5 Things You Should Never Tell Beginner Running Friends

Friday 5It’s January, which means it’s the time of year when of our non-running friends are making grand plans to get fit. For many of us Salties, it’s the time of year when our non-running friends start asking us for help and advice as they decide that This Year is when they’re finally going to Get Into Running and actually finish that beginners program they’ve started a dozen times. At times like this, it’s important to remember that the lessons you’ve learned over the past few years of running marathons are not only irrelevant, but completely inappropriate, for your beginning runner friends. Rather than helping, it’s quite likely that clueing them in to any of the following will scare them off running.


1. How you gained 10 pounds training for a marathon. Most experienced runners know that marathon training is not the best time to try and drop weight, since you’re pushing your body to its limits with more and more mileage and it needs food to stay healthy. However, most newbies will assume that the more they run the more weight they can drop. For the true beginner who is also watching their diet, this may even be true. That said, if they’re coming to running as purely a weight-loss tactic, help them develop a love for the sport (and a sense of how to fuel healthfully) before you burst the bubble on their “running more will make me the thinnest ever” idea.

Fun runners taking part in the 2006 Bristol Ha...
Help your friends become happy runners. By keeping a few key secrets from them. For now. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Your own (paranoid) opinion of how slow you are.

It doesn’t matter if your 5k PR is 18 or 38 minutes: chances are, you think you’re the Slowest. Runner. Ever. While you may indeed have further speed potential that you haven’t yet tapped, keep that criticism to yourself when you’re talking to your friends who are new to runner. First of all, to them, you arefast. You’re an amazing, speedy, runner who logs huge amounts of miles and drops impressive times at all of your races. They think you’re all that and a bag of chips, and they want to be as fast as you are someday. Secondly, if they know that you’re perpetually unhappy with your race performances, they’re not going to believe you when you tell them that their 45-minute debut 5k was awesome. Maintain your ability to be genuinely encouraging and inspirational by keeping it positive.

3. The story behind each of your missing toenails. Yes, marathoners and other high mileage runners lose toenails like first graders lose teeth – often and excitedly. However, your friends that are training for that first 5k are maxing out at 10 miles a week. Maybe. Their toenails are in absolutely no danger. Showing them a slideshow of the demise of your big toenail after last year’s ultra? Not a good plan. Exception: If they come to you complaining about losing toenails, get them out into a decent pair of running shoes ASAP.

Do lend this bit of advice: never borrow someone else’s stick of skin lube.

4. Chafing. The personal kind. A little irritation between the thighs or under the sports bra is completely normal, and you should definitely introduce your friends to your favorite brand of skin protectant to keep that down to a minimum. However, you might want to just skip over the time you wound up with a bad case of inner-cheek chafing after your rainy 20-miler or what happened the time you wore that one pair of tights.

5. Code brown. Until they see it happen to someone else or come to you seeking help for their digestive woes, it’s best if you just don’t mention it at all. Even introducing the fact that this is a possibility during a run will strike fear into the hearts of those with even the greatest of gastrointestinal fortitude.

We’re not advocating lying to your friends, by any means. If they ask you a direct question about any of the above topics, answer them honestly. Just don’t give them more information than they need for now. It’s for their own good.

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In a previous life, I worked on computers and spent all day sitting. Thanks to running, I've rebooted my career and am now a running and triathlon coach and soon-to-be physical therapist. I've also got the mind and spirit of an elite trapped in the body of a back-of-the-packer.

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  1. Haha, these are so true, pretty sure I’ve made each of these mistakes at one time or another. This is a good reminder to help people learn to love running because of the positives instead of scaring them with the not so fun stuff

  2. Love these! I think I’d add the strange collection of running shoes and race shirts that I simply do not have the heart to get rid of.

    Oh, and that tapering and carb-loading is not as fun as it sounds (or should be)!