Sun 29 Jul 2012
Shannen, this is for you!
So you started running a few weeks ago. You have run consistently three times a week and can now run two miles without stopping. Good for you! You have taken the first step to all of the benefits of running including a stronger heart, increased brain function, enhanced well-being, stronger muscles…not to mention burning calories—about 100 calories a mile depending on speed and weight. (That’s what I burn at 117 pounds going 9 to 10 minutes a mile.)
What a great way to stay motivated—to run a road race. It gives you a goal to train toward and it’s a lot of fun. My first road race was a two-mile race that I completed in about 24 minutes—that’s a whopping 12-minute mile. But it was a start. Now I run marathons and my fastest pace so far was about 8:50 per minute for 26.2 miles. Not bad!
But I had to start from the beginning. The key is to stay consistent and increase your miles and your speed slowly. Otherwise you risk injury and burnout. My first injury was shin splints because I wanted to get fast overnight but my body just wasn’t ready. Shin splints hurt!
First of all, I am not a running coach and my personal experience is what I draw upon. A good rule of thumb is to never increase your weekly miles by more than 10 percent per week. So if you are running three times a week, two miles at a time, your total mileage is six miles. The following week increase your runs to 2 ¼ miles per run. If you aren’t sure of the miles and are running for time, use the same rule of thumb. Increase your 20 minute run to 22 minutes, the following week. Sure it’s a small increase but before you know it, you’ll be running 4 or 5 miles per run and maybe thinking about increasing the number of times you run per week.
As far as speed work, I wouldn’t recommend it for at least six months to a year depending on your level of fitness. There is a saying I have heard several times among runners—speed kills—and they weren’t talking about drugs. Runners can develop many injuries including knee, hip, foot, and hamstring problems by pushing too hard too soon. There are several types of speed workouts and you can Google on the internet to find what you can do for a 5K or 10K or longer race. Never do speed work more than two times a week. Yes, speed work will make you faster, but again, you must be consistent.
If this is your first 5K, enjoy the experience and make a goal of running the entire race at a comfortable pace—a pace that you can carry on a conversation. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and take off at a fast pace. I did that on my first race and slowed down to a crawl my last half mile. It wasn’t very much fun. If you are serious about continuing your running, think about purchasing a GPS running watch. I own a Garmin and I can see what pace I’m running and how far I’ve gone. It helps me to not go out too fast—or to speed up if I’m falling off the pace.
If your goal is to run a marathon someday—kudos to you. It is challenging and worthwhile goal which will teach you discipline and humility. Crossing the finish line is phenomenal rush and well-worth the effort. A marathon training program is six months long and I recommend having a running base of 30 miles a week for at least a year before you start the program to avoid injury.
So, the key to running success in the beginning is consistency and patience. Build your miles slowly. Have fun and enjoy the process. Good luck on that first 5K!