Making a Run for It

Appears in the May 2022 issue.

A sure sign of spring is all the abandoned treadmills in gyms as runners cast off the mechanized tedium of the indoors for the fresh air and wide-open spaces of local roads and trails. 

Monica Prestifilipo has seen this migration time and time again during her 18 years with Naperville Running Company as a retail associate as well as marathon and half-marathon training coordinator. A dedicated runner going back more than two decades—she’s at 32 marathons and counting—Prestifilipo not only helps folks gear up but also leads several of the store’s multiweek training groups for runners at all levels. 

Here are a few of her tips for getting started, staying safe, and making the most of that mileage this summer.

Indoor to outdoor

Prestifilipo notes that the liberation of running outdoors can take some getting used to initially. She encourages treadmillers to be patient as they deal with everything from the new feeling of pavement beneath their feet to adjustments in their breathing patterns to the obvious weather influences of heat, wind, and precipitation. 

Most importantly, she says, is to prepare for and be aware of one’s suddenly uncontrolled surroundings, which means wearing reflective gear during early-morning or after-dark runs, monitoring the volume of personal music (or better yet, using only one earbud), always running against traffic when in the street, and being sure to have a hydration plan—particularly on treks longer than four or five miles. 

First steps

New runners should consider starting off with a plan of combining walking and running—a gradual buildup that will allow them to slowly stack miles over time and not get discouraged by the difficulty of trying to bang out five or six miles right out of the gate. 

“Honor yourself with the opportunity to start off with a walk-run,” Prestifilipo says. “You’re less likely to get injured and you’ll get the satisfaction of completing those miles. It’s setting yourself up for success.” 

As far as gear goes, don’t overcomplicate things. Prestifilipo outlines the priority list as follows: (1) comfortable shoes, (2) supportive bra (as applicable, duh), (3) hydration, (4) moisture-wicking clothing, and (5) sunblock/visor/glasses.

Solo v. grouP

While many people get into running specifically for the flexibility and solitude of going it alone, Prestifilipo says the camaraderie, support, education, accountability, and motivation that comes from joining a group can be beneficial to both new and experienced runners. 

It’s not for everyone’s tastes, and it doesn’t have to be for every run, but it might be worth considering for a change of pace, so to speak. “Sometimes the presence of a group can help you get through a run that you couldn’t have done on your own,” she says. “There’s a sense of goodness and togetherness that you just don’t find anywhere else.” 

Photo courtesy of Naperville Running Company

Illustration by Kevin Serjo