In October, Jennifer reached her goal to successfully complete a marathon, and I reached my goal of running 43 miles in one month. Clearly, running is something we talk about a lot, both here in the office and on the blog. Last week, our reader Virginia said she was interested in running and wanted to hear our stories about how we got started. Thanks for your questions, Virginia!

We obviously both enjoy running, but the reason we enjoy talking about it on the blog is that it’s a great illustration of pursuing dreams and achieving goals. If you’re not a runner, don’t click off just yet! If you have other goals and aspirations of your own, there are good nuggets here that can definitely be applied to other things…

What prompted you to start running?

Aby: I originally started running about nine years ago. I had always had a secret dream of running a marathon after hearing the commencement speech of a marathon runner at my brother-in-law’s high school graduation. But the primary reason, at that time, was just to get in better shape. At that time, exercise wasn’t a regular part of my life. (I can’t imagine that now! How did I survive?)

Jennifer: I needed a change in my exercise routine. I was bored with the cardio and weights workouts I did at home a few times each week. Plus, I wanted to increase my fitness level and lose some weight. Every time I would take a look at people in my life who seemed to have the healthfulness I wanted, they were inevitably runners. Even though I had detested running as long as I could remember, I decided to give it another earnest try.

How long have you been running?

Aby: Nine years, though I had to take a break a few years ago due to injury. I restarted running just under two years ago after boot-camp got me back in shape.

Jennifer: I just celebrated my two-year “runniversary” in September.

How did you start?

Aby: I just started. I didn’t have any real plan I was following, but I did set a goal to run a 5K after I got a bit more serious about running. I followed a training plan from a magazine to get ready for that 5K, along with tips from a book. (You can read more about that initial 5K in my post about racing wisdom.)  

Jennifer: Slowly. LOL. I followed the Couch to 5K plan, and I highly recommend it. I thought about starting a few weeks in as opposed to Week 1 Day 1, because after all, it’s not as though I was a couch potato. However, on the advice of others I followed the plan as suggested and only advanced when I’d been able to successfully complete each week. It took me longer than 9 weeks to complete it, but that’s OK!

What are your favorite running apps?

Aby: I use Runstar which I love. It works great for running on the road and tracking distance and time, both of which has really fueled my motivation to run over the past month and a half. Usually after completing a race (which I did at the end of September) I lose the desire to run. But the monthly mileage goal, coupled with Runstar (and tracking via has kept me motivated! (Runstar doesn’t work well for running on a track…so for that I count laps manually and just track my time with Runstar.)

Jennifer: I love Runmeter because it connects to Facebook and Dailymile, so if someone posts encouragement to me in either of those places, I hear it through my ear buds. It’s definitely not as accurate as a Garmin, but it’s the most accurate smart phone app I’ve used so far.

What is your number one bit of advice?

Aby: Set a goal, such as to run in a 5K, or to run/walk a certain number of times a week, or (after you’re up and running (pun intended)) to run a certain number of miles in a month. This gives me the motivation to run, even when I don’t feel like it. I’m always glad I ran when I’m done…so having that extra incentive to get out there and do it, really pays off.

Komen Race St. Louis

I love running in big races like the Komen Race. It inspires me to train harder and there’s nothing quite like joining thousands of other runners in support of a common goal. 

Jen: I think I hated running because I don’t ever remember anyone “training” me to run, so my biggest piece of advice is to start slowly and progress at your own pace.

What has been your greatest accomplishment or experience with running?

Aby:  My greatest experience so far was running in the Miles for Mesothelioma race last September. I ran in that race six weeks after my Dad passed away, and it was Mesothelioma that claimed his life. I felt so close to my Dad when I ran, both training for the race and on race day. Running has played a big part in my life in the weeks since my Dad passed away. It keeps me going on the rough days, and that’s what I really love about running.

It has been said that the true value in setting a goal isn’t in reaching the goal, it is in who you become on your way to it. I can definitely say that has been true for me in running. Even though I haven’t yet achieved my initial goal of running a marathon, I have no regrets. Running has made me a stronger person physically and mentally. It is a terrific stress reliever, and it has gotten me through some tough times and has been the source of many happy times, too. If you want to get into running—or go for any goal or dream that you’re itching to try—go for it! Even if you don’t end up exactly where you thought you would, you will grow as a person and learn so much about yourself in the process.

Jennifer: It would be easy to say completing a marathon, and while that was absolutely a life-changing event, it’s not my answer to this question. I think my greatest accomplishment is that my daughters, who were 5 and 7 when I began running, have seen me try something I thought I couldn’t do and thought I hated. They’ve seen me discover that I not only can do this, but that I love it. They’ve watched me sacrifice and work hard to reach my goals, and they’ve discovered that I’m a happier, better mother when I run.

Color run

Knowing they are truly proud of me is just awesome. But, my greatest accomplishment is that my daughters are learning the value of being a strong, healthy woman.

Are you a runner? We’d love to hear your tips and suggestions for new runners. Thanks for sharing!