I want to run 10 miles, but it's haaaaaard
April 28, 2017 3:59 PM   Subscribe

I started running (Couch to 5k) 8 years ago. I've never had any formal training/coaching, so I certainly don't expect to be a great runner, but the amount of difficulty that I have with running seems unusual. Running 5k in 31 minutes is still a big challenge for me, no matter how much I practice. I really, really want to be able to run 10 miles some day, but that seems impossibly difficult and I don't know how to get there. Are there any other runners out there who find running really, really hard but have somehow managed to increase their distance? How did you do it?

I find running much, much more challenging than other types of physical activity. I swam competitively when I was in my teens and although I was never terrific (I'm really short with short limbs and small hands) I didn't have any trouble keeping up with the workouts or getting average times. After 10 years of barely swimming at all, I took it up again last year and was able to work up to 33-min miles within a few weeks without really pushing myself very much. I also have a much easier time with biking - I find distances of 30-50 miles pretty approachable even with virtually no training. Last year I did a sprint triathlon for which I prepared by swimming once a week, biking just twice before the race, and running three times a week for 8 months, and I was in the top third of my age group for biking and swimming, but almost last in my age group for running. I've backpacked through mountains for 8-10 miles per day and done intense spin classes and p90x. None of those things is as hard for me as running 5k.

OK, so I suck at running. It might be biomechanical (my legs definitely kick out to the side, as in "runs like a girl", and I doubt my form is any good), and it might have something to do with my (relatively severe, but well-controlled) exercise-induced asthma being worse when during running than during other activities, although I'm not sure why that would be. Have any other seriously non-talented runners managed to work up to longer distances? Most training plans seem to suggest simply running slightly longer each time, but... how? It's been years and I still find anything over 30-40 minutes really, really hard. I get lightheaded and exhausted and just want to stop. I'm not usually all that out of breath, nor do my legs feel super exhausted, but something about it is just... hard.
posted by Cygnet to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
1. My experience was close to yours for a long time: I did ~3mi distances at >10m pace.

Then one year my dad said he was going to run the Chicago marathon with my sister, and asked if I'd like to run it, too, since I was also running. I thought I might never again have the opportunity, so I said yes.

I used the Hal Higdon Novice 1 program, taking some time to ramp up to 6mi on the weekend before starting it. (http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51137/Marathon-Novice-1-Training-Program) I don't remember exactly what my plan was, but I know that I didn't mind run-walking in my training runs when I thought that made sense.

Anyway, I got through the program, and ran the marathon. Finishing that marathon was brutal — I've run another one since, and it was much, much easier than that first 5:20 marathon.

I have friends who just jump in and run 8-9min miles. I don't get it, that's not been my experience. But over a lot of time, and setting some race goals and learning about training, I have myself gotten down to the 8:30 range. Although not for long distances yet.

2. Okay, so that's my experience. But yours might be (probably is) different. Why not make an appointment with a running coach? It sounds like it worries you enough to be worth a couple of bucks for an expert opinion.
posted by billjings at 4:23 PM on April 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I suck at running and even when I was running regularly I have never even gotten below a 35 minute 5k. I'm fat and stubby and also probably have shitty biomechanics. But even so I've run a few 10 milers and a half marathon. This is not the sophisticated but if you want to increase your distance you can just slow down your pace. If you're lightheaded and dizzy after 50 minutes your long run pace is too fast. If you want to run faster the way to do it is some sort of interval training over short distances rather than just trying to creep up your pace for a whole 45 minute run. If you want to run longer the way to do it is slow down, even if it means taking regular walk breaks. An ideal training program will combine both. My suggestion would be to do the Hal Higdon 10k plan and see how it goes and then think about doing the half marathon plan if you want even more distance. I think the Higdon plans include a formula for figuring out your target training pace based on your current 5k time (warning: it will be a LOT slower!)
posted by drlith at 4:32 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, I've literally never seen a training plan that amounts to "run a little further each time." I won't say they don't exist, but if they do, they are a Bad Training Plan and they should Feel Bad. Almost any actual training plan will be a mix of easy base miles to build up your weekly distance/tolerance to pounding (fairly easy pace, 2-4 miles typically for a 5k-half marathon type plan), "speedwork" days that may be intervals or "tempo runs", and a once-weekly long run at an easy pace.
posted by drlith at 4:37 PM on April 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hal Higdon worked for me. I too find running very difficult and I am also slow. Until I was ~35 my crowning fitness achievement was running 2 entire miles in a row one time in high school. Hal Higdon got me to an easy 9 miles (before I got injured and ended up deciding maybe my body isn't designed for half marathons). It works!

