The best way to increase your distance is by increasing the distance gradually. The golden number is 10%.

It is safe to increase by approx. 10% each week.

So if you look at a lot of training plans you’ll usually see a distance run scheduled for the weekend (often a Sunday) and usually it follows a standard increase of 10% so 5km to 10km for example would go something like 5km, 5.5km, 6km, 6.5km, 7.25km, 8km, 8.75km, 9.5km – yes there might be a taper in there but you can see how a nice gradual but steady increase can get you to 10km in 8-10 weeks!

There is no real way around it. To get used to covering the distance you NEED TO RUN the distance (ok you CAN walk some of it) but once again it comes down to Time on Feet (ToF) but you’re recording it through kms or miles rather than hours and minutes.



There are some coaching programmes that say you CAN run a marathon without actually getting to the magical 20 miles BUT these are few and my own experience suggests you’re much better scheduling a distance run each week and taking the time to increase slowly.

It's also time to talk about periodisation.

NO this is not some feminine thing!! So please do keep reading if you have testicles.

Periodisation is a way of organising your training so that over a moderate amount of time (3-12 months) you see substantial gains without suffering from fatigue or injury.

You can’t train hard and keep upping and overloading and challenging yourself to your upper limits day after day, week after week without it taking a toll. Your body HAS TO HAVE time to repair. You need time to rest and for your body to adapt. This is where periodisation comes in. To paraphrase the ‘official definition’ it is a systematic planning of physical training to reach the best possible performance. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training period during a specific period.

When we talk about running an example of a periodisation plan could be:

  • 4 weeks core (to lay a foundation)
  • 1 week recovery
  • 4 weeks strength
  • 1 week recovery
  • 4 weeks endurance
  • 1 week recovery
  • 4 weeks speed
  • 1 week recovery
  • 4 weeks distance
  • 1 week flexibility/ stretching

As you can see it’s a 25-week plan, so you can see how you CAN go from 0km to Full Marathon in six months. And by allowing rest and recovery weeks in between the more intense training periods it allows adequate time for your body to adjust, heal and adapt.

This is also one of the reasons why I have set up Flabby Mummy Runs to cycle through these 4 main ‘areas’ of running – keeping your interest AND helping you to keep improving without damage.


What’s that got to do with DISTANCE and RUNNING?

When you start focusing on distance it is easy to get bogged down by the whole number; “oh gosh I don’t know if I can run 13.1 miles!” and then every run becomes “that was ONLY 4 miles – it’s so far away from 13.1!” and you start talking yourself out of it. This mental trick has brought down many a wannabe distance runner!

Before I became “a runner” I was told I was to be part of a team 10km with the other workers in my office. I lived in Fukuoka, Japan at the time and worked as an ALT on the JET programme for the Municipal Board of Education. I did a LOT of cultural research on Japan before I moved there BUT somehow – apart from baseball – I neglected to look at what other sports the Japanese love and what do you know THEY LOVE RUNNING.

So here we are talking about how EVERY YEAR the whole of city hall take part in a team 10km at Ohori Koen (Ohori Park) which is a 2km loop marked off in permanent road paint around a beautiful lake. Departments send a team of 5 of their best runners and compete for who get’s the fastest 10km.

This was terrifying to me and to my horror it wasn’t a voluntary thing it was COMPULSARY that we take part. What was worse was that the ALT’s (us Gaijin – foreigners) ALWAYS came last and this had become a city hall wide joke.

So, I’ve never run before (except for public transport or at school) I’m 23 but a smoker. I like to think of myself as quite fit as I’m a size 10 and I can dance from 10pm until 8am in a club but running makes me feel like I am going to die!

I made a plan – first – I was going to go to the gym and just ‘try’ to run 2km to see how it felt. Then I was going to keep going back each week and do intervals between 6mph and 8mph (walking and running). And after 6 weeks or so try the 2km again. Great plan right?

But this plan stayed just that. A plan. Each week I’d promise myself that I’d start, and then I didn’t. I sat on my arse, I smoked my fags, I berated myslf for not even going to the gym once, and before I knew it, it was time for the race!

We came last and the whole of the ALT team remained a laughing stock!

Many of you have heard the story of how running (and that’s a very complimentary way of putting it, it was more like walking angrily, interspersed with stunted running - too fast -  then coughing, followed by doubling over with agonising stitch and then repeating all over again!) that 2km was one of the hardest things to put my body through. I have described how I felt like I was dying to many C25K runners to demonstrate how running is a skill that takes practice, it’s a learned ability not a given one.

I keep that horrible run in my memory banks because that 2km, that night, felt as difficult as climbing Everest. But now I could run 2km easily and without thought – just as you can.



With any long distance run it’s about breaking it down into manageable chunks – as my dad used to say “Nic how do you eat an elephant?” (if you know you know)

It’s not about 25 miles to go it’s about the next mile…..then the next mile and so on. Just like when we first started it was about the next minute, then the next minute.

To sum up:

  • gradually up your distance by no more than 10% each week
  • factor in rest/recovery
  • try to include periodisation in plans that are 10 weeks plus
  • break it down into manageable chunks
  • reframe each mile as simply 1 mile

The next article we’ll be looking at fuelling your body for distance runs!