Running: You Can Become a Runner (cont.)

"Before you begin, it's a good idea to see your doctor and get a thorough physical examination -- particularly if you have not had one in several years or if until now you have been fairly sedentary," says Lewis G, Maharam, MD, medical director of the New York City Marathon and NYC Triathlon, among others. "This exam should include an exercise stress test (preferably done on a treadmill) to try and make sure that you have no obvious heart problems that might surface if you exercise too hard."

Step 3. Find a running partner or group.

Once your doctor has given you the 'all-clear,' the next step is to find someone to train with. "Partners and groups are motivating because you are accountable to a group and pushed by people -- some of whom are better than you," Kaehler says. "If you can't find a club, then try to find a running partner who is equivalent to your fitness level." Local running stores and your local runner's club can help you find groups. Many major road races, particularly marathons, also have classes for the benefit of runners training for their event. The park and recreation departments in many cities often provide jogging programs for interested parties. In addition, many charity organizations, notably The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training, offer training programs and help runners raise money for the cause.

Step 4. Dress for success

Though clothes do not make the runner, there is no substitute for the right running shoe, Maharam tells WebMD. "There should be about a thumbnail's length between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Without this much space, you can lose your toe nails," he cautions. Your best bet is to go to a specialty shop to buy running-specific shoes because the staff will better trained at fitting them. Replace your running shoes every 350 to 500 miles because they lose shock absorption and other protective qualities with use. What's more, "make sure you choose synthetic socks," Maharam says. "Unlike cotton, synthetic material wicks away moisture and fluid; preventing blisters and the wearing away of your feet."

Step 5. Train to train

"Most people start running with a health or fitness goal in mind such as losing weight or being healthier rather than a specific race," says master's champion runner and coach Gordon Bakoulis, author of How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon. "You should really be doing a base of 10 to 20 miles a week before you start training for your first long run." Once you have established a baseline, then training can begin. Remember that the amount of time it takes to train for a race depends on the distance as well as your fitness level, she says. In general, marathon training can take anywhere from six months to a year.

Step 6: Slow and steady ... finishes the race.