How Long Does it Take to Get Good At Running?

If you just started running, and you’re wondering to yourself, how long does it take to become good at running? Well, then you’re in the right place because I’ve been running for 20 years competitively, and I absolutely have that answer for you on this episode of Runner’s High.

If you just started running, and you’re wondering to yourself, how long does it take to become good at running? Well, then you’re in the right place because I’ve been running for 20 years competitively, and I absolutely have that answer for you on this episode of Runner’s High.

Since you’re asking this question, I’m guessing you’re new to the channel. So, you’re going to want to hit that subscribe button, stick around with me for more episodes of Runner’s High, every Tuesday and Thursday. If I hadn’t already mentioned, the screen probably told you, I’m Jessie Funk. And as mentioned, this is Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running, like today’s question, and anything in between.

Now, you want to know, how long does it take to get good at running? And first, I have to say, that’s a terrible question. You shouldn’t ask it. Now, I don’t mean to be mean to you, so please stick with me. Don’t hit the exit button. But you have to define what does good mean to you. It’s just like if I said, I want to be good at music.

Well, what the heck am I talking about, I want to be good at music. I do a few things musically, right? I play the violin and technically, I’m a pretty proficient violinist. My intonation always needs a little work, that’s being in tune. So, I could work on becoming more in tune and seeing how accurate I am at being in tune. That’s a good way to define being a good player, but I’m terrible at the piano. I’m really good at being in tune, because that’s how pianos work, but I’m technically very terrible at the piano.

So, when we’re talking about good, you have to define your parameters. And in the case of running, there’s a few different ways you can define this. The first way to do this is simply saying mileage, mileage is good. I run lots of miles, then I’m good at running. Now, again, lots, I’m being ambiguous here. What does lots mean?

For some people, they say, I want to run 20 miles a week. And if I run 20 miles a week, that’s the measure of a good runner. Good, because now you have something you can measure. And that’s the important part about defining a goal or something you’re chasing because it has to be measurable. If it’s not measurable, you’ll have no way to figure out how close you are to attaining that goal. And it will often move.

If you just said I want to be good at running and originally you thought, “Oh, if I could just run 20 miles a week, then I would be good at running.” Okay. You haven’t strictly defined it in your mind and said, “This is my objective to run 20 miles a week and I’m good there. That’s all I mean.” But you said, “Okay. Well, let’s go be good.”

And you get to 20 miles, you’re like, “Well, I mean good means 40 miles and then 60 miles, and it can move on you. Because you haven’t defined clear objective goals. Now, mileage, in my opinion, is that the best way to figure out if you’re good at running. But what we often want to talk about is speed. This is the objective of a lot of us, right? We want to be fast in running, that’s what we mean by good. And by fast, we have to set targets.

Again, the clock is our friend and our enemy, the thing that we just can’t live without, and sometimes don’t want to live with. But it measures our success without our input. It doesn’t matter if we’re feeling good, if we’re feeling bad, if we’re feeling great, or if we’re sick. The clock is what it is. So, it is a very good objective measure to figure out if we are going to be good at running.

Now, the benchmark for you, the benchmark for me are going to be different. And the benchmark for me right now in my life is different than it was 10 years ago, or even 10 years before that. Because as mentioned, I’ve been running for 20 years now. So, it kind of takes an arc.

Now, if I went back to 12-year-old me and said I want to be good at running, what does that mean? Well, at the time, in eighth grade, running mile and a half races, I think I was trying to run under 12, 11 minutes somewhere in that range. And that was good to me.

I had an objective measure to follow. And then in high school, I was trying to get under 18. And then I wanted to get under 17, didn’t get anywhere close to the 5K. So, that was an objective measure. And then in college, it moved up and up and up. Now, I will tell you for that progression, me personally from 12-year-old to my lifetime PR, it took 11 years of hard training.

Now, that may be a hard pill to swallow because 11 years is a long time. It’s a very long time, especially when you’re training hard, pretty much 11, 11, and a half months out of the year, not taking holidays off all that kind of stuff. And that’s not what everybody’s cut out for, and that’s perfectly fine. But know that running is a long-term game.

You’re not going to get to your best level if you want to keep moving the bar up without being in it for the long haul. Now, if you’re older, I’m currently 32, if you’re starting around this time, you may actually be able to achieve your best running times, if you’re consistent in four or five years.

If you think about my timeline, I was a 12-year-old, I was still growing into my body, going through puberty, all those kind of things. There’s lots of big changes that happens in that period. But I have definitely talked to, on the Smart Athlete podcast, again, if you’re on this channel, hit that subscribe button, to people that come to this sport late and then end up doing a lot very, very quickly because they have good training partners, they’re consistent, their body is already ready, they’re in some kind of fit shape. And all those things play a role in getting to that fastest point in your life.

So, what I want to encourage you to do is pick a goal, an objective goal that you can measure. And if it’s time, then share with me down in the comments below, what are your recent times, what are you looking for, and what’s your timeline for getting there. If it’s unfeasible, say you’re running 25-minute, 5Ks you’ve been running 40 miles a week for a year, and then now you want to go 20 minutes.

Probably not going to happen. But I’m not going to be a Debbie Downer on you. I’m going to try to give you the best words of encouragement I can and some kind of plan if you share with me down in the comments below. Hopefully, together, we can help keep you on track to hit your goal.

And remember, when you want to be good at running, that means you’ve got to define what you think is good, not what I think is good. So, that is a personal thing that you got to come up with. But whatever your goal is, share your objective goal down in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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