I know you've all felt it. You go out running, and when you get back, your family asks how far you went. If you only ran a single, "lousy" mile, regardless of how good of shape you are in (or, more importantly, lack thereof), you hesitate to say "One mile." Usually you put some kind of modifier, like, "Oh . . . it was just a quick run, just a mile" . . . or you exagerate and say "About a mile and a half or so." God forbid you proudly proclaim, "One mile!"
I have thought about this quite a lot and why this is the case for people just getting into running. The only thing I can really come up with takes me back to middle school and high school. In middle school and high school, it was expected that you be able to run a mile in under ten minutes or you would receive a lower grade. Looking back, that is freaking harsh. To ask a bunch of kids, who in this day in age barely do any physical activity except the walk from the computer to the couch and to the fridge, is really a tall order. My point is this: high school gym class set a lifetime minimum expectation of distance that people ought to be able to do without any training. I take issue with this.
For anyone just getting off the couch, one mile IS an accomplishment. Running it in under ten minutes is hard to do, even if you aren't just off the couch. So while you are working toward this good benchmark, there are a few things you can do to offset the stigma attached to the dreaded mile.
The best thing you can possibly do when you are just getting started is pace yourself. And I really mean pace yourself. I am going to use my mom as my example; sorry, mom. My mom has been on and off trying to get into running, inspired by one of her friends. She will slowly build up to run a decent distance, get a bit of a nagging injury, and then be forced to start all over again. Aside from this, one of the things that I've always tried to tell her is to PACE her runs. She really likes to get off the starting line with a bang, excited to be out and running. This is great, the excitement is great, but it also can be detrimental to a distance run. Yes, a one mile run is a distance run when you are just starting out. The key to running is being steady and knowing when to pull back and let your body recover. The faster the pace you can maintain while in a recovery phase, the faster you will complete your run. Pacing is key, so start out slow and don't push yourself; most injuries occur when you are pushing yourself too hard for your training level. I will most definitely have a post later on dedicated to pacing, since it is such an important topic.
Use of Kilometeres
Ever since I went on a Canadian adventure with my brother Dave and Brian, I came to the conclusion that kilometers are the best thing since sliced bread. They seem to whisk by compared to miles. The conversion rate is this: ~1.62 kilometers per one mile. If you do the math, that dreaded mile looks a hell of a lot better in kilometers, doesn't it? The most important thing, though, is American's are stupid. We do not really understand kilometers. All we know is that a standard road race is a 5k, and to most people that seems like quite the distance, if people do that for a race. I am not knocking the 5k; I can't go out and bust one out with a good time all the time. But, what I'm trying to get at is that the 5k sets a goal people train to, and it doesn't have that negative stigma attached to it like the miles. Saying you ran a 2k seems impressive, because thats almost half of a 5k!
Aside from this fact, I really want to stress the fact that kilometers seem to fly by. When I am running using miles, it seems to *crawl*. I feel like it goes so incredibly slow. To contrast, it feels like kilometers get chewed up with every step. Try it out---it's worth it.
I just wanted to illustrate for the beginning runner how slow we really get going, to try and illustrate that distance is not as important as training up steady and avoiding injuries. Below is the link to the recommended training guide from the barefoot running forums for the first 8 WEEKS: Thread for new runners
Yes, if you did in fact follow the link, found the table, and actually read it (which I'm going to assume you didn't . . . =) ), the first 8 weeks start our with walking, short 30 second runs in place, and then1/8 to 1/4 of a mile, slowly building up to 1.5 miles before you move on. This training schedule slows you down, gets your feet used to the shock of running (even in shoes, you need to get your body used to it). Take home message: You don't need to start out running a mile.
I just wanted to make it clear that getting into running is a slow process, and to avoid injury you really need to follow that advice. It is not something you can really fool around with. More importantly, do not ever be ashamed of doing one mile, or less then one mile. If you feel bad, just lie, say you did more! Don't give up or let people get you down. The fact that you are even trying is better than what a lot of other people can say. Good luck getting into it!