Learn to be a runner starting from zero

First lay out a distance from your driveway to one mile away. You can use the odometer on your car to get started. Try to choose a route that doesn't cross major streets. If you are ambitious notice where the half mile is.

Your first goal is to walk this distance as fast as you can. Start by just doing a normal brisk walk. Walk to the mile mark and back. You must time yourself and keep track of the time. I used the stopwatch function on my watch and just didn't erase it until I began walking the next day. It would be best to write down your time.

Don't feel that you have to walk every day.

As time goes by you will find that it takes a lot of concentration to keep your pace up. After a few weeks you will find that you have hit a plateau. You should be able to hit 14 minutes per mile.

After you are convinced that you have hit the plateau and can't possibly go any faster you now start to jog small sections of your distance - just across streets or just a few steps here and there.  Some people go from mailbox to mailbox others driveway to driveway. Your time will drop dramatically.  This is inspiring.

Be careful. You don't want to try to do too much at once. As days and weeks go by you should be able to gradually pull the running sections together. Your time will continue to improve. You will start to feel the results when you go up stairs or do other things that take effort. This phase could take a couple of months depending on your age, ambition, natural ability, inspiration, etc.

Finally you will be able to run 2 miles without stopping. I guess you will be going about 10 to 12 minutes per mile.

Now you must increase your distance. If you are ambitious you may try to do your route twice. Don't do it all at once. Walk and jog your additional miles.  Gradually get so you can run 4 miles.

At some point when you think you can do 3 miles below 12 minutes  per mile you are ready to enter a 5K race. Find a big race if possible. Little races are often loaded with only good dedicated runners who have been running since their college track days. Races are really inspiring. You will find a bunch of people much like yourself - people working as best they can on their running, usually with no more time to give it then you and just as athletically inclined.  Races give you feedback on how you are doing. You will find yourself being passed and passing others. It's really inspirational.

Your ultimate goal is to run a 5K under 30 minutes and a 10K under an hour.  For some the goal is to run your age in minutes in the 10K (I haven't made this goal yet). This is a tough goal. It takes work. Don't expect to do it the first thing. DON'T do a 10K first...it'll kill you and you might lose your inspiration.

Hints -

From the time that you start jogging you should cross train on a bike. It can be a stationary bike or a regular bike. Most people who get injuries have them because the supporting muscles around the knee are not strong enough. Even people that run regularly have this problem. Once a week for an hour or so on a regular bike or 10 minutes two or more times a week on a stationary bike cranked up to pretty good resistance.

Posture is important. I have had nearly every running injury in the last 7 years. I no longer have any problems or pain because I fixed my running posture. You must run very erect - head up and chest out. This forces you to step correctly so your leg motion is correct it also puts your weight in the correct place so your back doesn't get hurt.

You need to buy a pair of shoes every 500 miles or once or more per year. Get good shoes that fit. Don't wear them for other things. They are tools and must be treated with respect - allow them to dry out between uses.

You should keep track of your time. If you are not working on it then you may endup being a (no! never use this word to describe yourself) jogger. You are a runner. You aren't out for fresh air, or to get a little exercise. You are out there to learn about your body, to commune with your fellow runners, to improve and learn.

As you get so you can run you will want to improve your times. To do this you must do speed work. There are three ways to do speed work

- fartlek (yup it's a real word) which means to do speed ups during your run. Occasionally just pickup the pace sometimes a lot and sometimes a little.

- run hills. If you keep up your pace, hills are speed work without the speed.

- every couple of weeks actually run a fast quarter then walk/jog a quarter then run a snappy half and walk/jog a quarter until you have done enough.

Speed work tells your body that it has to become more efficient because you are going to be doing this all the time (don't tell your body otherwise).

Running is really fun. It's doing really hard work and feeling that you have done a good thing. It's fun to set goals and try to reach them.  It's fun to just sweat like a cow - water running off your nose, ears and chin. It gives you insight into your mind and body. You will find that running is a mental exercise more then a physical one.

Good luck,

Personal experiences
 Runner's World
 Joe Henderson