So much of increasing distance is mental for me, and therefore I respond well to having a plan on paper that a professional has put together and thousands of other people have used to good results. It's sort of a mental trick, I guess, making myself believe that it clearly works for all these other people so there isn't any reason it won't work for me.
posted by something something at 4:45 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I (ex-serious runner) am very suspicious that the problem might be your form. Based on your description of your legs, you are wasting energy there like crazy, and you may be doing similar things with your body and arms. The way I was trained, any motion that is not in the direction you are moving is wasted energy. You could look for a coach, but honestly some online tips and drills might help. Here's a basic overview of good form from Runner's World. Here are some basic drills (I would skip the last one, myself). The idea of this is just to train your body into the motions you want it to do. Your form doesn't have to be perfect, but you may find that improving it some will have big returns on your speed and on how you feel after running.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:46 PM on April 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I love running. It's probably my favorite exercise. That said. It's hard for me to go over five miles most of the time because: a. It takes a long time and it's boring or, b. I started at way to fast a pace and now I'm beat. I try to mitigate a. by blasting my favorite music into my ears to both entertain myself and not hear the constant beating of my feet on the ground. On the other hand, it's really hard for me to mitigate b. without looking at my phone every two seconds to make sure I'm not going over the pace at which I know I can run long distances.

My advice: Slow the hell down. I know it sounds counterintuitive, because the slower you go, the longer you're going to be running, the more bored you're going to get, and the more bored you get, the less you want to run. I get that. I live that. That's why I've spent a long time curating a playlist that will at least attempt to keep me interested in still going. But, seriously, at some point you'll find what many runners call the "recovery pace," also known as, that slow-ass pace that seems way too slow, but allows you to keep running and catch your breath. Mine is about 10' per mile. Your mileage will definitely vary (I've been doing this for a long time, although never aggressively).

5K in 31 minutes is not bad! Most of the people I know can't run a full 5K!

Some other things I'll mention: Make sure your shoes fit well and that they're the right shoes for you. This will probably require you to go to one of the good running shops in town. I don't live in your area, but based on your profile, I'm sure there's a good one somewhere. They'll look at how you move, and get you to try on a ton of shoes to try and suit how your foot lands. If there's a New Balance store in town, that's usually a good start. You'll be amazed how much that helps.

Also: If you're getting light-headed, it could be any number of things. In my experience, it's either not being properly hydrated, in which you'd want to carry some water, or lack of sugar/electrolytes, in which you may want to look into something like Gatorade or one of the gels that long-distance runners carry.

Best of luck, and remember to slow down!
posted by General Malaise at 4:46 PM on April 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was not too dissimilar to you (competent competitive swimmer who sucked at running), and the thing that finally set me on the path to running longer distances was track work. Trying to progressively push distance never did anything for me, but spending a summer doing serious, insanely awful track work finally broke something in my brain that was keeping me from being able to iron out longer runs. Now I can run 6-8 miles relatively easily, and have cracked half-maration distance several times. My pre-track-work self would never have been able to believe that I'd one day be able to run like this. (To be clear, I'm not saying I'm an amazing runner, just that my running ability has gone from "minimal" to "moderate," which is a huge leap for me). I'd highly recommend finding some sort of interval/sprint/track training program and trying to stick with it for a few months, then checking in and seeing what you're capable of in terms of steady distance.
posted by saladin at 4:47 PM on April 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am very short and quite slow and my mechanics aren't great. And I'm not currently running at all. But once upon a time I did something like 5 half marathons in a few years without injury and mostly happily. Initially I trained in a group. Here's what I think:

- Watch your shoulders. You might be raising them or crunching them forward, particularly when you're tired. Similar with tensing or swinging your arms too much. This will make you more tired and out of breath.

