mailboxes and minutes

.         I left you guys hanging with only 2 of Janie’s 3 posts in a series on running.  [I’ve been away from my computer and all forms of internet now for about 4 weeks, and I’m just easing back into it.  I’ll let you know what I’ve been up to in my next post.]
.        I won’t do much to introduce Jane Reneau again; I will however point you to her first two posts in the series — here and here.  And, since she’s writing today about getting started in running, I’ll let you in on this little secret…  Janie ran her first half-marathon at the age of 16.  She placed last.  Very last.
.        But she still won her age group.



I started running somewhere around the age of 14.  My mom had been running for several years by that point and I wanted to give it a try myself.  The only way I knew to start was to simply start, to lace up my shoes, throw on my Umbros and a t-shirt, and run down the road.  I used mailboxes as my measurement of distance and each day I tried to go one mailbox further than I had the day before.  At the very least, I tried to reach the mailbox I’d run to the day before.  I did not think about pace or how quickly I should reach the next mailbox, I just ran.

Before long I had a mile and then two.  Before the time of GPS watches and Google pedometer, I used Mom’s routes which she measured in her car.  I started running 5ks and even the occasional 10k, reaching 10 miles by the age of 16.

Today, there are all sorts of plans and programs to help new or returning runners reach their running goals.  Programs such as “Couch to 5k” or “No Boundaries” take inactive and semi-active people and help them train to run a 5k.

My sister and I are approaching our fourth season as coaches for the No Boundaries program, and I really like the plan this program uses.  It is a walk/run approach where the runner begins to lengthen the minutes spent running and shorten the minutes spent walking until they are running an entire 3 miles.  This approach also allows runners to start where they are athletically.  We have some folks who are literally coming straight off the couch and their bodies are not used to any physical exertion whatsoever.  We also have those who are regular gym goers and they can usually run longer from the beginning.

For someone who is not very active, the training plan might look something like this:

Week 1
Walk 2 minutes, run 1 minute – repeat 5 times.  Do this 3 times a week.

Week 2
Walk 2 minutes, run 1.5 minutes – repeat 6 times.  Do this 3 times a week.

Week 3
Walk 2 minutes, run 2 minutes – repeat 7 times.  Do this 3 times a week.

Eventually, instead of repeating these sequences a certain amount of times, you would do them until you reached 1 mile, 1.5 miles, and then 2 miles. Also, the walking time would eventually move to 1 minute while the running minutes continued to increase. By the time the program reaches 2.5 miles, those with the goal to run the entire 5k are running most of the training runs.

Plans of this sort also exist for the 10k distance, half-marathons and marathons.  So once you get started, the sky is the limit and you can find all the help you need in your local running community, online, or you can always e-mail me and I will be glad to help in any way I can.  Or you can just use the mailbox method.  There is no magic formula – it is about finding a good starting point that is doable, yet challenging.

As far as what you need to get started, I am not a huge fan of all the things your local running store will try to convince you are necessary to run down the road.

A good pair of shoes?  Sure.  Try some on and run around the store.  Mine are usually a half size bigger than my non-running shoes.  For beginners, I’d stay away from extra inserts of any kind unless prescribed by a doctor – and even then my opinion is that any injuries or discomfort are probably caused more by incorrect running form instead of a bad pair of shoes.

Maybe some running attire that makes you feel strong and athletic?  Sure!  You want something that is comfortable, loose, and you want to feel like you look good in it.  Otherwise you won’t want to put it on and go workout.  It sounds so silly, but it is true.  How you feel about yourself affects how well you run and train.  Having the right apparel will also help you run in less than pleasant conditions such as extra humid days or really cold ones.

For informational and motivational articles and such, visit or  Two books that I really enjoyed were “My Life on the Run” by Bart Yasso and “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.  This last book addresses the issues of shoes and running form as well.

There is so much more, but for now I think that covers the basics.  One last thing, however, is do not give up!  Not every day is going to be easy or feel great.  But there are days that will feel that way and both kinds will be totally worth it.  Consistency is the key to getting better and hopefully, to falling in love with the sport. I have and it has enriched my life immensely. I pray it does the same for you!


