You might know that I head into work really early. I’m not going to say how early because it would either sound like bragging or whining. Let’s just say that it is really early. I love to get to the office, set up my computer, make coffee, and get my day started early. Sleep is not one of my vices (although I am trying to get more sleep here lately) so it’s not really much of a problem for me to get up early.

On my way in to work one recent morning, I saw four people running up by the Maryville Municipal Building. It was quite dark and really cold. And remember that it was also really early. One of these runners had a headlamp on and all were wearing reflective gear.

It really isn’t that unusual for me to see runners out in the dark as I head in. I often see a group of ladies running along 321 in the area of the Maryville College pedestrian bridge and First Baptist Church of Maryville. I know that there is at least one group that meets at the amphitheater to run the Greenbelt in the early morning.

I’m not a runner. Never have been. Oh, I used to run for exercise, but my body was never made for it. I would run because it was convenient. These days, if you see me running, you better run too because something big and mean is chasing me.

But I have great admiration for these intrepid runners. Their dedication is immense. Even though it was never my thing, I know that a lot of runners really enjoy a long run, even in rotten weather. I do understand that there is a certain freedom just taking off and running, needing nothing but your own body and a decent pair of shoes.

That’s one of the glories of running. It doesn’t take much. You don’t have to buy equipment to run. You don’t have to reserve a court or find others for a pickup game. No rackets. You don’t need a pool or a boat. You can walk out the front door of your house and get in a run.

There are some great places around here to run. The Greenbelt is perfect. A lot of people are into trail running. Lots of places to do that, too. But often your own neighborhood is hard to beat.

Let’s talk about your shoes. One piece of advice — don’t scrimp on the shoes. Buy good shoes. Go someplace where they know their product. A teenager working at a part-time job is not your best source for shoe advice. Do your research. Maybe get someone that treats sports injuries to look at your feet to tell you what type of shoes you need. How do you get started? Well, hopefully you learned how to run a long time ago. Unless you are competing, you don’t need a coach. You just run. If it’s been a really long time since you last ran, you definitely should take it slow. Maybe even walk to start with.

If it has been a really long time since you have done any kind of exercise, or if you have any kind of medical risk, you should consult with your Primary Care Physician first. Get their advice.

The track is a good place to start. You’re never much more than half a lap from your vehicle. And it’s flat. Sometimes it helps to have an even surface where you don’t have to worry about curbs or cracks in the sidewalk.

You’re obviously not going to be on the road, but you still need to be seen when you are running and it is dark. Most clothing made for running has reflective strips which help you be seen. Flashing lights are good too. Take your phone with you. It can be helpful if you are injured. There are phone apps that offer a “panic alarm.”

Whatever you do, don’t over-do. Don’t go too far. Don’t climb too many hills until you get accustomed to them. The “too’s” are what will get you. Build up gradually and stay with it. Persistence is the key.

Email Joe Black at joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital.

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