What the expert says...
Paula Radcliffe is the current world record holder for the women's marathon
Run your own way Unless you keep on getting injured, don't worry if your running style isn't textbook perfect. The most important thing is to be relaxed.
Step out of the comfort zone Vary the pace of your runs. If you always run at a pace that is within your comfort zone, you'll never improve. When you want to speed up, don't increase your stride length. Instead, increase the cadence (the frequency of your steps).
Keep moving the goalposts Every New Year, I always establish my goals for the coming months. I set some realistic goals and some 'dream' goals - because if you don't stretch yourself, you will never know what you are capable of achieving.
Use your head When you are doing a long run or race, break the distance down in your mind. Instead of thinking, 'Oh God, I've got seven miles to go...' stay focused on the here and now. I know that if I count to 100 three times, that equals one mile.
Stay hydrated Don't just think about drinking when you are out there running, but also before and after. If you are out for less than 30-40 minutes you can get away without taking water with you, but on longer runs it's essential to take fluid. Hide a bottle in the bushes en route if you can, and do loops so you pass it regularly.
Go soft Try to run on grass or softer surfaces wherever possible. Not only does this put less strain on your body, protecting your joints, but also allows your body to recover more quickly.
Find some training buddies... For support, advice, safety and motivation. You can find your local club at UK Athletics (ukathletics.net), but there are many non-affiliated clubs, too - including those run by health clubs (such as Cannons) and sports shops (Niketown and the women's store SweatyBetty both have running clubs). Women might like to join the Women's Running Network (01392 683318, womensrunningnetwork.co.uk), a very beginner-friendly, supportive club with local groups nationwide.
Get checked out If you suffer from any niggling aches and pains, or have been riddled with injuries in the past, visit a physiotherapist or osteopath for a check-up and 'gait analysis' of your running style before you embark on a serious schedule. You'll get advice on what steps to take to ensure you stay injury-free.
Read all about it Runner's World and Running Fitness are the UK's two specialist running magazines. They give details on everything from mental tactics to training sessions, injury prevention workouts and kit reviews, sports injuries and clinics, and races.
Find a route When the local park feels too small, use a cycling or Ordnance Survey map to find nice places to run, such as towpaths, woodlands, quiet roads, country parks or walking trails. Londoners can find routes, or measure an existing route, using the free Routefinder service at runlondon.com.
Without a doubt, the most important purchase a runner can make is a good pair of running shoes. But one person's perfect is another person's blister-forming disaster, so do take advice from a specialist retailer. Sweatshop is one of the best (selling clothing and gear, too), with 24 stores across the UK and an online shop at sweatshop.co.uk. Women could check out SheActive (sheactive.co.uk) or SweatyBetty (sweatybetty.com).
You'll need decent socks. By decent, I mean ones without bulky seams that chafe, and with support in the areas of greatest contact. Falke and 1,000 Mile both have good ranges.
Next up, for women only, a sports bra. Even an A cup moves 42mm away from the ribcage during impact movement, so every woman needs support. Shock Absorber (shockabsorber.co.uk) does a good range, as does Marks & Spencer. It's best to go to a store where you can try on a number of different models, but otherwise check out the huge selection at lessbounce.com, or call 0800 036 3840 for a catalogue.
A heart rate monitor can't be considered essential gear, but it's certainly useful. A good one is the Polar RS200 running-specific model (£94.50, polarelectro.co.uk). It's easy to use, with lots of useful features - such as a VO2 max test, an interval training option, a lap counter and a weekly log, plus the option of upgrading it to a speed and distance monitor by purchasing a foot pod.
The simplest solution to hydration on the run is to get yourself a RunAid bottle - a plastic bottle that slips around your hand or wrist, and is much easier to carry than a round bottle. It costs from £2.50 for a 275ml size, and is widely available from running stores or websites. For longer distances, a water backpack, such as the Salomon Raid Revo 15 water-carrying pack with feed tube (£50, salomonwomenwill.com), will keep your drink cold and accessible throughout your run.
High injury potential Some surveys suggest six to seven out of every 10 runners sustain an injury bad enough to stop them in their tracks every year.
Jogger's nipple Vaseline is the runner's best friend. Slather it on any body parts that are likely to rub or chafe. Men should not neglect the tender nipple area.
Black toenails and blisters Running isn't going to help you have pretty feet - treat yourself to regular chiropody appointments.
Jim Fixx The US running guru died of a heart attack while running at the age of just 52, and a study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine reported that the risk of heart attack during exercise is five times greater than during rest in regularly active