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Beginner’s Luck: A Newbie’s Guide to Running in Public

For those of us who came to running or triathlon late in life, the issue of running in public is a real challenge.

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New to endurance sports and struggle with the idea of running in public? You are not alone and you can overcome it, writes “Beginner’s Luck” columnist Meredith Atwood. 

I recently wrote on my blog about “RIP”—an acronym I repurposed as “Running in Public.” Running in Public is so not a big deal if you are a long-long, avid runner. If you have been a runner your entire life, running in public is also known as simply running.

But for those of us who came to running or triathlon late in life, the issue of RIP is a real challenge. We don’t really want to run in public, because that is—well—scary and weird.

Here are some time-tested tips from me for getting over the fear of RIP. I am totes qualified to discuss the fear of running outside, because before triathlon I was terrified to leave the house without a sweater because my arms were “too big” and “too jiggly.” Eventually, I wore spandex, jumped in lakes, cycled and then ran. (So I got this!)

Now, let’s talk about how I went from wearing sweaters in the summer, to rocking tank-tops in the summer—AND running while doing it.

1. Runners Run

First off, I recognized that if I was going to be a “runner,” that runners actually do the act of running. Maybe not fast, maybe not gracefully—but runners must run. Sure, a runner can run every single day in the basement wearing a trashbag; but I somehow think that defeats the purpose. I had to get outside. I also recognized how being outside has so many amazing benefits and opportunities.

2. Moment of Truth

Next, I had a heart-to-heart with myself. I noted that perhaps I was not the most graceful runner. I admitted that my violent heel-striking and hunched over lean was not a picture of running beauty. I also knew that maybe I didn’t have the right gear, clothes or look, and there was a small chance that tortoises were passing me on training and running courses. I breathed all of that in, and then I breathed it out. Then I stared all the “facts” in the face and said, “That doesn’t matter. See No. 1. I am a runner, and runner’s must run.”

3. Other People Watching

Saying, “I am a runner” felt pretty good to admit (even if it was hard to believe at the time). Even still, there was that small problem about the other people out there who were watching me run and wobble and jiggle.

Wait a minute! You mean they aren’t actually watching ME run?

Nope, not really. I realized this through a simple exercise I conducted with myself. I was driving to work one day and made a point to think about MY thoughts when I saw someone ELSE running outside. After passing five or six runners on my commute to work, I realized what I was thinking about them: absolutely nothing! I saw them running and “I wonder what the drive-thru is like at Starbucks” is what I was actually thinking. It made me realize who is actually watching me run—that’s right, no one. (Except that one dude in the black pick-up truck who always screamed, “Shake that moneymaker big girl.” Except him. But I grew to like him. Which takes me to point four.)

4. Brush It Off

As a beginner, the biggest battle about RIP is fighting off the voices in our own heads. It was easy for me to project and blame my lack of desire for RIP on the guy who cat-called me all the time. (I mean, did he have NOTHING better to do than drive back and forth on my running route?)

But learning to quiet the voices in my own head was a major task, and one that continues to be something I must work on, just like any physical training. Once I began to be conscientious about my own thoughts and working on saying good things like, “I am a RUNNER!” and “good work, keep going,” I found that RIP began to feel a little easier.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the host of the new podcast, “The Same 24 Hours,” a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith has teamed up with amazing experts to bring programs from peak performance to nutrition to her own sobriety group to her social following. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at