Running For Beginners: How Far Should I Run?

By Jeremy Patton

It can be hard to determine how far to run on your first few outings because you have no way of knowing how much exertion your body can handle. These tips will help make your foray safe and enjoyable. A pleasant first experience will make running a favorite sport for years to come.

Jeremy Patton and Erik Johnson Racing in Whitley County

Running is strenuous and should not be attempted without a doctor‘s consent.

Healthy individuals should be able to run a quarter-mile without much trouble. If you cannot complete a quarter mile, stop and walk as much as needed. Gradually increase the distance that you run each training session. It may take many weeks, but with patience you should be able to build enough stamina to complete a quarter-mile without walking.

A quarter-mile (400 meters) equals one lap around most outdoor tracks. If a track is unavailable, measure the distance on a quiet stretch of road with your vehicle using its odometer. If that is not possible, you can run for four minutes and assume that you traveled a quarter-mile or better.

If you are in good shape, a quarter-mile will seem easy. You may think that such a short distance is too conservative, but starting easy is the best way to avoid excessive soreness and injury. Remember that if the distance is too short, you can always run farther next time. If you overdo it, you will suffer the consequences.

After running your first quarter-mile, your body will tell you whether to increase the distance or cut back. If you are not sore after 24 hours, it is probably safe to increase the distance. If you are moderately sore (a pleasant pain), the workout was challenging, but not excessive and you should run the same distance again after a few days rest. If you are uncomfortably sore, such as having trouble getting out of bed and walking, decrease the distance and do not run again until the soreness has dissipated.

So, to determine the proper distance for your first few runs, start out conservative with a quarter-mile, rest and listen to your body. The level of soreness will indicate whether you should increase the distance, cut it or stay right where you are. Any increase in mileage should be made in gradual, incremental steps.

Added 8/4/16 – Updated 5/8/17