Almost everyone can start a running program. The exceptions are: persons with a family history of heart problems, obese persons, persons who have been physically inactive for five or more years (this includes ‘weekend warriors’) and anyone older than 40. It would be wise for this group to obtain a complete physical examination before venturing out on the roads.

Preparation and critical thinking are paramount in the beginning of a runner's program. One should keep a record of their morning pulse upon wakening. Remain in bed and take your pulse. As your program increases, it will become slower and within a few months it should plateau. If the rate should increase 10 or more beats higher, you have not recovered from your previous day's training, race or stress. Your body is telling you to take a day or so off until this vital sign returns to normal.

The daily exercises are very important in your running program. Because the more your run, more muscle imbalances may occur as you get into conditioning. The calf, hamstring (back of the leg and thigh) and lower back muscles become contracted and shortened, as well as tight and inflexible. It's extremely important to stretch these muscles. On the other hand, the shin, quadriceps (front of thigh) and belly muscles become weakened and they must be strengthened.

Before you hit the road, you must also check your foot gear. We no longer call them sneakers. With a price tag ranging from $75.00 to $150.00, they are now called running shoes. Heavy runners do well in shoes that have a great deal of shock absorption; at least three layers of rubber on the sole. High arch feet do best with narrow heels. Morton's foot (short big toe, long second toe) may need biomechanical balancing in the shoe. If a shoe functions well for you, train, race in it and wear it to town.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist. He was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Dr. Weiss is a veteran of 35 marathons. For more information visits www.facebook.com/drrobertweiss