I dashed through a half-marathon on the Fourth of July 2022—but in 2021, I didn't run at all😐.

Independence day half-marathon👟🎆

It’s gratifying to now think of myself as a runner—I never did before.

I used these tactics and gear to hack my life, build a running habit, and (incredibly, to me) push through a half-marathon.

Tactics for weight loss

In 2020, I was like most Americans—overweight. I had to shed some fat before I could start running.

Weight loss is simple: eat fewer calories than you use.

Fat Loss Forever by Peter Baker and Layne Norton, PH.D

I recommend reading Fat Loss Forever by Peter Baker and Layne Norton, PH.D.

The book asserts all diets work—you can lose weight by eating one hour each day or eating nothing but potatoes.

But you need a diet that can work forever—otherwise, the outcome is grim.

According to the book, of people who lose 10% of their body weight:

  • 50–70% of people gain it back in a year
  • 85% gain it back within two years
  • 95% gain it back within three years

Since all I care about is calories, I’ve opted to track my weight, calories, and exercise in myfitnesspal (free for the basics).

Using this strategy, I lost 70lbs(!) and have kept it off for a year now.

Developing a running habit by walking

My walking habit granted me time for running later.

Even if you never plan on running—walking is an excellent habit.

Walking is proven to:

  • Improve your sleep
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Improve your cognitive functioning
  • Reduce your all-cause and disease-specific mortality

Inspired by the likes of Nietzsche and Thoreau, I started walking 30 minutes daily at a “brisk pace” (2.5mph/4kph).

Walking was my gateway drug.

Sign up for a race

If you want to be a runner: sign up for a race and follow a plan.

Back in February, a friend and I dared each other to sign up for a 5K race.

Our commitment required training, and our improvement sparked motivation. When we saw ourselves run faster, it motivated us to work harder.

Later, while training for the half-marathon, I needed a better plan.

Plans for every distance are available for free online:

Run Like a Pro (Even if You’re Slow) by Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario

I studied the book Run Like a Pro (Even if You’re Slow) by Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario and found my training plan in the back.

Mike Crittenden’s blog has more tips on how to build your running habit.

Most runs are slow runs

Since you must run often, slow runs should form the foundation of your training.

For training, you can pick any two of the following:

  • 🔒Frequent runs (a must)
  • Long runs
  • Fast runs

Otherwise, you risk either your training schedule or your recovery. The only time to run fast AND far is race day.

I run six days a week; each day is either:

  • short, fast runs where I work on speed (e.g., fartleks) vs.
  • long, slow runs where I work on stamina

Pace yourself

How slow is a slow run?

McMillan running’s pace calculator computes your ideal pace for you (in exchange for an email). For my slow runs, I target 10.5 minutes per mile (6.5 minutes per kilometer).

my old Casio AE-1300WH-8AVCF

I bought a running watch to pace myself. My criteria for a running watch were:

  • Shows me:
    • Current pace
    • Current heart rate
    • Total distance run
    • Total running time
  • Has buttons (instead of a touchscreen)
  • I can program it to alert me at intervals
  • The screen is always on
  • Beeps

I spent $230 for a watch that checks all the boxes—the Garmin 245 music.

I’m happy with my Garmin, but my old Casio AE-1300WH-8AVCF beeped and did intervals for $20—it was enough to get me through my 5K.

My ideal watch would be my Casio with all the functions of my Garmin, but it would output a GPX file rather than force me to use an app.

For now, the G-SHOCK watch face for my Garmin is as close as I can get to my ✨dream✨ watch⌚

Running shoes

When I went to the local running store, they 3D-scanned my feet.

The scan convinced me my current shoes were too big—my toes were sliding around—causing blisters.

The actual 3d scan of my feet

I’ve since put 350 miles on my new shoes—blister-free.

The moral? Go to the local running store and buy shoes.

Shoes I’ve worn and liked:

Foam rollers

A tip I gleaned from the book “Run Like a Pro (Even if You’re Slow)” is that professional runners use foam rollers.

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

The thin casing of muscle-protecting fascia in your legs can knot itself into a little ball—making your calves feel tight.

Foam rolling—“self-myofascial release”—can massage out all these knots.

I found a good routine in a video from McMillian running.

Some studies link foam rolling to faster recovery and increased athletic performance.

I’m ambivalent, but it feels good and seems harmless, so I do it.

I use and own both: