Advice for Beginning Runners – Getting Started


It’s hard to believe that I’ve been going at this running thing for over 3 years now. The picture above represents the moment where I started to get serious about it. Today’s post is largely motivated by a YouTube video I watched last week that I will be posting tomorrow from Bart Yasso (I’m quickly becoming a big fan of his). In the speech I watched, he talks about how, if he were just beginning, would start off with the 5K distance. Then, he’d move on to the 10K and Half Marathon before ever running a full marathon. He says that he would not recommend any of the couch to marathon programs out there. It was kind of cool to hear that because my journey followed exactly what he would recommend. Without even knowing it, I was doing it the right way. Well, sort of.


So, if we follow Bart’s advice, I would (and did) start off with a 5K. There are two basic routes to crossing the finish line of your first 5K race. There are couch to 5K programs you cold follow. These programs will start off with some pretty small amounts of running in intervals that will build you to running the full 3.1 miles of a 5K without stopping. While there are various programs out there, here is a sample of one such program by Jeff Galloway.


As you can see, this program is a 15 week program. When I started, I was using a 90 day couch to 5K program that I never quite finished. Just as an FYI…XT means Cross Train. This program requires you to run for 3 days a week. It also takes you up to 4 miles. So, it’s really 10 weeks to 3 miles. If you want to know more about the program in the image above, click here.


This is the program I saw on back in 2011 that I attempted.


I’ve put two different Couch to 5K programs to give you an idea of the differences that exist out there. If you notice, the Jeff Galloway designed program starts with you being able to run 10 – 15 minutes. The program starts off with running 60 seconds. Your first workout would require you to run a total of 8 minutes as there are 8 repeats of the run 60 seconds, walk 90 seconds in the required 20 minutes.

Another way to work your way up to your first 5K is to use the Jeff Galloway Run, Walk, Run method. This is the method for running long distance that I use and has carried me to 11 half marathon finishes and 2 full marathon finishes so far! So, needless to say, I’d highly recommend this method for beginners like myself. If you want to know more about this method, check out Jeff Galloway’s website here. You probably noticed in the video, Jeff gives some run/walk ratios for specific paces. The runDisney races have a time limit of 16 minutes per mile. So, here are some of the break downs of what run/walk ratios you will need for a few paces…

  • 8 minutes per mile – Run 4 minutes/ Walk 35 seconds
  • 9 minutes per mile – Run 4 minutes/ Walk 1 minute
  • 10 minutes per mile – Run 3 minutes/ Walk 1 minute
  • 11 minutes per mile – Run 2 minutes, 30 seconds/ Walk 1 minute
  • 12 minutes per mile – Run 2 minutes/ Walk 1 minute
  • 13 minutes per mile – Run 1 minute/ Walk 1 minute
  • 14 minutes per mile – Run 30 seconds/ Walk 30 seconds
  • 15 minutes per mile – Run 30 seconds/ Walk 45 seconds
  • 16 minutes per mile – Run 30 seconds/ Walk 60 seconds

These are general guidelines that Jeff has found through the years. I must be running and walking too fast because I run 30 seconds and walk 60 seconds. My average paces are quicker than the 16 minutes per mile listed above.

Now, if you’re like me, seeing all of this run/walk ratios and minute per mile averages sounds confusing. After all, how on earth do you know what your average pace should be to begin with. After all, if the correct run/walk interval is based on that, we need something that will tell us how fast or slow we should be running. That’s where Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile comes into play. When I got serious about running, I had to download a chart on Jeff Galloway’s website to see what the Magic Mile was predicting for me. I also saw where I wanted my Magic Mile to be in order to have the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and/or Marathon finish time I wanted.

Here’s how to do the one mile time trial:

1 Warm up with a slow one mile run
2 Do a few acceleration-gliders (See my books Running Year Round Plan and Galloway Training Programs)
3 Pace yourself as even as possible on each quarter-mile
4 Run about as hard as you could run for one mile–but no puking! (finish feeling that you couldn’t have run more than a football field at the same pace)
5 Keep walking after the time trial for 5 minutes, and jog a slow 1-6 miles, as needed for the mileage for that day

– See more at:

Once you do your time trial, click here to find out what the mile time will project for yourself.

Magic Mile Predictor

This is what you’ll get on the web site. All you have to do is click in the “Min” box and enter your minutes and in the “Sec” box for your seconds. Then, click “Go” and the rest will be calculated for you. Technology is so amazing! Take these projected paces and plug them into the run/walk intervals we looked at above. This is where you want to start on your run/walk intervals. Now you have a starting place!