- Try taking a little longer strides and lean forward a bit. Practice leaning forward and then more upright. Leaning forward will make you go faster but will tire you out a bit more so try it on your short runs or for small intervals. I think this will help you to understand your body dynamics a bit more.

- 30-40 minutes in was when we we were supposed to eat a little something, so maybe just a few shotblox or something like that - might get you over a hurdle.

- When you're training, your "long" distance will feel shitty, usually. This is why most training programs peak and ebb in time/distance. It's encouraging when your long distance becomes comfortable, but the longest distance you're doing is generally going to feel hard, so you've got to do it where your long distance is punctuated by shorter distance runs and everything creeps up. But after you do 45 minutes and recover, your 30 minutes feels better. That's encouraging.

- Definitely try to use a coach. Maybe try a training program? Ask at a gym? There are people who can film your stride and provide some pointers. It's not easy to change your form but some stuff is easier than others - just a few sessions might make a bit of difference. Advantage of a training program is you might have pacers too.
posted by vunder at 5:02 PM on April 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I did a 9-day kayak (no cardio), 9-day mountaineering outward bound (yes, cardio). At the end of that, we had to transport ourselves six miles or so, so I ran it because walking would have really sucked. At some points I was probably moving slower than walking, but I insisted on not stopping, because I knew I wouldn't start again, or would keep stopping.

Before that I was happy to run 25 min without a rest.

I'm not saying to strand yourself in a forest, but can you safely give yourself a destination at the end?
posted by batter_my_heart at 5:36 PM on April 28, 2017

Nthing what hydropsyche suggests, technique, technique, technique. I was watching the front runners in the Boston Marathon last week and the one thing I noticed was that they all were just running plain and simple, no strain, no extraneous movement. Then I was at the finish later in the day and, well, just flummoxed at what the human body can manage, all kinds of strained movements that looked really hard.
posted by sammyo at 6:57 PM on April 28, 2017

My people! I seriously suck at running. But I suck at all sports and running is the one I hate least, so I do it. I also have yet to break out of the 5k jail (taking serious notes here) but...do you look at your feet while running? Because don't. It collapses your chest and reduces your ability to breathe deeply. The two top form tips I got that one time I joined a training group (which was really helpful though alas it turns out I despise running with other humans, but you might see if there's a Fleet Feet or something near you that organizes training groups) were don't look at your feet and where your arms go, you go (i.e., pump those arms when you're in need of a boost). And sure enough both those things help when I'm shittily running on the daily.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:32 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

What's missing from your question is how much you are currently running per week, what kind of running it is (slow, fast, HIIT, etc), what you have tried in the past and what didn't work.

Your target is definitely achievable, and I would be hesitant to ascribe your challenges to something inherent to you, but to give you the best help we need to know more about your current running habits. What running have you been doing in the last six months?

Also, don't underestimate exercise-induced asthma. I am susceptible myself in winter, and realised by using a puffer that even if I didn't *feel* asthmatic, that my lung capacity was clearly affected.
posted by smoke at 8:00 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

My experience was similar to billjings, except I ran a half-marathon, not a full. Before I started I hadn't run much further than 3.5mi. I remember someone in another askme saying something to the effect of "As long as 3 mi is the longest/hardest distance you've ever run, it will always feel hard." That was completely true for me. When I started, 3.5 mi felt hard (but doable). And then next week when I had to do 4 or 4.5 mi, getting to the 3mi mark still felt hard, and continuing to go to 4.5 was even harder. But then the following week, 3 mi didn't feel so hard because I had just run 4.5 mi, and getting to 5 mi was hard but doable.

The other thing is that consistency is key. I find that I lose aerobic fitness really quickly and that 2-3 times a week is the minimum for me to make any progress distancewise. Otherwise the runs are too far off to build up ability. My other exercise is yoga, obviously if you're biking or swimming, you're still building up fitness in other ways.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:15 PM on April 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm similar to you. I once managed to do 5k in 30 minutes, and it nearly killed me. Seriously, there was vomiting and lying down directly afterwards. Usually my 5k is more like 38-40 minutes.

