I can't run! (wordy backstory)

Recently, a bunch of my friends all got together and decided that we are going to run a 5K charity run in late September together. Now, I never was a runner (I was beat by a classmate with crutches and a full leg cast in a race once), but since I walk and ride my bike lots, I’m sure with a little practice I can improve. So I gathered up a buddy and started running pretty much every other morning just over 3 weeks ago.

The problem here is this: After about 10 minutes, my calves start to burn with the fires of little gnomish war camps in my muscles. By the end of a 20-25 min run, the poor guy I’m running with could probably walk faster than I’m “running” and I can hardly straighten my legs. I’m not panting, and the rest of me doesn’t hurt at all. My dad suggested that I might be running on my toes, and rolling my feet might help. It does slow down the fires of doom, by about 30 seconds. My technique is probably a big part of the problem, though.

Do any of the more athletically-inclined Dopers out there know where I could find some pointers/resources to help this?

Do I just need to wait longer, even though I am really limited in how far I can run my my wussy leggies? Or does this sound like something that would be fixed f I just knew how to run properly? (How does one learn to run “properly”? Watching marathoners on TV? Hiring a personal coach?)

First question: are you wearing running shoes?

Second question: how long have you had said shoes?

Lots of pains can be resolved by buying a good, quality pair of running shoes that are right for your particular feet.

Make sure you’re not running too fast, and not trying to do too much too fast. It’s okay to do a combo of walk/run. That’s how I started. I ran a quarter of a mile, then walked a quarter. Gradually I built the endurance to keep on running.

I don’t think you need a coach, because running really does come somewhat naturally. Just don’t try too much too soon.

–scout, who’s been running for a little over 4 years & who was the asthmatic fatty who couldn’t run a mile in high school gym class, but who’s now run 3 marathons. (phew!)

Oh, and Runner’s World online is a good resource. They have some tips for new runners.


You should be able to find general advice for beginners easily by following links like scout gave.

You sound like me when I started running. I had been a regular gym-goer for about 10 years, and knew I could hold up the aerobic demands (i.e. I had the heart and lungs) to go for an hour or two. So I decided to sign up for a 10k charity run which, I figured from the little running I tried, would take take me a little more than an hour. I finished in 1:08, but my legs were burning the whole time, and I felt “broken down” for two weeks. I overdid it, and I’m lucky I didn’t hurt myself. Now, a year and a half later, I have two marathons behind me.

The thing is, running is very hard on your legs/feet/joints. It just takes calendar time (and miles) to build up your leg’s tolerance for that kind of pounding. It’s also very hard to judge your proper pace when you’re beginning.

My advice is take shorter runs - where you’re sure you are running without risk of injury. Then build up your distance gradually.

I always figure I ran the right distance when the soreness (not pain) wears off after no more than 2 days after my long runs.

Here’s another thought - you mention you run with a buddy. Personally, whenever I’m out for a serious training run, I go alone. The problem I have is that if I have a speedy buddy, I end up running beyond my ability, and I always regret it. If I run with someone, I can only enjoy it if we have a pretty good understanding of what our pace/distance is going to be.

I know lots of people can’t stand to run alone, but you might consider it - just to find out what your own ability is.