That out of the way, let's pretend you have been inspired to "run Fargo" this year. That may mean a 5k, a 10K, the half marathon or the full. But this is all new to you, where do you start?? First, register for an event. Nothing seems to motivate me faster than money I've spent! There is no set and fast rule about having to first run 5ks, then 10ks, then half-marathons. A lot of people jump right to a half. Personally, I don't like 5ks, just because I'm only getting in my groove at around 3 miles. I am envious of people that can bust from a start line and sprint 3 miles, because I sure can't! And yes, there is plenty of time to train for one. Most programs are 12 week programs, some are 10, so that means you don't need to start until February. To be realistic, if this is your first race, you are not attempting to set a course record, but rather finish. And there is plenty of time to train to finish. So decide, and register!
From now until your training schedule begins (that is like your daily 'to-do' list) focus on fitness, cleaning up your diet, and maybe shedding a few holiday pounds. What training schedule to use? There are many many out there, some are free (Hal Higdon) and some are fee-based and give you very specific, tailored workouts. Ask around (or me) and I can help you find one!
What will you need for this process? First off, shoes. What running shoes are best? That is like asking which spice is best. Every recipe calls for different spices, and different running styles require different shoes. My advice is go to a shoe store that is knowledgeable in running shoes and have them watch you walk, and see what they recommend. Also bring in any shoes you have run in. If you have never run, bring a pair of shoes that you have worn a lot. Any of my boot heels would show that I walk on the outside of my feet, and thus run this way too. Shoes are important. They also should be a half size bigger than your normal shoe size to allow room for your toes. Black toenails are not pretty, and are pretty painful, but are a right of passage for some runners.
Men, you can skip this paragraph, though I am sure you have your own issues.
Women, you need a good sports bra. I can't stress this enough. The one you lift weights in, or ride bike, or pull weeds, is not going to cut it, well, that is if you are any bigger than probably a C cup. If you are "blessed," you need the girls locked and loaded, not bouncing around. From experience, chaffing HURTS. Motion plus sweat can really take its toll if they are not securely fastened down. Try on a lot of styles, jump, wiggle, jump some more when you are trying them on. Sadly, a good bra is going to run you on the upwards of $50, but to prevent chaffing, it is worth it.
Music. While my brother (not the spit-slurping one, a different one), an 8 time marathoner, has the rare gift of being able to run without tunes (ie: freak of nature), I need them. I get way too tired of my own voice in my head. For me, an iPod shuffle is awesome, because I don't need the music in any particular order. If you are extremely Type A, this probably won't work for you. Music isn't a necessity, but for me, and many, it sure helps.
Finally, you just need the desire, and commitment to complete this goal. Anyone can do it, I firmly believe that. The Biggest Loser Contestants run a full marathon! It won't be easy, but when was the last time you accomplished something outstanding that wasn’t? It doesn't matter what your finishing time is or your pace. What does matter is you set out to finish a race, and you did!