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How to start running: Canterbury marathon runner Karen Bennett offers New Year advice

Karen Bennett completed her 100th marathon last month, despite running her first one just six years ago.

Here, the biology teacher from Canterbury offers advice to those who might be thinking of taking up jogging or running in the New Year...

Karen at the end of Milton Keynes Marathon in 2019, where she ran her only under-four hour marathon
Karen at the end of Milton Keynes Marathon in 2019, where she ran her only under-four hour marathon

Whatever shape, size or weight we are, most of us are capable of running - whether it be a jog around the block, a Parkrun, or a marathon.

If you're thinking about pulling on a pair of trainers...

1. Do it! Running is a great way to improve physical fitness and mental wellbeing. After a tough day at work, a run is guaranteed to clear your mind.

2. Don't worry about what other people think. The only person who will judge you is yourself.

3. Try Parkrun. If you're new to running, I'd strongly recommend signing up to Parkrun. Whether you complete the 5k in 19 minutes or 50, everyone is made welcome. Tail walkers ensure that no one is left behind.

Karen (right) running the Bacchus Marathon in September 2019, for a friend's pre-wedding 'run-do'
Karen (right) running the Bacchus Marathon in September 2019, for a friend's pre-wedding 'run-do'

4. Join a club. Running with others is a great way to make the miles fly by, hit targets and make new friends. It took me a couple of years to pluck up the courage to join Canterbury Harriers, convinced I wasn't good enough. I wish I'd joined sooner. There are a whole range of running clubs out there, catering for all abilities.

5. Mix things up. While running the same route, on a regular basis, is a great way to track progress, it can become tedious. I love nothing more than exploring new trails and footpaths. We live in a beautiful part of the country, with hidden gems you can only reach on foot.

6. Make sure you have the right shoes. If you'll be running on a regular basis, it's worth visiting a specialist running store to get your gait analysed. You don't need need the most expensive, the newest model, or the best-looking pair of trainers, but with the wrong footwear you risk picking up injuries.

7. Try lapped events. If you're looking to step up to half-marathon distance or further, I'd recommend signing up for a timed event. Local companies like Saxons, Vikings and Normans run regular six-hour lapped events. You can run as many, or as few laps as you want within the time limit. They're low-key, super supportive and full of like-minded people. I was worried I'd feel out of place, but needn't have worried. You'll meet a lot of regular runners of all abilities, including some truly inspirational individuals.

8. Don't fixate on times and distances. While having goals is a great motivator, accept that we all have "off" periods.

Karen at the end of Milton Keynes Marathon in 2019, where she ran her only under-four hour marathon
Karen at the end of Milton Keynes Marathon in 2019, where she ran her only under-four hour marathon

9. Stick with it. If you are new to running, it may well be a while before you can run a mile comfortably. That's normal. Like most things, you're unlikely to fall in love with running straight away, but stick with it. You'll quickly find that you can run further and further without feeling that you have to cling onto a lamppost to catch your breath.

10. Get out whatever the weather. You'll be getting a shower when you get home, so don't let a bit of rain put you off. I have to admit to feeling a degree of smugness when I've been for a run in the rain, knowing that most people haven't ventured outside.

11. Most importantly, have fun!

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