The question I get most often from friends and family is "I think I wanna try this running thing, where do I start?" Well, this is the Racing It Off method to getting started...
First, you need to Get Over It! Yep, IT. Whatever IT is for you. Are you self-conscious about how you might look shuffling through the streets? Are you worried people at the gym or on the trail won't think you are fit or fast enough to share the same air as them? Do you not have fancy-schmancy running clothes? Well, get over it. Seriously. I think you will be shocked at the shapes and sizes out running. And besides, who cares? What is important is that YOU are out there and YOU are running and YOU are making a positive change in your life.
Then you need to Buy Good Shoes. This is not the place to skimp. I promise your shins and knees will thank me. I suggest being fitted at a running specialty store. They will usually check your gait and get you the proper fit (even if you don't buy them there). And two things not to forget - 1. you should go up a bit in size to account for feet swelling (I go up a full size, but many just go up half a size) and 2. shoes need to be replaced (usually 3-500 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first). For me, once my shoes tip the 300 mark, I start to become very susceptible to shin splints.
Find buddies. If possible, it is great to have someone to workout with. It makes you show up, and usually ups the level of enjoyment. Buddies can be extremely motivating! If you can't find someone to workout with, you at least want someone that can hold you accountable for you workouts (blogging is one way to do this).
Don't wait until next week, Get Moving now. Even if it's just a few minutes and you are doing 10x more walking than running... now is the time to start. If you prefer to work to a regimented plan, I suggest that you search for couch-to-5k programs online. But don't forget to Be Safe. Carry ID and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you should be back. Pre-plan your route, and where reflective gear and/or lights if you're running in the dark.
Set a Goal by picking what you ultimately hope to accomplish and stick to it. It could be a distance you want to be able to run without stopping, or it could be just to consistently run 3x a week. If you pick a race distance, give yourself a reasonable amount of time to accomplish the goal, and sign up for a race now. It will keep you motivated.
The next important things are to Improve Weekly and Change It Up. Challenge yourself each week to go just a little faster or a little further and set some smaller goals in the interim that you can achieve quickly. But you also don't want to get bored. If you crave variety, it might be time to change you path or change to running outdoors to indoors or vice versa, or perhaps by finding a new friend to run with even if you have to change your pace a little. Or you can change up your speed from longer, slower runs to shorter, faster spurts with walking in between. This will also keep you flexible if the weather isn't cooperating!
But most important is Celebrate Your Accomplishments. There is no doubt in my mind that running is contagious. So go ahead and talk about your goals and brag about your accomplishments. I bet it rubs off and others develop an interest. Don't think that you are too "new" to help them get started. Maybe you'll find someone new to run with or perhaps you'll just help someone else get healthy. Besides, you worked hard for those goals, why not celebrate them?