So, you’ve started running.
You’ve already got your gear together, you’re starting to practice, you’re getting into the groove of this new hobby.
You’re starting to run 200 meters easily, you’re getting the hang of 500 meters, and you’re well on your way to running 1k and even longer. You’re starting to get a handle on this new sport you’ve taken up as a hobby.
But you want to go further with it.
You know you aren’t going to be satisfied with just running a few hundred meters.
You want to push yourself past 1k, past 2k. Past 5k even. You want to go to 10k and beyond.
You want to go pro.
If that’s the case, here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind whilst you contemplate this Herculean task of becoming a professional runner.
This might sound obvious, but it is worth mentioning that you should make sure that you are in a decent condition to start running more often as part of your journey to a professional athlete’s level.
They will be able to tell you what condition your body is in, as well as how realistic running as a goal or a career might be for someone of your condition.
They’ll also be able to tell you if running is even possible in the first place, or if you have an underlying health condition that will potentially hinder you.
That might feel a little like your dreams are crushed, but it is important to know what your limits are before starting out.
You didn’t want to accidentally lose something more than your health in the long run, after all.
Consult a Professional
A Health Professional
This point is very much linked to the previous section, where we mentioned that you should get in contact with a trained health professional, such as a doctor, a dietician, or another type of expert when it comes to health, diet, and the human body.
A professional will be able to tell you if you are in good enough shape to be even running in the first place, or health conditions that might hinder you if you are looking to compete at a level above amateur.
A Sports Coach
This might be one of the most critical decisions you can make whilst trying to go professional.
A good sports coach will have expertise in nutrition and sports sciences, as well as be able to recommend to you what your next cause of action should be with your training or career.
Ideally, you will want to find a sports coach who is a former professional themselves, so that you’ll be able to learn from their own experiences, as well as potentially benefit from any connection they might have.
Of course, you also want to have a good rapport with them.
You’re probably going to be working with them for a long time into the future, so you must have good chemistry with whoever is coaching you.
Practice Makes Perfect
There’s an old saying that 10,000 hours of practice will turn you into a master of whatever art or skill you have chosen to dedicate yourself to.
Over the years, the accuracy of that idea is something that has been called into question and furiously debated over.
However, the core essence of that statement is sound: That if you practice long enough, and practice hard enough, you will start to see signs that you’re improving.
Or, at the very least, you will start to have a gauge of what you are doing right, and what you might be doing wrong.
Making time in your weekly routine is the first step to starting to get those practice hours in.
Make sure that there is an allotted time in your regular schedule where you can focus on just your training. Whether that’s running around a track or a route, or trying other forms of exercises to help build other muscles, such as cycling and running.
The base fact of the matter is that if you already haven’t committed several years of your life to this sport, then be prepared to start committing a good chunk of your life to it.
Do Not Go Too Hard, Too Fast
This is a more general rule for getting into exercises as a hobby or more, but this goes for both training, and your expectations for yourself as you begin running.
On the physical side of things, do not try to focus on speed when you start out.
It is the fasting way of becoming tired too early in a run, and one of the easiest ways of demotivating yourself in your progress.
Don’t try to run at 100% effort at all times. Make sure to break up high-intensity running moments with slower, more manageable trots or walks between them.
You don’t want to finish a run feeling burnt out and tired. You want to finish it with some optimism and a little confidence that you have met your target.
On the subject of targets, make sure that you have set yourself realistic expectations when it comes to where you are going whilst trying to go pro.
It is a long and difficult journey that will test your patience, your time, and your spirit. It will likely take at least a few years of running before people are likely to have even heard of you, much less approaching you for sponsorships or events.
But that’s okay. Running is a sport that today prioritizes experience as much as it does raw talent.
People won’t just be looking for the fastest person in a marathon, although they’ll certainly have their eyes peeled for them.
They’ll also be looking for people who have a few runs under their belt already, people who are dedicated to improving themselves between each big running event.
Think of the first few years of your running career as a way for you to build your portfolio of running achievements. You might be surprised at how many running events are in your area. If this is the case, and there is one nearby where you are based, make sure that you try and attend it.
Once you have started to get your routine down and started getting into good shape, then comes probably the toughest step up to this point: Getting financial support.
If you want to be able to support yourself further and spend more time dedicated to improving, you’re going to need to be able to support yourself in some way.
Unfortunately, this is also where you might start to run into a more tangible obstacle in your path to going professional.
The amount of open opportunities for people to earn a stable income through just being a professional runner is pretty slim.
A stipend from either a local training center or a potential shoe contract, is not likely to cover your basic needs, much less all the finances you need for training. Especially whilst you are starting out, and are not well-known by the wider sporting world.
Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide how much time you can dedicate to each part of your life.
If you are trying to support yourself with another job whilst you’re also training and getting your name out into the sporting world, make sure you have enough hours to sustain your living conditions.
You don’t want to train too much that training becomes both unfeasible and even more draining than it might already be.
If you are at a level where you feel that you can start to compete, try and enter events and runs in your local area, especially road races. That might sound like an odd way to get into professional running, perhaps even a little pedestrian.
But the increase in popularity of running sports means that the focus on running in the public eye means that many people will be seeing even very long-distance running events as a way to find new talent.
This can be an excellent way to break into the professional running world, as well as find some alternate sources for funding training and equipment with the potential prize money.
That is if you win, of course!
As you can tell from what we have discussed in this article, becoming a professional runner is anything but. The time. The training. The Equipment. The connections. The dedication. The support.
It’s a mountain of a challenge for any athlete to try to climb.
But, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be one of the most satisfying mountains to climb, and one of the greatest challenges the human body can overcome.
In the end, the only way to try is to start. And the only way to start is to begin here and now!
Running a 5k in a reasonable amount of time can be quite a good indication of where you are at your current skill level.
It’s also a level of running that requires relatively little extra time and training needed to achieve, so is a feasible target for many runners across the world.
How long it takes will obviously depend on a whole host of things. How old you are, your general level of fitness, your experience in doing runs, if you are a man or a woman. Averages will vary depending on all these factors and more.
For people who are less experienced in running, expect your early 5k runs to take up to and over an hour.
People with a decent amount of experience can expect this kind of run to finish anywhere from 40-50 minutes.
World-class athletes will be able to potentially do this run in less than 25 minutes!
Of course, you should not hold yourself to those fastest standards to start with. But they are certainly an incredible goal to strive for.