Running Faster or Further for My First Marathon

by Rhiannon

running faster or further

I have been running every other day for about a month and have made it to 5 miles. Should I work on running those 5 miles at a faster speed (I run it in about an hour) or should I run further and worry about speed later?

My goal is to be able to run a marathon in about a year.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Rhiannon,

I'm thrilled to hear that you're setting such an ambitious goal for yourself, and even more excited to help you out with some ideas! Running a marathon is no easy feat - it requires strength, stamina, perseverance, and a well-thought-out strategy.

In a one-sentence answer, I highly recommend prioritising distance over speed, especially when training for a long-haul run like a marathon.

However, I don't do one-sentence answers, so let's just put some more meat on the bones with the following breakdown:

1. Creating a foundation with slow and easy running
2. Building a marathon running program
3. Why some faster running is beneficial too

Creating a Foundation with Slow and Easy Running

running faster or further

Building a foundation with easy, slow running is beneficial for your body for a few reasons. When you run at a gentle pace for extended periods, your heart becomes stronger and is able to pump more blood to your muscles with each beat. This increased blood flow is exactly what your muscles need when you're covering long distances.

Furthermore, distance running develops your stamina, enabling you to stay on the track longer. Consider it this way. If you could work up your longest run to 15-20 miles, wouldn't the 5-miler become easier? And not just easier — you'd likely also be able to run it faster if you desire! Essentially, by running longer distances slowly, you condition your body to efficiently use your energy stores and increase your endurance.

So you see, building that strong foundation through slow and steady running is the first step in making you a marathon-ready runner.

Building a Marathon Training Program

running faster or further

Once you've understood the importance of slow running, it's time to design a solid training plan. Here are some key ingredients to include in your marathon training program:

1. Consistency - The key to running success is consistency. Keep on showing up every day, every week, every month. Continue to come back to it. Some days you may be tired, some days you may not feel like it. But consistency is the key to running success.

2. Long-Distance Runs: Gradually build up your long run. The magic number you may have already come across is 20 miles. For a first-timer, running 20 miles once in training is good enough to finish it. When you want to truly race your marathon (save this for next year or the year after!), you should aim to get pretty comfortable with runs in the 20-mile range.

3. Middle-Distance Runs: Additionally, it would be fantastic if in addition to that long, long weekend run you do a mid-week long run of at least 90 minutes in length. You really want to get used to covering time on your feet. Additionally, runs in the 90+ minute range help you get more efficient with your fat burning.

Why some Faster Running is Beneficial too

running faster or further

While easy running is great for endurance, mixing in some faster runs can bring variety to your training and offer its own set of advantages. For one, it helps build speed and strength, which can improve your running efficiency. Just remember to keep these speedy runs in moderation so your body doesn't get overly fatigued.

I am just going to leave you with a bunch of links that can help you further. There is plenty more to read and learn I have written various articles to aid runners like yourself. Check out:

Base Running - about the importance of running easy.

Increasing Mileage Safely - on how to build up your mileage without getting injured.

Marathon Running Tips for Beginners - A lot more detailed info on how to go about preparing for your first marathon.

Stay consistent, enjoy each stride, and trust in the process. I know you'll reach your marathon dream. I wish you all the best! Remember, I'm here to help you along your running journey.

Keep running and all the best,

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Marathon Training Questions.

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