I also have been running for about seven or eight years, and have not seen much if any improvement in my 5k speed. Even now that I run with an actual real life running group with a coach who runs marathons, and I believe my form is better than it ever has been. We do speed drills and distance drills and lots of hill running, and my speed just doesn't improve over that distance.

But! I went from not being able to run for more than 10 minutes without a break, to being able to do a 5k without walking, to being able to do 14 k (on hills) without any rests or walk breaks. I can run for nearly 2 hours without stopping. For me, that was just about going super super slow, having lots of distractions so I don't get bored and don't think about my feet hurting or my drippy annoying sweat or whatever, and also about having milestones to feel like I'm getting somewhere (on a long training run I like carrying a peeled mandarin in one hand and eating one segment every 500m. The sugar and juice helps me feel energetic, seeing the mandarin disappear helps me feel that I'm getting somewhere, and I know that if I have trouble eating while running, I'm going too fast to be able to manage the distance I want.)

When I first went from 5k to the longer distances like 10k or so, I used some random training program I found online that gradually increased total distance but did it through walk-run sequences, and then gradually decreased the amount of walking (like most couch to 5k programs but for 10k). Part way through when the longest runs I had done were about 7.5km I got bored, took a couple of weeks off, and then just decided to see how far I could run if I took it really slow on the flat, and I managed 12km.

If you struggle with speed, it might be that the limiting factor on your runs is getting out of breath, as it is for me, rather than getting tired legs. So longer distances might be more achievable than you think if you can manage the breathing, which is all about going slow.
posted by lollusc at 12:01 AM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did C25K over the past year and there's no chance that I would have run 5K in 30 minutes without like. actively dying. You gotta think, a 30-minute 5K means running somewhere in the neighborhood of 6MPH+. If you're a short person like me and you, that is an insane speed. It's just too fast. I have a treadmill for pacing and I can go for ages between 3.5-4MPH on a jog, but I've tried running 6MPH and thought I would fly off the back of the thing. I could only run that hard for about 2 minutes. It's too fast for a sustained jog at least at my height. My girlfriend is like 5 inches taller than me and she can fast-walk at 4MPH, so maybe 6MPH would be possible for her. There are body limitations that are really hard to work past, especially if you're already going so hard on yourself. Increase your distance slowly and drop your speed to something sustainable over that time.
posted by possibilityleft at 4:54 AM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well, I'm not super enthused that you liken poor technique with running like a girl. I'm a cisgendered female runner and I have excellent form, but that took coaching and some hard work. Again, my poor form wasn't because I'm a girl, it was because I wasn't conserving enough energy in movement.

I would say try a running shoe specialty store where they film your gait and can give you advice.

I'm not usually all that out of breath, nor do my legs feel super exhausted, but something about it is just... hard. I know that feeling and for a while I trained to push past that to get to the 10 mile mark, but running stopped being fun and ended up becoming something I dreaded. I decided to accept that I enjoy 3-7 mile runs; anything more than that is just unpleasant and since I want running to remain pleasant, I only run within that range.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:34 AM on April 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

I started running 5 years ago. I'd really only ever run before that in order to get fit for something else. So in my mind, running was a chore. I couldn't understand how someone could run as far as 10 km.

I've now run half a dozen ultra-marathons and running has become part of my life. Which is all to say that getting to 16 km (10 miles) is totally doable for you!

Some things that have helped me (caveat that most of my running is trail running):

Consciously trying to improve my running form. I may have gone down many rabbit holes on this! Try and increase your cadence and shorten your stride. Think of soft light steps.

Core strength helps a lot keeping you stable and injury free, so it's definitely worth incorporating some non-running work into your training. Feel free to memail for some suggestions.

You say, I'm not usually all that out of breath, nor do my legs feel super exhausted, but something about it is just... hard. - Yes it's hard, but this sounds a mental thing. You telling yourself you've reached your limit. Well, you haven't. You can go further. Your body won't suddenly fall apart if you run 1 km more, or 2 km more.