Filed under guest posts, running, sports

8 responses to “mailboxes and minutes

  1. Well, since Bill’s told me that I can’t say “I can’t”, I’m not sure how to say this, but, well, I just can’t be a runner. I’ve tried. I’ve pushed. I’ve sprinted. But, see, during the formative years and 20 years afterward, I had this monstrous hole between my left atrium and my right atrium, and that caused my pulmonary artery and the right ventricle of my heart to really, really, really, really expand. Yep, it even caused abnormal expansion of the lungs. The major problem with ASD is limited endurance, and as I became older, the endurance became more and more and more limited. So, yeah, the surgery fixed the hole, but not the damage. The damage MIGHT be repairing itself to a certain extent, but endurance sports are not a thing that work well for me. I wish they would. I love the idea of being a bad@** athlete. Backyard workouts with sledgehammers and sandbags and heavy balls, etc. And, actually, for a while, I was doing that kind of thing. But, right now, with all the other responsibilities I have going on, there is absofreakinglutely no way.

    Basically, I find myself giving up. I don’t “look” terribly out of shape. I’m not monstrously fat. I do admit I’m not what I wanna be, but I simply don’t know how much my body can handle. Often, these “GET WITH IT” things don’t allow for people with genuine health problems. Doctors basically say I’m fine, but I’m really in uncharted territory, because people with a pulmonary artery three times normal size aren’t supposed to live to 43, so I really think the docs have no idea of what’s going to happen with me. They’ve done what they can, but how much it helps is uncertain, and they admit that.


  2. Well, these “GET WITH IT” things do not take into account the special cases where people simply cannot run, but I do understand those cases. As I’ve mentioned before, running is NOT for everyone. But health and fitness is. So I believe there is something for you. I don’t know much about pulmonary artery issues, but taking care of your body is still possible. Eating right, going for a 20 minute walk to enjoy a sunrise or sunset. Swimming at the local YMCA. Pilates or yoga. I really have no idea, but you would know better. And it would need to be something you enjoy, that does not hurt you or worsen preexisting conditions, and that fits nicely into a busy schedule.

    I pray you find it it, Bernard. And that you won’t give up.

    • Part of the problem is that I’m obsessive and when I start working out, a little is not enough. I keep pushing harder and harder until it becomes more than I can handle, and then I have to quit, and it’s harder and harder to get started again. I hurt so many darn ways and places that virtually anything physical that I can do winds up aggravating something. The knees are trash, my elbow has been broken and is sensitive, and exercises that involve chest and abdomen quickly aggravate the scar tissue from the surgery. (If you can pop your chest like most people pop their knuckles, you know you’ve had open heart surgery…) It’s a terrible struggle to just wake up and get going in the mornings right now, and I don’t know WHAT the heck that’s all about. but it’s the lot I’m having to deal with, regardless.

      I definitely need to be more active, but it really does require a certain amount of cooperation from the old body that I’m having a REALLY hard time finding right now 🙂

  3. Jane, thanks for the series. They have been helpful. Last year my wife and I signed up to run a half-marathon here in Murfreesboro, TN. We went online and found a training program. We worked the program and accomplished our goal of completing the race. I lost motivation after the race was over and need to get back at it. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Oh, and the shin splints. Holy cow.

  5. steve ker

    Good article. I started running by taking a YMCA class where our goal was to run a 5K, which I did at the end of the class. I then went on to run many 5ks and 10ks and other races, including 5 marathons in one year and a total of 13 marathons before “retiring” from long distance running.I started running at 49 years old and still run at 65. Hiking,biking, snow shoeing, you just have to keep moving and enjoying the outdoors. Living in Oregon we have to move indoors sometimes when the weather is bad.I’ve run in Portugal, Mexico, Mozambique, and wherever I go. All you need is shoes, shorts and a shirt. It’s a great sport.

  6. JMF

    Love reading your running posts, Jane!

    I ran 1.5m last week, so I’ll be up to you in no time flat!! 🙂 I’ve been walking in some 5-finger shoes…those would be awesome to wearing when running on a soft surface. Trying to break them in (break my body in!).

    Okay: I’ve set a goal to run (actually RUN…not walk) a 5K on April 16. Hopefully I’ll get a shirt…I’m going to be very disappointed if they don’t have shirts in 3xl! 🙂 Not all runners are skinny, ya know! 🙂

    I’ll start checking out your blog.

    • That is SO AWESOME! Congrats on your 1.5 miles! Keep it up. I have no doubt you will totally rock your 5k in April. And I’m honored that you are enjoying my posts! 🙂 I hope to hear more about how training is going!

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