Mary Dacuma
August 09, 2015 6:45 am

I consider myself a self-forced runner, a member of the community of runners that loathe the practice. It’s not that I love running. I know it’s good for me. But I’m never lacing up my running shoes with a smile on my face.

Yet here I am, training for my third half-marathon. I’ll be running the Nike Women’s Run in San Francisco, where a tuxedo-clad fireman will greet me at the finish line with a medal in a Tiffany box. Until that day, there will be a lot of runs, some of them very long. But given that this is my third time around, I’ve learned a few tricks that make this inherently tortuous form of exercise more bearable.

Make a handful of great playlists

It’s no secret that good music can positively impact your mood and performance while working out. But instead of having one catch-all running playlist, you can have multiple playlists tailored to your moods and running goals. To get the right speed, you need to find songs that fit your target Heartbeats Per Minutes (BPMs). LifeHacker has aggregated a corresponding scale of BPMs to MPH. With that, you can simply plug in your songs to an online BPM counter and create a playlist from there. I recommend having at least one challenging, fast playlist and a slower playlist for the days you give yourself credit just for showing up.

The moods of your playlist are of utmost importance. A song’s BPM is worthless if it isn’t a song you want to hear at the moment. I personally have a super-fast, gritty rock playlist full of The Black Keys for when I’m stressed or angry; a somewhat fast female empowerment playlist with a lot of Kelly Clarkson for the days I feel strong; and a moderately-paced Beyonce workout playlist for when I would rather be dancing.

Get the right gear

There are a few important, somewhat obvious basics for all runners: dry-wicking apparel, the right shoes, thick performance socks cut high enough that you don’t get ankle blisters, and sunscreen if you are running outdoors. And then there are the accessories that make your life easier. A pair of inexpensive Bluetooth headphones are game-changing. There are no wires to trip you up (disastrous on a treadmill), and you can change tracks and adjust volume right from the headset, so you don’t have to stop and look at your phone.

If you run longer distances, get a hydration belt. Don’t be ashamed. I’d rather be a hydrated dork than parched, but stylish. Most of them carry two small bottles of water, and include a pocket for your keys and lip balm. You do not want to forget your lip balm. I nearly called a Lyft home over chapped lips, they were so distracting. A convenient stick-balm, preferably with SPF, is a good choice. This isn’t the time for egg-shaped balms or anything in a tin.

Be strategic about your route

Assuming you are running outside, you have two options—a track or a self-mapped route. If you are running on a track, make sure you pick one that makes sense for your distance. A half-mile track might be fine for a 3-mile run. But for a 6-mile run, you could find yourself losing count of your laps or getting bored with your surroundings on that same track.

If you are making your own route, design it strategically to optimize your run. If you need breaks (take them! no judgement) pick a busier street with more stop signs. Select neighborhoods or locations that you enjoy, whether its city streets with cute shops, business districts with skyscrapers, quiet residential neighborhoods, or even scenic shorelines. Drive there if you have to – there is no rule that your route has to start and end at your front door. If you aren’t carrying water, be sure to include places where you can get hydrated if necessary. And be aware of hills. Few things are as disheartening to the reluctant runner than unexpected hills.

One of my best kept running secrets is that I make sure the last mile of all my runs are familiar. In fact, I only have two options for that last mile. That way, no matter how tired I am or how long I have been running, I can tell myself, “You got this, you’ve done it a hundred times by now.”

Have a running buddy

Studies show that working out with friend can help increase your performance. Find a running buddy to help you get motivated. If your running buddy is faster or has more endurance, work with them to find a pace and distance that challenges you without pushing you over the edge.

If you are more of a solo runner like me, running buddies are still important. My friend Meg is my rock when I don’t feel like running. She has 14 half-marathons under her belt. I’ve run two of them with her. When we’re training, I’ll text her when I need a push, and she’ll remind me that I am stronger than I think and that it will all be worth it. She’ll even follow up with me to make sure I made it out the door. However you decide to work with your running buddy, the important thing is that you have a support system, as well as someone to help you stay accountable.

Download a good running app

A good running app should provide you with an incentive to run and a means of tracking your progress, which can become an incentive in and of itself. Zombies, Run turns running a game that’s a mix of The Walking Dead and Farmville. With RunKeeper, achieving personal milestones in speed, distance, frequency or elevation change unlocks running apparel for purchase. They’ll also save your routes in case you want to run them in the future, and they’ll email you reminders if you haven’t gone running in a while. Do some research or trial and error, and see what works best for you.

Sign up for a race

This may seem counterintuitive, but trust me. The times you run a race are the most fun runs of your life. You have so much adrenaline, you can go farther and faster than you do on a normal day. The route is lined with people cheering you on. There are convenient water stations. Sometimes there is even beer or hot chocolate at the finish line. Most larger events, like those run by Nike, The Rock N Roll Series, or even Disney, are well-organized and entertaining. But the best part is when you get that medal, and you know that you’ve accomplished something through persistence and hard work. Plus, Instagram photos with race medals always get a ton of likes.

[Image via NBC]

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