Hill running is great! Especially on trails. Take even shorter strides and try to keep your breathing under control. And walking up hills is totally accepted in trail running.

Don't stress too much about food or drink for these distances. 16 km isn't actually that long. You can run it without needing any food during the run, and probably minimal water. Try cutting back on this in your training.

I found a local Meetup group of runners and that has helped hugely! Running with others, learning from them, sharing tips and mistakes has all been great.

Good luck! You got this!
posted by maupuia at 6:30 AM on April 29, 2017

Thanks everyone! I also suspect it's at least partly of a mental thing, as many of you have suggested. When I get tired while swimming or biking, somehow that doesn't bother me and I easily push on and enjoy myself. Not so with running. Maybe I need to treat myself to some new audiobooks. I'll also have a look at Hal Higdon's plans, try slowing down (even though getting down to a 13-min mile pace just seems so extremely slow), and force myself to learn a thing or two about form. I can't afford any coaching at the moment, but I'll keep it in mind for the future.

In case anybody has any more suggestions, here are a few more bits of information:

-my exercise-induced asthma is quite severe; I'm in dangerous territory after 5-6 minutes of running if I don't take my inhaler, so I ALWAYS use it. (I do not have other common asthma triggers, just exercise and respiratory infections.) This completely eliminates all my symptoms, but I guess I just can't be certain my lungs are functioning at 100% despite the lack of symptoms. Does anybody have any resources or information about this? I have been thinking of seeing a pulmonologist to get tested; I haven't been tested since my diagnosis 18 years ago.

-I'm running 2-3.5 miles 2-3 times per week. Sometimes I'm alone, sometimes pushing a jogging stroller, sometimes I try to keep up with fast people in front of me for my own version of interval training, sometimes my 3yo is biking along with me (i.e. highly variable speeds, often faster than my natural pace but with frequent stops) and sometimes I throw in sprints, but it's quite haphazard.

-I have never worried much about hydration (don't carry a water bottle) and I have never tried to eat anything while running. I barely drank anything during my 1hr40min triathlon (just water at 1 station in the last segment) and didn't eat anything and felt fine afterwards. Does that mean I just don't need to worry about this?

-My experience running with others is that everybody I know is faster than me, so I get REALLY STRESSED OUT about being so slow and I feel like I'm ruining their run and then I get anxious and feel like I just can't go on. For this reason I haven't considered a running club; I just feel like there's no way I won't be desperately lagging behind. Maybe there are slow-person running clubs out there?

-I'm 5'2" with extra-short legs (i.e. petite size 2 is too long for me, I hem everything) and I weigh ~125 lb.

I apologize for any offense regarding the "runs like a girl" comment - it's something I've been told many times by others and I figured it would be a well-known stereotype that could describe my natural stride. I know a lot of women with beautiful (and FAST) running form who look nothing like me! The thing is, I'm actually uncertain about whether my form could ever really be corrected - I'm sure I could improve it to some degree, but I don't know how much. Maybe my legs are just attached the way they're attached?
posted by Cygnet at 7:34 AM on April 29, 2017

I used to run regularly, and ran track and cross country in high school (although not well). I think at least part of the problem is that you only run two or three times a week. I think all serious training plans I've ever seen plan for running five times a week.

If you go five times a week, that gives you at least a couple advantages:
* Your total weekly mileage has increased over running just a few times a week.
* You have more opportunities each week to vary your training (such as intervals, long run, etc.)

But even committing to three times a week, with a plan, might help you.

You also might try doing hill or stair work. For me, this does at least a couple of things. It adds challenge and variety.
posted by maurreen at 8:01 AM on April 29, 2017

I have asthma and possibly some cardiac weirdness, and my aerobic capacity never improves beyond a certain unimpressive point no matter what I do. Have you tried using a heart rate monitor while exercising? You might find that keeping your heart rate in a lower range lets you go for longer.
posted by metasarah at 8:13 AM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are absolutely slow person running clubs, though they are probably advertised as training groups for newbie runners who are trying to achieve a goal. The one I joined was a couch-to-5k typed plan with the goal of running our city's big 5k. There was also an affiliated "bridge to 10k" group that met at the same time and did their own training plan. It was run out of Fleet Feet, the sporting good store, but was free, iirc. The leaders were experienced runners who led the group knowing full well that this would not be a "real run" for them. They'd often take a long run together after they finished up with us slow-pokes. It was a great experience for me, training wise, I just am way too much of an introvert to be able to deal with both exercising *and* small-talk socializing at the same time. It was kind of assumed that everyone there really wanted and needed companionship on the group runs and I mainly just wanted to zone out and listen to music.

