How to run your first mile

Are you ready to take your first steps into the world of running? Build up your running stamina and get ready to complete your first ever mile with our expert tips!

How to run your first mile

Setting yourself a goal of running a mile, non-stop, is a great first target in training. It's totally achievable for most, can form a bridge before tackling your first 5K and you'll even be following in the footsteps of running greats like Roger Bannister!

Start small

As the old adage goes, ‘don’t run before you can walk’. Build up time on your feet by walking, reaching a comfortable level before you up the pace and start to run.

'Be realistic and accept where you are now,' advises our resident running coach Tom Craggs from RunningWithUs

'If you are not used to running and head straight of the door at a serious pace, then 200m up the road your heart rate will jump through the ceiling and by 300m-400m you'll be turning back for home. Patience is key, but take heart; with the right training you will see rapid gains.'

If you're not used to high-impact exercise, try mixing up your transport until you feel comfortable on your feet. Walk a little further to pick up your lunch, take the stairs instead of getting the lift, or hop off the bus a few stops earlier. You fitness levels will gradually start to build and before long you'll be ready to run your first mile. 

Master the run-walk

Until your body adjusts to high-impact exercise it may take some time to run consistently without stopping, which is completely normal. 

'Start with a structured jog/brisk walk strategy,' says Tom Craggs. 'Too many runners try to progress by running as far as they can in one go and just try to push it further each run. This is hoping to progress, not planning to progress.

'Starting off with a brisk 5 minute walk to warm up followed by 5 sets of 30 seconds running, 30 seconds brisk walking and a 5 minute walk to cool down will be a great start. You’ll cover a mile in that time most likely. The goal as the weeks go by is to build the length of your running blocks and reduce your recoveries.’

‘Look to progress towards 10 x 1 minute easy run, 1 minute brisk walk. Over time you can get cleave with your sessions e.g. 3 minutes run + 5 x 30 seconds running / walking + 3 minutes run and soon you will be ready to run a mile without stopping'

Alternatively, try our Coach to 5K training plan 

Take it slow

If the last time you ran for anything other than the bus was your school sports day, you will be forgiven for thinking that the only pace your legs should travel is super-fast. You will also be pleased to find out that this is not the case.

You will be able to run much further for longer if you relax and find a rhythm that’s comfortable for you. Determine your ‘easy’ pace by your breathing, it shouldn’t be too heavy, and if you’re out with a friend you should be able to chat without panting.

‘In these earlier runs it can feel like there is no such thing as an ‘easy’ effort, as all running can feel like you’re really pushing it,' advises Tom Craggs.

'Once you have developed a bit of confidence you will learn that you do have several running "gears". Try to stay as easy as you can on your running efforts in those early runs, but keep you walking intervals to a brisk effort.’


To get the most out of your running and reduce the chances of injury, it's wise to mix up your routine by cross-training and incorporate other fitness activities into your week.

'A mile is still a largely aerobic distance - you will likely be running for anything between 8 minutes and 12-13 minutes and you do need endurance for that,' says Tom Craggs.

'While in the early weeks you will not be ready for long sustained blocks of running you can achieve significant gains with cross-training. Many people new to the sport cannot run for 5 minutes continuously but could complete a 20-30 minute continuous easy bike ride or swim. Consider adding these to your training and you’ll find the fitness translates very quickly into your running.’

Beat the first mile blues

During your run, as your body starts to work hard you may find yourself focusing on the difficult aspects of running, which in turn may make you want to stop. The key to beating the run demons is distraction. Give yourself something to aim for, such a running to your favourite coffee shop, or through a particularly scenic park with lots to look at.

Alternatively join a running group or enlist the company of a friend so you can distract each other with a chinwag. Small goals will make you less focused on the physical sensations of running and before you know it you will have completed your first mile!

If you're still struggling with the urge to stop, read our tips on how to keep on running


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