Good question. Almost every runner I’ve ever talked to agrees that the first mile or two of a run can be the most uncomfortable. The effect is often compounded if that first mile comes on the heels of a rest day.

Basically, what’s happening is you’re forcing your engine to work (aerobic state) before it’s had a chance to properly warm up (anaerobic state). I bought a Subaru a few months ago, and now I sit patiently in my car and wait for the little blue light on the dashboard to go off before leaving home. That little blue light goes off when the car is warmed up, the fluids are moving around nicely, and it’s ready to go.

As a runner, your blue light usually shuts off after 10-15 minutes, or one to two miles of running. Until that point, your sore muscles, heart and lungs, nagging injuries, and the rest of your body are screaming at you to reconsider things. But, slowly they all fall into line and begin doing what you’ve trained them to do.

The trick, for beginning runners especially, is to overcome the initial discomfort knowing that an enjoyable run awaits you on the other side of mile one or two. Easier said than done, right? Even as a veteran runner, I still suffer from cramps, ragged breathing, and general fatigue during that first mile on some days. And, yeah, it does suck.

How do I Make the First Mile of my Run Better?

  • Warm up slowly with a planned walk, jog, or slow pace for the first mile or two before hitting your goal pace for the workout. If you are planning to run 4 miles at 8:00 pace, think about adding 1 or 2 miles at 9:30 pace to warm up.
  • Add dynamic stretching, lunges, and skipping to your pre-run routine.
  • Try a Progression Run. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed throughout the run to build stamina and introduce speed safely and without too much stress on the body.
  • Make sure that you are properly hydrated and rested. If you need a boost, consider a cup of coffee (or two) before your key workouts.
  • Learn how your body responds to a proper warm up routine and use it to your advantage on race day. Arrive at the starting line of your next 5K with a light sweat beading on your forehead, and I can almost guarantee a good race time will follow.
If the first mile of your run sucks, remember it gets better. Click To Tweet

2 thoughts on “Why Does the First Mile of my Run Suck So Much?

  1. Very solid and concise explanation. This phenomena is partially why I do a ton of progression runs. There are many days where I go out feeling extremely rough then I surprise myself and am able to pick it up (a lot) after a few miles, and I finish feeling good. I also think that the initial mile one discomfort keeps a lot of people from breaking through to find a love for the sport (versus simply a means to stay fit). It wasn’t until my third attempt at “becoming a runner” that this clicked for me and I started the shift towards becoming a higher mileage runner.

    1. Matt, it did more than click for you. You’re tearing it up on the NH road race circuit this year. As I get older, I’m understanding the need for an easy first mile (or two) and a decent warm-up before races. Thanks, for the comment.

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