old cotton T-shirts and invest in some moisture-wicking apparel to keep you cool, no matter the outside temps. If you’re running outside in chilly weather, dress in layers. You’ll warm up faster than you think!

Mark your calendar

There’s nothing more motivating then signing up for a race. By having a firm date on the calendar, you’re less likely to back down. Sign up for a 5K a few months out to allow plenty of time to train.

And if you have to walk part of the race, no one cares. That feeling when you cross the finish line sure is worth it.

Check out runningintheusa.com for a list of upcoming local races.

10 Smart tips to get started

Sarah Rentzel Jones and Doug Barnett, president of the York Road Runners Club, offer these tips for beginner runners.

1. Start slow. Follow a walk/run program and gradually increase your run time. “New runners think they can run two miles right away,” said Barnett. “The next thing you know, they’re injured and frustrated.”

2. Find a program. The easiest way to get started is to follow a run/walk method: Begin with a five-minute walk, followed by a one-minute run. Do this for 30 minutes total. Over a few weeks, gradually increase your run time and decrease your walking time.

“I followed the Couch to 5K program,” said Jones. This popular program, also known as C25K, promises new runners they’ll be running 30 minutes straight in just nine weeks.

3. Stretch. Some runners stretch before the run and some stretch afterward. Yoga is a great exercise for runners, too.

4. Take a breath. During your run, don’t forget to focus on your breathing. It might seem simple, but ignoring your breathing patterns can lead to those dreaded side-stitches. Instead of taking short, shallow breaths, take it slow and breathe deep from your belly. Exhale through your mouth. You should be able to carry on a conversation while running.

5. Ice those injuries. New runners might experience backaches, shin splits or sore hips, and the easiest (and cheapest) solution is to keep ice on it.

6. Run with a group. Find a running buddy and hold each other accountable. “It’s nice to know someone else will be there for that 5 a.m. run,” said Barnett.

. Cross train. Do additional exercises (swim, bike, lift weights) to work other muscles and increase strength.

8. Stay hydrated. “I take water on my longer runs,” said Jones. Find a hand-held water bottle or invest in a water-bottle belt if your runs are longer than an hour.

9. Snack time. Half an hour before your run, eat a small snack such as a banana or peanut butter toast. And afterward, drink plenty of water to rehydrate. Don’t forget to do some light stretches before, too.

10. It’s all mental. “The mind will give up before the body,” said Barnett, an eight-time marathoner.

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