There was also another running group that meet at the same time and location, unaffiliated with ours, that was more for established runners, but they organized themselves into small groups by pace. So all the fast people ran together and all the slow people ran together. There'd be one person with a running watch in each group keeping pace and so if you were running with the 12 minute people, you'd all be for real running 12 minute miles for the whole run.

My parents are both very serious runners, so even though I suck at it, I've been pretty immersed in the culture. My experience is that if a running group says they're cool with slowpokes, they're cool with it. They just enjoy the sport and the companionship and are usually overjoyed when a new person is interested in getting involved and improving.

I'm running a big 5k in the fall with my dad (who is 70 and twice as fast as me lol) and he knows I am slow and practically begged me to run it with him anyway. He just likes to run and he likes it that I'm running and he's willing to accommodate, and that's been my experience with all his running buddies as well.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2017

IANAD but I do have asthma.

I haven't seen this mentioned much but you need, need, NEED to get the asthma under control before doing anything else. Changing your form will help--but not until your address the asthma.

Are you using your inhaler 15-20 minutes BEFORE your run? If you wait until you've started running it's too late. Using it before will hold off any issues. In my limited experience (I just started doing this) running also becomes way easier.

If it's that bad, though, you need a preventer. You also don't know how bad the asthma is if you're not getting it checked regularly. A lot of people adjust to really bad lung function and don't even realize there's a problem, or how much of a problem there is.

Seriously, I'd bet a vast majority of this is asthma. Changing your form or improving your core strength or following a different program aren't going to help if your airway is constructing. Address the asthma FIRST and go from there.

(FWIW I recently started using an inhaler before my runs and holy WOW talk about making a big difference! I added seven minutes to my run in a week. You can still be a runner. Being able to breathe will make a world of difference.)
posted by Amy93 at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm taking my inhaler about 2 minutes before every run. Guess that's not early enough!
posted by Cygnet at 12:28 PM on April 29, 2017

* First and foremost, stop telling yourself you're a rubbish runner. I'm offended! I run at about a 10 minute mile pace, and I'm not rubbish! In fact I've finally groped my way back towards 10 minute miles after being at 11 for a while, and I'm delighted. Some people will say you should run with faster runners in order to improve, but I'm with you in finding it really demoralising and demotivating, so I give us both permission to stay away from them, at least for now.

* I don't know if this applies to you, but in case - let go of the idea that it only counts if you run non-stop. Better to rack up 50 minutes of running by doing 25 minutes run, 5 minutes walk, 25 minutes run, than finding yourself unable to run 40 minutes straight through (or even 5 sets of 10 minutes with a 2 minute walk break between each, or whatever). A structured 5-10K plan should take you through something along those lines, gradually building longer blocks of running out of several smaller ones. As someone said above, trail running is also great for this because the terrain is so varied, people are much less likely to expect to run an entire route - I run on trails with friends at the weekends, and we run, walk, stop and look at the view, etc.

* Yes, there are indeed running groups for people who aren't competitive - I work for a national organisation that specialises in exactly that, though in a different nation from you, unfortunately. 'Recreational running' might be a useful search term, or - as others have said - ask your local running club whether they cater for different levels of runner.

* Hydration - the rule of thumb I've heard is that you only need to worry about taking on extra fluids if your run is more than an hour in length, but that's in fairly temperate climes, so YHMV if you're somewhere warm.
posted by penguin pie at 4:32 PM on April 29, 2017

Hey there thanks for the awesome follow up Cygnet.

