I used to be fit and have started at the gym to get fit once again. I've never really been a runner but have started on the treadmill (along with bikes) to improve my cardio fitness. I want to set myself a goal to reach with running, the problem being that I'm not really sure what a good time or distance to aim for is for a novice runner?

  • "The best way to start is to start". Jul 13, 2011 at 14:36
  • @Ryan Miller Lucky for me I've started :)
    – Jim
    Jul 13, 2011 at 14:47
  • what gets you excited about running? speed? distance? social? Why did you choose running over swimming or other sports? Jul 13, 2011 at 14:56
  • Also have a look at fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/2629/… Aug 15, 2011 at 13:37

5 Answers 5


I would say, since you're a beginner, take things slowly to determine what level of running commitment you're comfortable with. Start with a half mile. Time yourself and try to get your time below 3 1/2 minutes. If you're comfortable committing more time to running, move to a mile per session. Try to get this time below 7 minutes. A 7 minute mile is a very good time for an athlete. It will take some time for a novice to reach this goal but I think this distance is a very healthy amount of running. If you are running several times per week, remember to take things slowly and give yourself enough time to recuperate.

Continue in this fashion until you have reached a level you're comfortable with both in terms of time commitment and energy expense. From my experience, running a 7 minute mile twice a week will keep you in great shape and at a high cardio fitness level.

  • If the recommendation for cardio health is 15 - 30 minutes, 3 - 5 time a week, how exactly is _ running a 7 minute mile twice a week will keep you in great shape and at a high cardio fitness level_ accurate? It's not. Jul 5, 2012 at 18:40
  • 1
    He asked for a good time/distance for a novice runner. That was my recommendation from past experience. If someone wanted to commit more time/distance to the exercise, they could challenge themselves to run 2 miles under 14 minutes or 3 miles under 21 minutes (both great times by most measurements). Also, studies continually show that time isn't as important as intensity when exercising so it's more about fitting that distance into your time window than just running for a set time.
    – BradH
    Dec 12, 2012 at 5:18

"Good" is a relative term and it would have to be adjusted for your age, sex, and any noteworthy medical conditions. In a very general sense, someone under the age of 40 with a reasonable level of fitness should be able to run a 5k in under 40 minutes.

Since you're trying to improve your fitness, run 5k and mark the time. Make your goal to trim off 10% of your time in 60 days. If you haven't been running much, that should be easy to ramp up to.


The goal for getting started is to actually just get out there and get moving, get sweating, 4-5 days per week, every week. All you need is 30 minutes a day 4-5 times per week and you will get in shape.

As a beginner your goal will be to try to do 30 minutes of running straight without walking.

If you're not quite that out of shape, then an excellent goal is to run 5km in 30 minutes. And/or try to do 60 minutes straight.

If you are a superior athlete, then you could try 5km in 20 minutes.


I started running nearly two years ago, as I hit 40. I'd never been a runner, or very fit up to then.

Start slow. The walk-run-walk is not to be sneezed at -- I couldn't run more than 100 m at a time when I started. Think of it as interval training. Go a bit further each week, running 3-4 times a week, or whatever you can fit in. Don't over do it as you feel fitness starting to come on; you need to harden up your legs and even lower back. Better that than hurting yourself and going backward.

After 6-8 weeks, you should be able to do a 3-4 miles. FWIW, I find that you need to be doing around 8-9 miles every second day to really get in the zone when running (i.e. really enjoying the run, not wondering when you'll finish). Maintaining this isn't always possible -- work, travel, family, etc. But it's a buzz when you are.

Summary: 1. You have to start somewhere. It will hurt, but fitness will come. 2. Pay money for good shoes. Your whole body will thank you. 3. Get a heart rate monitor -- will let you know how hard you are really working, and if you can upload to web, great motivational tool to watch progress. 4. Mix it up -- bike ride, walk, weights. 5. Upper body weight lifting will improve your times if you get to that point. 6. OK to have a slower week every 3-4 weeks or so -- actually helps your body. 7. Start slow, build slow, and know that it will come. In three months you'll feel great.

Good luck !!!


I started running again after a few years hiatus from failed marathon training (knee gave out after 18 miles). I ran a 5k with my office team and that got me spirited again. A goal that I reached last year was to run 1 5k a month for the entire year with no time limit except to complete. The winter ones were suprisingly a lot of fun (and invigorating).

Just my $.02 on a running goal.

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