By the end of my first year of running, I was doing regular 2-mile runs and had learned to run at an even pace without stopping. In fact, to train myself not to run too fast, I told myself that stopping was NOT allowed. I even ran several blocks at the end of a run with an untied shoe because I wasn’t allowed to stop and tie it.
One thing that I began to notice was that at the beginning of every single run, I had doubts that I could complete the run that day without stopping. Even though I always finished, my confidence level was still low. One day I finally realized one of the reasons that this was happening. While you are running, you quickly notice that there are hills in places that you previously perceived were flat. My house happens to be surrounded by these long, gradual hills that I didn’t even realize existed and I actually was starting every run with an uphill climb. After discovering this, I was able to keep myself from getting so discouraged when starting out.
Unfortunately, another thing that I learned about quickly in that first year was something called Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (aka Runner’s Knee) which is an all to common problem for runners. It feels like a pain in the knee joint but it’s actually caused by the knee cap not “tracking” properly and irritating the groove in the femur bone in which it rides. The pain is especially bad when you run, bend your knee or walk down stairs. What exactly causes Runner’s Knee is still somewhat of a mystery but weak quadriceps and improper or worn shoes are widely regarded as the main reasons. Since I was still running in heavy street shoes, I went out and bought some actual running shoes. I also decided to try running with a knee brace which really helped a lot. I was able to complete my 2-mile route with no pain at all. After about 3 weeks of running with a knee brace, I forgot it one day. It wasn’t until halfway through the run that I realized it but I also noticed that there was no pain. I stopped wearing the brace after that and the pain didn’t come back. Solution: get new shoes and run with a knee brace for a few weeks.
I started adding an occasional third mile and after a few months, I was doing 3 on a regular basis. Then I started doing 4 by running the 2 mile route forward and back again. By late-summer I tried a 5-miler and felt so pumped that I ran a 6th mile at the end of it for kicks. That became my record distance for the next 8 months.