Q. I'm a slightly overweight 44-year-old who decided that they didn't want to become a fat, unfit 50-year-old. So, six weeks ago, I started running. I love it, but can't seem to run any further or any faster than one-and-half miles in 30 minutes. In a few weeks I'm running a 5K race, and I'm worried I won't make it.
A. Congratulations on taking control of your life, it sounds to me as if you're doing great! I was an overweight 43-year-old and it took me over six months before I could run three miles. It really isn't unusual for beginners to struggle to even walk one-and-a-half miles briskly, let alone run that distance, so don't worry. It may just be that your expectations are a little high. You can get to where you want to be, but it will take time.
The most important part of training – for beginners and experienced runners – is balance. In every week you need to have some shorter sessions; some longer, slower runs; and some runs that are just fun!
To help you get things moving, you need a training programme. There are lots of great programmes available free on the internet. Start with our own website www.runnersworld.co.uk. I also have a beginners programme online at www.waddleon.com. This site also has virtual training groups where you can chat with fellow beginners.
As for the 5K, don't feel that you have to run the whole way. There's no shame in taking walking breaks whenever you feel the need. I certainly wouldn't set yourself a time target at this early stage in your running career. You say you already love running, which is a great start. Don't put yourself under any extra pressure. Simply make it your goal to finish the run with a smile on your face.
—John ‘The Penguin' Bingham