Bad Form Fitness
I know I should be happy to see anyone running and should be thinking "at least they're trying to be healthy", but... there are times where you want to pull them off to the side and not so much tell them that they're doing it wrong, but tell them that they're doing it wrong. Yesterday I saw a girl running, kicking he heels out behind her and swinging her arms in a swimming motion while twisting her trunk. I felt bad for her, because I knew she was trying really hard, but her technique was probably going to cause some real injury. In fact she was already wearing two large knee braces, probably because her heel kick was torquing her knees. I know that running seems like a simple concept (it's just like walking but faster, right???) and for the most part it is, but there are a lot of ways to do it wrong.
I've done some really dumb stuff in the past, like doing Dances with Dirt without training for it or even really running much at all that Summer. I felt the repercussions of that for about 3 weeks, including fractures of the underside of my right foot and muscle tears in my calves. That was me trying to make my body do something that it was not conditioned for, and I paid a price, which thankfully was relatively minor compared to what could have happened. You can also go the other way (which I am on the edge of right now...) and over train to the point where you cause stress fractures and other health issues. Another way that you can go wrong is not having the right gear. Yes, there are many different types of running shoes and that means that most of them are wrong for you, perhaps to the point of injury! Even shorts and shirts make a difference (no cotton if you're going over 5k...), that is if you actually want flesh left over at the end of your run and prefer not to have bloody, blistered feet. I am so thankful to be part of the Mid-Michigan Running Group and to be surrounded with experienced, knowledgeable, and caring people who help me to not be as stupid as I would be on my own.
To anyone out there just starting to run, and running on their own, PLEASE FIND SOME PEOPLE TO RUN WITH! Don't be embarrassed about "being slow"; that's how most people start out, and a lot of them stay that way, and that's ok! Some people don't have a time goal but instead have an effort goal, where they're doing the same thing they've always done, but now it's easier. The bigger the group that you join, the more likely it is that you'll find people with similar speed/distance abilities.
If you can't join a group, make sure you get your running form evaluated! This is how you can determine what types of shoes you need, how to be more efficient in your running, and how to not destroy your knees, hips, ankles, etc. In Lansing you can go to Playmakers for the free Good Form Running clinic. At a minimum, going to an actual sports store (not Foot Locker or Dick's) should get you some solid advice on running shoes and what to look for as far as wear patterns on your soles. And if you've got money burning a whole in your pocket, go all out and hire a running coach. With cool software like Coach's Eye you can get pretty good feedback without ever meeting in person, which can save you some cash.
So I really, really do want to encourage people to take up running, but I don't want anybody to do it in a vacuum, without support, assuming that eventually it will just get easier if they run through the pain. That's a surefire way to end up injured and bitter.