Firstly, I think you should definitely see a doctor and go in a bit deeper with the exercised induced asthma - that's pretty serious right there, and I would be shocked if it wasn't affecting you to some degree, even with the puffer. I empathise with your slightly lackadaisical approach to training, as it's more my style too, but committing to a serious training plan will not only help you make some gains, it will also help you see the gains more clearly. With what you're doing now, the variability with your runs is more than enough to mask any gains (eg pushing a stroller is heavy duty work!).

Some good advice I've been putting into practice recently is "run your slow runs slower, and your fast runs faster" - this means that most of my runs atm have really decreased in speed, and I'm really only doing one tempo run per week at the kind of pace I'd be aiming for in a race. I was initially concerned I would fall off in speed, but it hasn't happened at all, and it's made my runs on the whole much easier/more relaxed.

Let go of any feelings you have about being a slow runner - the term is meaningless. There will always be runners slower than you and faster than you out there, by a huge margin! Look at focusing on improving against yourself, I've found it's a much more rewarding metric.

If you can, lock in 3x a week as your bare minimum, with maybe fourth day or some cross training if you can squeeze it in (not easy, I know!) You will improve at 2x a week, but progress will be much faster if you can just get that third time consistently.

Best of luck, I know you'll get there!
posted by smoke at 5:05 PM on April 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

My running club has a mix of ability levels from people who can only jog/walk through to serious contenders who win state-level races. We do drills that keep everyone relatively together but allow everyone to run at their own level.

For example we often take a particular hill (steep and short, or long (500m) and slow,) and do something like, the serious runners sprint up and jog down, no breaks, for 20 minutes; the intermediate people jog both directions with a 30 second rest at the top; and the beginners walk up and then jog back down. Or we do intervals along a 5k trail where the faster people sprint one minute, then turn and run back until they meet the rest of us, then turn around again and sprint another minute, etc. So they end up doing twice the distance, but we all kind of stick together. And we all warm up and do sets of strides and things together too.
posted by lollusc at 7:22 PM on April 29, 2017

You're running multiple times every week, that's so impressive! And I know it's difficult to keep from comparing yourself with others, but it's worth working on it. Nobody else is running with your body, so focus on what you can do - and what you are doing that you weren't before. (I'm in a similar situation - asthmatic, did C25k last year, can barely do 5k in 36 min - so it's a lesson I'm trying to learn myself.)

In that vein - I've found it's been really rewarding to get a running watch (I use a Garmin Forerunner 25 - it's obviously a pricey bit of kit, but it's at the lower end of the price range for GPS watches, and it totally does the trick for me). It helps you with lots of things, but most importantly: it helps you compete with yourself, not anyone else. Here's some stuff my watch does that I find helps me run and motivates me:

- Keeps track of my pace as I run. This is great as I have a tendency to start out at a pace I can't keep up. Setting a reasonable pace interval to stick to from the start helps me keep my energy up, and if I have any to spare I can choose to either go farther or put on a burst of speed at the end.
- Gives you a happy little message when you beat your personal best at various distances!
- Lets you track progress, as well as what works and what doesn't - I always make notes on inhaler use and breathing trouble, but it's also helpful to see any kind of improvement in general pace or distance over time
- GPS map of runs shows that I really am getting out there and covering distance I never could before
- You can get it with a heart monitor and set yourself a heart rate interval rather than a pace if you want to find a speed you can keep up without overdoing it

I've also started exploring the Galloway run-walk method which feels like it's extra useful for asthmatics, as the walk-break helps me catch my breath, and leaves me with more energy to use. Plus including the walking in the total time/distance at least theoretically makes it easier to go longer distances.

I've still only managed 6.5 miles, but I'm experimenting on what works for me, and I'm optimistic I'll be able to hit 10 miles in the next couple of months sticking to what I've been doing so far.

Oh, and after I started doing runs longer than an hour I got one of those handle-shaped bottles that only has a little water, and I found that having it available was really helpful mentally. It makes me feel like I can keep going and didn't have to worry about getting too dehydrated or thirsty. And even though the small amount of water probably doesn't do that much difference, the feeling of a nice cool sip when you're panting and sweating is really refreshing.

Good luck!
posted by harujion at 4:03 AM on April 30, 2017

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