So, you now have a training plan to get yourself ready to run a 5K, you know how to find the pace you should be running at and the run/walk intervals to start your journey. What next? Get out the calendar and find a race to register for that will give you enough time to prepare. For the upcoming runDisney races, visit their web site. On the site you can find when the races are. So, if you want to make a runDisney 5K your first 5K (and why wouldn’t you?), mark that date on your calendar and build your training schedule backwards from the date of your race. For example, the Tinker Bell 5K is coming up on May 8th. So, if I were planning the training, I’d use the Sunday before (May 3rd) as the last day of my training calendar. That would be week 9 on the training plan and week 15 of the Jeff Galloway plan. I’d work backwards from that date and write all the training I needed to do on the calendar all the way back to week 1. Now, if week 1 has already passed on the calendar, I’d choose a different race. If runDisney races don’t work for your goals, check out Running in the USA or for race calendars. Both sites contain calendars for races all over the United States. Also, runDisney is not the only organization out there that organizes multiple races each year. Another popular series of races is the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. Check out their website here. The Rock n Roll races are not only marathons and half marathons. Most will also have races either at the 5K distance or a little longer. One last source is just to let google help you. Many of the larger cities have marathons. To encourage people to get out and run, a lot of the marathon races have 5K’s with them.


Once you find a 5K run that sounds interesting, sign up! Putting that first race on your calendar will help with your motivation as you work towards that first goal of finishing a 5K race. Also, having the race on the calendar gives you something to look forward to.


Once you’ve signed up for your first 5K race and you have your training calendar all set up, you’ll need to get a few items to help with your training. First, use Google to find your nearest running store. Head over to the store and have the workers help you find a good pair of shoes to run in. When you’re starting off, this will be your most expensive piece of gear. Having great running shoes can make your runs so much more comfortable right from the start. I did not do this. Now that I have a proper set of running shoes, I can never go back. The prices at your running store might be a little higher than you can find elsewhere. However, the selection they will offer will be more than you’ll find elsewhere. Plus, you have experts sizing you up for the shoes. The sales person should bring out at least 3 pairs of different shoes for you to try on. You’ll want to see what works. Be honest with them. If you’re not comfortable with the shoes they bring out, tell them. It’s your feet that have to pound out those miles.

Nike Plus App

Another thing you’ll want to get is a running app for your smart phone. I use a combination of Nike Plus and Map My Run. On this blog, you’ve probably noticed pics from my training runs. This is a feature in the Nike Plus App. I use the Nike Plus App in connection with my Nike Plus GPS SportWatch to track all my runs outdoors. I use the app on my phone for the runs 10 miles and shorter. Once they get longer, I worry about my battery life and use my Nike Plus GPS SportWatch. I can download the information from the watch to Nike Plus online to sync with the Nike Plus App. So, you will have all your information about your training runs in the palm of your hand! The one downside of the Nike Plus App and Nike  Plus web site is that it only tracks my runs. I have no way of entering the information from my gym workouts. Map My Run does. Additionally, Map My Run has a feature on its web site where you can plan out your training routes to find out how many miles you’ll be covering. Between these two apps and their web sites, I am able to track what I’ve done. There are others out there. So, look around for what fits your needs the best. Also, there is a Jeff Galloway 5K training app which is available on iTunes, which you can learn about here. The Jeff Galloway app will cost money. Those I know who have purchased this app, love it.


Lastly, I highly recommend that you find a running community to join to help keep you motivated during your training. I love the Team #runDisney Facebook Group (link on the side)! The group is comprised of runners from various abilities and experience. They are very encouraging and can be a valuable resource for getting questions answered. There are other similar Facebook groups out there. So, have fun searching for one that meets your needs. I also love the Rock n Roll Marathon Series Facebook Group. They always are posting inspirational sayings for runners.


Keep in mind that I’m not a running coach or personal trainer. So, take my words of advice for what they are…what I’ve learned from experience. I think the advice I’ve given here will be enough to get you started. By the time you’ve done everything I’ve mentioned here, you’ll have everything you need to start. You’ll have a race on your calendar, a start date to begin training, a plan (or two) to follow in order to be ready for that first 5K race, information on how to find your happy pace for the race (magic mile and run/walk/run ratio to begin with), a good pair of running shoes, smart phone apps to track your progress, and runners (on Facebook) with whom to connect with as you journey towards your first race day! All that’s left is to get out there and train!

Since I know that there are readers here who are experienced runners as well, please feel free to leave your advise as well. What would you add to this post? What piece of advice did you receive early on that has helped you out the most?

5 thoughts on “Advice for Beginning Runners – Getting Started

  1. Lots of great tips and advice in here, Greg! I often find myself very worried about the people who jump in to something like a Dopey Challenge when they have not gotten off the couch. I know, with any race, it is “run at your own risk” but I think expecting to run back to back races with little (or in some cases) no previous experience is scary. I think working your way up to a marathon with smaller races, increasing distance over time, is the way to do it wisely, with less risk. People like Yasso and Galloway are experts in their field because they have been through the bumps and bruises and know what works and what doesn’t. More people should heed their advice

  2. I love this post and I totally agree to start slow. I didn’t (jumped right into a half marathon) and ended up with a lingering IT band issue for years because of it. Now that I have done many race challenges (Dopeyx1, Dumbox2, Glass slipperx2 and signed up for pixie dust, dumbo, and infinity gauntlet), I always tell people to take it easy and slow down. everyone seems to get caught up in the time-training should be slow for a reason!

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