5 things to consider when deciding how many kilometres to run per week

People often ask me, “how much should I run per week?” My response is always the same, “it depends”.

How much someone is running at any point in time is driven by a number of factors, and may fluctuate substantially throughout the year.  A lot of people think they have to run a large number of kilometres to improve as a runner, but that’s simply not the case. Here are five things to think about when considering how much to run per week.

1.   Your current fitness level

Consider your running fitness at this point in time. Someone who is not used to high mileage should not be jumping into 50 kilometre weeks just because they follow a friend on Strava who does. Building up your mileage over time is highly recommended if you want to avoid getting injured, and that applies to those who are new to running, as well as those that are at the start of a new build up to run a long race like a marathon.

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2.   What your environment looks like

For most people, training is seasonal. The time of year and weather outside may impact on the number of kilometres you can do. Sure, sometimes the treadmill is necessary, but if it’s snowing, you might try skiing instead. And what about your other life commitments? Environment can be work and family, which, sometimes needs to take priority. If you are busy and stressed at work, it might not be the best time to up your mileage! 

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 3.   What is your goal

This might be a short-term goal or a long term goal, or it might be both. Is it general fitness, is it to complete a 5 km park run, is it to run a PB in your next half marathon, or marathon, are you doing an ultra marathon? It is pretty clear that the answer to this question is going to result in a vastly different training schedule, and very different mileage per week. Not surprisingly, the longer the race, the more kilometres you should be putting in the run bank. Similarly, if you want to run a PB, that may require running more kilometres each week than if you are just running to finish the race. Train specific!

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4.   Some kilometres are worth more than others

Variation is key. It’s those track workouts, tempo runs, fartlek sessions, and hill repeats that normally result in increased speed and endurance performance. But so often people choose to ignore those, and go out and run at the same pace every time. Don’t get me wrong, base running is important too, and you can’t skip your long runs when you’re marathon training just because you did two speed sessions, but consider closely what you do, as well as how much. On that, speed sessions can be stressful for the body, so you might consider decreasing the number of kilometres following your toughest sessions.

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5.   Run too much and you might get injured

We have all been there, the over enthusiastic runner who takes on too much and ends up injured. It’s not so fun spending your time doing hip raises and "clams" at the gym while your friends are out exploring the trails. But run too much, and strength train too little, and most people end up injured. When you are not peaking for race season, consider swapping runs out and putting in extra strength, yoga or swimming, your body will thank you for it once you are back into the big mile weeks again.

So now you are thinking ok fine, I have considered all that, but how many kilometres should I run per week for my next race? Which is X kilometres ….

Despite the fact we just told you it depends, there are some rough guides for everyday runners and elite runners, based on various race distances, and here they are:

General runner

  • 5 km: 30-40 km
  • 10 km: 40-50 km
  • Half marathon: 50-65 km
  • Marathon: 50-80 km

Elite runner

  • 5 km: 110-130 km
  • 10 km: 130-160 km
  • Half marathon: 160-175 km
  • ·Marathon: 160-225 km

Your weekly kilometres should be specific to you based on all these considerations. If you are still not sure, find a local coach or running group and train alongside others. Good luck!

Happy running,

Dan