Focus on distance or speed? (Read 107 times)


    I started running last May and have consistently run about 15-16 miles per week the last two months.  I did take off three months due to some neck pain.  My doctor did advise me it was okay to start back at running before I started back this last January.  My best 5k last year was 33:59, which was on a trail run near a lake.  A fairly flat course except for one hill.

    I would like to run a 5k under 30 minutes.  In order to do that, would I need to just focus on some longer runs and not worry about speed right now or throw in some tempo runs or both?  I am 51 years old and it seems to take me longer to recover when I do the longer runs.  I am running about 4 days a week.  I do go to a gym and do some weight training as well.  What do you all recommend I do to reach my goal.

    After I do the 5k in 30 minutes or less, I want to build up to a 10k or something longer.  I haven't decided what yet

    an amazing likeness

      Run more miles.

      To do that, you need to run easy, slow miles.

      You will get faster just from having more miles under your feet.

      Add speed later, when you've got a good base of miles.

      I've done my best to live the right way. I get up every morning and go to work each day.


        Agreed with Milktruck.


        More easy miles will develop a good aerobic base that is the foundation you need for faster running later.  Run easy now and add a little more distance each week.  A sub 30 5k will happen and you will have the base that you need for whatever comes later.

        Rebuilding my aerobic base....racing next year.....nothing to see here....move along now.


          Run lots. Definitely don't focus on speed. Distance or time. Not both, because that would mean speed (distance/time). I mean lots of miles or lots of time running.

          Feel free to ignore what you've just read. 


            What would you consider a lot of miles?  Would you do that by adding a day of running?


              What would you consider a lot of miles?  Would you do that by adding a day of running?


              I've just run 2 consecutive 80 miles weeks, and have not taken a day off from running in 50 days. And to some people I don't run that much.

              Don't get me wrong: not saying you do that. Far from that. Just to show you that there is head room for you. You can run lots.


              You can maybe add  1-2 miles extra on one or two of you weekly runs, you can add a day... The idea is like the others said: to build a good aerobic base from running.


              You have to give yourself time. Running is one of those things that takes time. Rule of thumb is not to increase mileage by more than 10% per week, and IMO you can't string 10% increases every week.


              Aim to run more, but give yourself time to get there.


              Your question was should I FOCUS on distance or speed, and I (we) think you should focus on distance.

              Feel free to ignore what you've just read. 




                  I agree with the others, focus on distance, but don’t neglect speed completely.  A couple days a week pick up the pace for 20 seconds or so every 3-4 minutes (after a 15 minute warmup).

                  Seattle prattle

                    a fairly benign way of sharpening your speed skills without going overboard is to do a half dozen (or so) "strides" after your runs a few times a week. This is just giving yourself a minute or so break to catch you breath, then run fast for about 80 to 100 meters, where you start at a moderate pace, pick it up to almost a sprint, and saunter the last few yards to a stop. The point isn't to see how fast you can go, but to ease into the running dynamic of fast, efficient stride mechanics.Again, rest for as long as you need between each one so you have fully caught your breath before doing the next.

                    Gang Name "Pound Cake"

                      What Milk Truck said. Speed work isn't necessary at all to get faster until after a good base of endurance is built over 6-12 months. You will get much much faster with just slow running. If you just have to push the pace to feel you are getting somewhere, then don't do it more than once a week or add some strides 2 or 3 times a week during slow runs as others have said. Endurance needs to come first or you risk injury.


                      The problem you see is that your heart and lungs will get in shape much faster than your bones, tendons, muscles, joints, and ligaments. As a result, your heart and lungs will let you run faster than the mechanical parts of you can handle, making injury a high risk. It takes much longer for those parts of you to adapt to the high stress of fast running.

                      - Scott

                      2014 Goals: First Marathon - BQ2016 <3:40 (3:25:18) - 1/2M <1:45 - 5K <22:00

                      2014 Marathons: 05/04 Flying Pig (3:49:02) - 09/20 Air Force (BQ 3:25:18) - 11/01 Indianapolis Monumental

                        I am 51 years old 




                        Also w/ distance comes speed.

                          I'm a lot older than you (67) and have a similar goal. I tried just focusing on speed but without building a fitness base of many miles first it does not seem to be the best workout for me. I am too sore after a fast workout to run much and it seems distance builds you up without as much strain . I have found that as I increase distance of my long run and get in more weekly mileage I get more fit and start running faster. As suggested, a good way to get faster is to add short sections of faster speed into your runs. You may start with just a little distance at a fast pace and gradually increase the distance and number of fast sections you run. Eventually you may find yourself running the whole distance at a fast pace without even thinking about it. I would also consider gradually increasing the distance of your long run to at least 6 miles. I generally run a half marathon late September and have run a full one these past two years. I have done 20 mile plus training runs and worked up to a 70 mile week last August. My times were slower than I like, particularly a 5 hour marathon last year, and I may skip the full this year to focus on getting faster. I did run a 28:41 5K in 2017, but would like to see if I can do a 24. I also would like to run the Boston and would need to cut about a half hour off from my 2017 marathon time of 4 and a half hours, but that is a goal for next year.

                          "My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” 




                            Also w/ distance comes speed.


                            The more you run, and at this stage of development how fast you train doesn't matter, the fitter you become and the faster you can RACE. 5K is a great race distance to focus on since you can find one locally to race on almost any weekend, they don't cost an arm and a leg to enter and recovery from a 5K is almost trivial (for me, anyway, and I'm 57).  Don't focus on some 18 week training plan to race one.  Just go out and run as much as you can during the week and race a weekend 5K maybe twice a month.  30 minutes will seem easy soon enough and you will then have a much better idea of how to train for these things.


                            Brewing Runner

                            Cat Disliker

                              As others have said, add more easy miles. Doing 15-16 miles a week is a good place to start and over 4 days that is a 4 mile run daily. You could work towards 20 miles a week by adding a mile or two to each, or adding another day of running. If you want to get up to a 10K you'll probably want to do 5-7 mile long runs at some point but just getting the aerobic fitness and time on your feet will help you get to your goal. I just started working out (TRX bands) and I can see an improvement. I was once a 15-20 mpw runner (actually I never had a weekly goal) and now I've done 70 mile weeks and currently TRY to get 40 miles a week when not training for marathons. I also said I'd never run a marathon after my first half and I've now done 5.


                              Do you have a goal 5K in mind?

                              1 mile: 5:38 (September 2018)

                              5K: 20:23 (March 2018)

                              10K: 42:11 (May 2018)

                              Half: 1:31:19.5* (2019 Mt Charleston Marathon)

                              Marathon 3:05:22.9* (2019 Mt Charleston Marathon)

                              Annual Miles 1,892.7 miles

                              *downhill course with 5,126 ft net drop and 30F temp change. 


                              2019 Goal: Get into the 4/19/21 marathon