Chris Crocker, P.A.-C.
Running Q&A: Choosing the right distance, increasing miles and more
Nothing gets me more motivated than signing up for a race, putting it on the calendar and working toward that goal. It’s not important what the specific goal or distance is — it could be to win, to place or just to finish. Every runner and every goal is different.
My excitement about marathons and running means I tend to get a lot of running-related questions from friends and coworkers. Here are some of the most common questions I get and my thoughts.
Q: I’m thinking about doing a 5k/10k/half marathon/marathon on this particular date. Do you think I have enough time to train for it?
A: That’s an excellent question with a complicated answer. It depends on your age, your running experience, how much time you have to train, your history of past injuries, your goals for the race, your baseline mileage and other unique factors. Keep in mind that choosing a distance should only be one part of your goal — showing up healthy and injury-free on race day should also be key factors in deciding your distance. This might mean scaling back a longer-distance goal, but be sure to consider if you’d rather be healthy, injury-free and meet your goal or set a “stretch goal” and risk training a bit harder.
Q: If training is going well, how do I increase my mileage?
A: A common principle in the running world that I agree with is the “10 percent rule”. The 10 percent rule goes something like this: don’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent per week. That’s it. There is nothing magical about it. This simply means don’t increase the distance of any one run or your overall weekly mileage by more than 10 percent. For example, if you are currently running a maximum of three miles at a time, that means the following week your maximum distance would be 3.3 miles. Your maximum the following week should be 3.63, and so on. While perhaps overly simplistic, it’s a good starting point for many novice runners.
Q: Really? That’s doesn’t seem like much of an increase!
A: True, but increasing speed and distance is not something that can be rushed without risk of injury. While I would never claim to be trainer, coach or even a particularly good runner, there is one thing that I am really good at — getting injured. Pushing too hard and suffering an injury may set you back more quickly than just taking your time and letting your body adapt to the longer distances. In the end, I like to subscribe to old adage, “It’s better to show up 10 percent undertrained than 1 percent over-trained.”
Q: What’s the difference between a runner and a jogger?
A: That’s easy — it’s just the entry form for the race. Being a runner is simply committing to the process and putting yourself out there for everyone to see on race day. It’s scary, exhilarating, exhausting, and it fills you with pride. Take an honest inventory of your current level of fitness and use the 10 percent rule as a starting point, and come race day, you will be a (an uninjured) runner!
Chris Crocker is a surgery physician assistant at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. He is a runner, exercise enthusiast and has participated in the Mankato Marathon.