While you may catch glimpses of them lining up for a marathon or getting in position on the track, the pros are at the front of the pack leading the charge of visibility for the sport of running When they aren’t racing, they’re training (and using the little free time they have left for extracurriculars). Because most of us don’t get the chance to sit down with professional runners for advice, we wanted to get their most important tips for new runners who are looking to start or advance in the sport.
Here is what 10 Under Armour-sponsored pro runners had to say when we asked them one simple question:
“One of the biggest pieces of advice I’d give to new runners (or to myself when I was first starting) is to ‘remember your why.’ When running isn’t as easy or fun as I’d like, or when I’m falling short of my desired results/outcomes, I remind myself of my purpose for starting: To be better (… kinder, stronger and wiser).
“I ask myself, ‘Is running helping me be kinder to myself, to others, to this planet? Is running helping me become a stronger person mentally, physically, spiritually? Am I being open to what running is teaching me?’ To me, these are often much more important — and more fulfilling — checkpoints than any time I might run or accolade I might achieve.
“In the past, I have gotten caught up in perceived pressures and expectations to hit objective times or goals, and that could become a mental burden to me, putting a cloud over my relationship with running. Now, I relieve myself of a lot of pressure and expectation by reminding myself of my ‘why;’ or my purpose for running. When I get in touch with this, everything seems to shift back into perspective and an overwhelming sense of gratitude fills me. I feel lighter, happier and more centered and focused on what’s important.”
— Rachel Schneider, a professional middle-distance runner, who recently qualified for her first Team USA slot at the upcoming IAAF World Athletics Championships
“Before getting into the thick of running, I wish to had known to always have a positive mindset. I find I have taken running too seriously where, if I were having bad workouts or races, I would get down and not have fun anymore. That would be really challenging for me because with a bad attitude, I notice myself getting unmotivated and that is not who I am as an athlete. I had to get back into a mental rhythm of always being positive!
“When you are positive, you will attract positive things into your life; that is how you’ll remain happy and always have fun. I’m glad I know this now going forward with my passion and career of running, as I am certain this mindset will take me further and keep things exciting. I have come to realize with this new mindset, running is something I am very grateful for.”
— Ashley Taylor, professional middle-distance runner
“I wish somebody told me it can take over 10 years to scratch the surface of your full potential; I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself when I was younger and I believe I would have enjoyed the process much more, knowing that it’s a long road if you can’t learn to love what you do (which is true for anything you’re willing to dedicate yourself to).
“This doesn’t mean you won’t achieve success along the way, but if you learn to love the process, you stand a far higher chance of making it to the end and finding out how successful you can be. The next time you have a bad training session or race, remember there will be many more, but if you hang around long enough … you might just surprise yourself some days. Goals that once felt like a mountain, will become your new personal records.”
— Stephen Scullion, professional long-distance and marathon runner, whose 02:14:34 in the Houston Marathon made him the all-time third fastest marathon runner in Northern Ireland
“Before I started running, I wish I had known how important it can be to stretch and foam roll! Small aches and pains can become injuries if you’re not taking the time to stretch and help your body recover. When you keep your body loose, you can minimize injuries and maximize the work you’re putting in when training. My favorite recovery tools are a lacrosse and golf ball. I use them to keep my glutes, hips and arches loose!”
— Claudia Saunders, professional middle-distance runner, who was a six-time All-American in her time at Stanford University
“To answer this question very simply I will say, I wish I knew that every run is not going to be glamorous. In fact, it is more than likely that you are going to find yourself questioning why running is so hard, while making you feel so good at the same time. I have been running competitively for 15 years, and I fall more in love with the sport every time I reach the next level.
“From summer track days in 5th grade to hitting the Olympic trials qualifying standard in the 10K this spring, I have had plenty of runs that feel downright awful. What I have learned over the years is that it’s OK to not feel great on every run; instead of getting frustrated or questioning my fitness I accept the hurt and say, ‘It is OK that I don’t feel great today, but on every run I am learning more about myself and enjoying the process.’
“I think that anyone who is just starting out in the sport needs to know that even professional-level runners do not feel like a million bucks on every run. The reason running makes me feel so good comes after I accept those hard moments. The race where everything I have worked for and envisioned becomes a reality. So next time you are out on a run and not feeling your best, accept it, don’t get frustrated and continue to move forward.”
— Emily Durgin, professional long-distance runner
“Before I started running, I wish I knew the following: How not to get injured. How to stay patient. How to make a career out of athletics. How tough the sport actually is. How to keep inspired and motivated every step of the way. But, on the contrary … how cool the sport of athletics actually is! How fun travelling for your job is. How cool it is to chase the summer all year long.”
— Luke Mathews, professional middle-distance runner who represented Australia in the 2016 Rio Olympics
“Running feels better when you’re warmed up. For me that means 10–15 minutes of targeted exercises and drills, but it could be as simple as dancing around to your favorite song before heading out the door. Warmed up muscles and primed tendons feel smoother in your first mile, making your run better from the start — plus it might reduce the risk of injury!”
— Aisha Praught-Leer, professional middle-distance and steeplechase runner, who took gold in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
“As you get fitter, the races don’t actually get easier, but you get better at pushing yourself and getting more out of your body. I think that it is easy to assume that running gets a lot easier once you are training more consistently (and yes, the normal runs and sessions do get easier), however the actual races are still really hard! And I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I think it’s kind of the point actually — to keep pushing yourself to get better and better!”
— Morgan McDonald, professional long-distance runner, who took first in the 5,000m at the 2018 Australian Athletics Championships
“I wish I knew how challenging running really is. Now that challenge is what draws me to the sport. But like any challenge, it deserves respect. There is no easier way to quickly fall out of love with running than a dreaded injury, so take things slow. I mean really slow. Both the pace of your runs and how quickly you add distance to said runs. It is completely inconsequential what anyone else around you is doing. If you are new to the sport of running, you must learn to listen to your body and abide by those signals. Have you seen ‘The Big Lebowski?’ ‘The Dude abides.’ And so should you.”
— Will Leer, professional middle-distance runner
BONUS: ADVICE FROM A COACH
“I wish I understood how important the values of patience and consistency were before starting with the sport. There is a lot of hard work that goes into improving, but any amount of work needs to be matched with an equal amount of patience/consistency for the best results.”
— Tom Brumlik, a coach for Under Armour and general manager of the District Track Club