How to Determine Running Mileage

Six Rules to Determine Mileage

If one of your goals this year is to finish your first 5k or train for a marathon, there are a few important things to consider. By determining what your mileage should be, you can train more efficiently while reducing chance of injury. Here are six rules to help you figure out that magic number!

1. The longer the race, the higher the mileage
It’s important to consider what your goal is before picking a random number of miles to run per week. For shorter races like a 5K, a runner won’t typically run beyond five miles in one workout when they’re targeting 3.1 miles, but long distance runners don’t have that kind of luxury. For half marathon and marathon distances, your body has to adapt to the accumulated stress and mileage so that’s why training begins 4-6 months before an event.

2. Mileage should increase along with performance goals
If your goal is to hit a new PR at any distance, weekly mileage should be increased in order for the goal distance to feel comfortable on race day. If your goal is to simply finish a race, you can get away with slightly lower mileage.

3. Quality over quantity
A common misconception amongst runners is that more is better, but this isn’t always the case. When you’re doing quality workouts that leave you exhausted, it’s important to take recovery days. The added stress of track workouts, tempo runs, repeats, and hills can take a toll on your body so every workout should be done with intention rather than impulse.

4. Practice makes perfect
When training for a specific event, consider your goal and try to incorporate a few miles at race pace during training runs. "Trust your training" is a mantra amongst athletes and when you train closer to your race pace, you’ll feel better prepared on race day since you know what you’re capable of.

5. Allow your body to adapt when increasing mileage
This is especially true for new runners. Like any physical activity, a gradual increase instead of adding 5 miles out of nowhere is a smart (and healthier!) choice. There are different rules for increasing mileage like sticking to a 10% increase every week or adding an additional mile to every run for at least two weeks, but every runner’s body is different. Even if you’re feeling great after a tough workout and feel like you can do an additional run on top of that, save those endorphins for your next run. The body can adapt to so much in a certain amount of time and drastically increasing mileage can put you at risk for injury.

6. A healthy runner beats an injured runner every time
There are many guidelines to help you decide on the right amount of miles to run per week, but you should always listen to your body. If you’re following the appropriate mileage but have consistent aches and pains, it’s best to lower your weekly mileage than continuing with your training plan and risking serious injury.

AT A GLANCE (miles per week)
5k (3.1 miles): Mortal 20-25 | Elite 70-80
10k (6.2 miles): Mortal 25-30 | Elite 80-100
Half Marathon (13.1 miles): Mortal 30-40 | Elite 100-110
Marathon (26.2 miles): Mortal 30-50 | Elite 100-140

This article originally appeared in July 2017 on Runner's World