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  • Writer's pictureLyns Romano

Learning to Run: Belonging and Breaking Down Barriers

Updated: May 1

"Runners are extremely professional. They are nine times as likely to be scientists, they are rich, they don't smoke, they are thin, and possibly compulsive about their sport."

This was an excerpt from a story published in the Washington Post in 1979 about the new running phenomenon. Not exactly an inclusive statement that would make most of us feel like we could hop into a race, right?

The 1970s marked the beginning of the “running boom” and while road running began to gain momentum as a participation sport, the culture surrounding it was geared toward a niche group.

As someone who began running as an adult, I felt that running was something far beyond my capabilities for much of my life.

To those who don’t run or are new to the sport, running can be intimidating. For lots of us, it starts in childhood or adolescence: it’s a much dreaded part of annual fitness testing and is often used as a punishment in gym class or in other sports (laps around the field, anyone?).

For these reasons and more, many of us feel ambivalent or even hostile towards running. So no wonder that if we want to give running another go as adults, it seems intimidating or mysterious.

But it doesn’t need to be like that!

Running is For Everyone

The landscape of running has changed a lot over the past few decades. Social media and other online platforms have opened up access to running knowledge, training plans, support networks and even coaches for the everyday runner. These changes have shifted how people see running.

Instead of the elite and compulsive competition of the 1979 Washington Post, running has become a more inclusive activity that welcomes beginners and those wanting to learn. From all-levels run clubs to running influencers celebrating every pace and body type, the joy of running is more accessible than ever before.

Still, the thought of lacing up and going out for your first run (or your first run in a while) - let alone showing up on a start line - can feel scary. Getting started can feel miles away from feeling comfortable and confident.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t elitism in running; there are still running enthusiasts and professionals who don’t make it a welcoming place. Don’t let these folks make you feel like you don’t belong! My favourite thing about running is that there is room at the table for everyone. I started my coaching business to embody my personal mission to make sure that this is a safe place for everyone who wants to participate. 

The start line is an equalizer. We all line up at the same start line and all of us are about to do something really hard and really brave. Regardless of how fast you run, a race is a shared experience. There are no big fish and runners of all experience levels run together. In what other sport can someone running their first race share a start line with a pro, an Olympian or a world record holder?

Myths About Learning to Run

As a coach, I have heard every reason why someone doesn’t consider themselves a runner - even if they run regularly! Let’s break down some of the most common myths I hear.

A man and woman running

“I’m too slow.”

If you run, you’re a runner - period. Even if your pace feels slow, even if you take walk breaks. When we break it down to its essence, the difference between running and walking is whether or not both our feet leave the ground. When we walk, at least one foot is on the ground at all times. When we run, there is a phase of our stride when both of our feet leave the ground, even if that phase is very brief.

So if both your feet leave the ground at any point, even if just for a fraction (or a fraction of a fraction!) or a second - congratulations! You’re a runner.

“I don’t do any races.”

Many runners like to test their limits and see what their body can do in a race. From 5K to 100 miles, there are races of all distances to suit any goal.

It can feel like racing is required to be a "real" runner. Again, social media - and the internet more generally - can make us believe that if we don’t race, we’re not real runners. This isn’t true! I know many runners who are content with having running as a part of their routine and reaping the physical and mental benefits of an active lifestyle.

“I don’t have a runner’s body.”

Anybody, and any body, is capable of running. It’s one of our most natural movements and can be traced back to ancient humankind. And yet, the image of the thin runner persists.

A runner’s body is a body that runs. There are no other requirements.

My Coaching Philosophy

My journey into the world of running began in 2012 without any prior experience in racing or formal run training. What started as a step into the unknown quickly transformed into a hobby that has shaped my adult life.

This personal evolution deeply influences my coaching philosophy. I understand firsthand the apprehensions and discomfort that can accompany the early stages of running or entering new running communities. My approach is rooted in empathy and personalized coaching, aiming to dismantle these barriers. I strive to create an inclusive, supportive environment where runners of all levels can thrive.

This philosophy underpins the ethos of Skyline Run Coaching, where we believe in nurturing not just athletes but individuals who are as passionate about running as they are about living a balanced, fulfilling life.

Coaching for Everyone

Our aim is to make running approachable and enjoyable, helping new runners feel supported and confident as they get started with running or are preparing for a race. Our coaches, experienced and passionate about running, adopt a holistic approach to ensure running remains a rewarding part of life for every athlete regardless of their ability. 

We’re particularly proud of our SRC Beginner 5K Coaching program, designed with newer runners in mind. What sets this program apart from other learn-to-run programs is a comprehensive, high-touch support system that encompasses every aspect of training. This is a 1:1 program guided by a professional coach.

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