The mighty Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame yesterday announced he wants to encourage us (all 1.55 billion Facebook users no less) to run a mile-a-day, every single day of 2016.
‘I'm going to run 365 miles and I'd love for as many people in this community to join me as possible,’ Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
‘This is a lot of running, but it's not a crazy amount. It's a mile a day, and at a moderate pace it's less than 10 minutes of running per day.’
Since his announcement yesterday over 44,000 members have joined his Facebook group, A Year of Running.
While encouraging us all to take up running is excellent news and it’s commendable of Zuckerberg to use his incredible reach and influence to promote health and fitness, his challenge does pose some concerns for beginner runners.
A mile-a-day is an achievable goal. Ron Hill’s been doing it for over 50 years and he’s still going strong. But while it sounds simple enough, Zuckerberg suggests that a moderate running pace is 'less than 10 minutes of running per day.’ While that might be an easy pace for a fit and healthy man in his early thirties, for total beginners a 10 minute mile is actually quite fast. So how can we approach Zuckerberg’s running challenge the right way, minimise the risk of injury and keep motivation in check?
‘If running a mile a day is going to be a challenge for you, it's likely that you're going to be running slower than 10 minutes per mile,’ agrees Laura Fountain, a UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness and Level 3 Personal Trainer.
‘There's no shame in this - we all need to start somewhere and a mile is still a mile - but in specifying a number Zuckerberg is going to alienate some people. We've all heard people say “I'm not a PROPER runner” even though anyone who runs (regardless of speed) is a runner. Putting an arbitrary number on it such as 10 minutes can make beginners feel like they don't belong.’
The sustainable run streak
While there is no questioning the importance of regular exercise and the benefits of Zuckerberg’s good intentions, there are safer and more maintainable ways to approach running. ‘Instead of breaking it down to a mile a day, I would like to see something less rigid,’ explains Laura. ‘So instead of run a mile a day, run/walk for 20 minutes, three times a week, and after a few weeks, start to increase that time. This way you're still able to complete 365 miles in a year, but you're doing it in a safer and more sustainable way.’
By suggesting one mile-a-day for an entire year, Zuckerberg effectively makes it too easy for new runners to fail. ‘The problem with giving people a goal to do something every day is that once things get in the way (illness, injury, family commitments) the incentive to keep going diminishes,’ explains Laura. ‘Running 362 days out of a year doesn't have the same ring to it. You also need days off running to recover and help your body adapt to the demands of training.’
So what is the safest way to embrace running and fitness in the New Year? ‘For beginners wanting to take part I'd urge them to go running three times a week,' says Laura. 'Get a beginners training plan and build up to a 5K. And I bet that once you get there and you start to enjoy running, you will find yourself covering many more miles this year than Mark Zuckerberg.’