I hated running! So, why did I start? My friends dared me to complete a marathon with less than 8 weeks training. During those 6 weeks, I experienced my first "running high" and now it is part of my lifestyle. (I completed that marathon btw).
The benefits of running are numerous. Cost effective, time efficient means of staying healthy and in shape. Regular running enables one to have a wider diet (one feels less guilty having an extra slice of that wonderful italian bread at lunch), maintain high energy levels throughout the day, and is good for your heart.
If you are just starting out, go slow at first (alternating running and walking is a reasonable approach), listen to your body, and invest in a good pair of running shoes.
I rarely have back pain from running. This is what I do to mitigate pain and injury.
1. Stretch my back before every run (like many people, I have a bad back but stretching really works);
2. I had reconstructive knee surgery (from a skiing accident and squash) so I am conscious of wear and tear on my knees. I tend to run (where I can) on soft surfaces. Surprisingly, the difference between the road and sidewalk is remarkable. Sidewalks are very hard while the road is easier on the knees (Watch out for traffic and respect the cars. I run in opposite direction to the traffic and use the sidewalk when traffic increases). Running on grass is both easier on your knees and is also a little harder from a cardio standpoint making your workout more effective;
3. I stretch after the run. This helps with my back as well;
4. I buy good running shoes which helps with both the back and ankles. Buy the shoes appropriate for your level of activity, arch support, and foot structure. Go to a focused running store as the sales agent is knowledgeable on these issues;
5. I do not signicantly increase the distance from one run to the next. When I do, back pain usually emerges. I try not to increase my distance more than 10% on a weekly basis.
Lastly, I listen to my body. When it hurts, I seek to understand why and adjust my activity accordingly.