Finding the right distance


Fred Deckert 


What’s the right running distance for you? There are lots more variables to this than first come to mind. Where are you in your running program? Beginner or experienced runner? Youth, mature, or well ripened? Overweight, other health restraints, etc. Race oriented or health runner.

No doubt you can think of more, but for a start let’s consider children’s running. Most kids are not going to adapt well to an adult running schedule of 4-5 or more days per week, there are just too many other activities they want and should experience. So, given the fact that you’ll be lucky if your child “trains” 5 -10 miles a week, it’s folly to expect them to run 10K’s or more. Even for a 5K they should be encourage to run/walk and not press to exaustion. The mile run is probably ideal for kids until they are mature enough to get into track or cross country programs at school. The mile is already long enough that they must learn the idea of pacing themselves. The excitement of an occasional mile race and maybe a 5K should not lead them to burnout, and keep them interested.

The mature runner has some idea of his/her goals when they start running, but should never press to acheive them too quickly. The average mature runner takes 5-7 years to reach their potential, almost independent of their beginning age. At maturity, you will consider the benefits of a regular schedule both for health and competitive reasons.

The health runner will typically be uninterested in more than 20-30 miles per week, maybe an occasional 5K to see what it’s all about and maybe a 10K once a year. “Competitors” are not going to be happy with that, recognizing they need double that mileage to really hone their skills and no doubt they will be intrigued by the lure of the marathon. The “well ripened,” competitive or not, will begin to recognize that heavy training often leads to heavy recuperation problems and most have recognized that a decent 20-30 miles a week, spaced out well enough for longer recovery requirements is the wiser course that will let them run longer, if not very quickly.

My apologies for this necessarily brief exposure to what I consider an important running topic, but many books have been written for the benefit of those interested in the subject.