Is it better to run slowly? Or not run at all?

Is it better to run slowly? Or not run at all?

In the beginning of the marathon era, it used to be that those who ran, ran to win. Today, marathons are still a challenging hurdle for those who aim to set personal goals or even win, but the rules of who can participate have relaxed.

Today, marathon runners include men and women into their 80’s, amputees, jugglers, even canines. Some trendy new marathons embrace the excitement factor by making unique forms of running mandatory. The North American Wife Carrying Championship takes place in Bethel, Maine each year. Over sand traps and log hurdles, men carry their female partners while racing towards the finish line. The trend in marathons lately seems to point towards the idea that it doesn’t matter how you run (or walk) it, it only matters that you do.

In the 1980’s when marathons first came into being, the average runner took only four hours to complete the race. Today, the average numbers are much higher (4:43 for women). Around 20 percent of participants in the New York City Marathon take over five hours to finish the race.

There are many benefits to running the race – even when you finish last. The whole idea of running races becomes easier to juggle. Without the pressure of “doing well”, you can find it much easier to muster the motivation.

You could even argue that it’s the slow runners of the marathon that gain the most benefit. Without launching into grueling training regimens, it’s easier on muscles and reduces the risk of injury. Walk breaks work well for runners who are older or are at a higher risk for injury.

Not surprisingly at all, research indicates that joggers consistently tend to live longer than those who do not exercise at all. However some surprising data also emerged from several of these studies. It was determined that the ideal amount of jogging is between one hour and 2.4 hours each week at a slow pace. Strenuous joggers and sedentary non-joggers actually ended up having similar rates for mortality according to one of the researchers, Jacob Louis Marott.

While the study itself certainly has some areas that draw more questions (the same size of strenuous runners was small – only about 80 people), it definitely suggests that for those of us who are worried about quality of performance, it’s worth getting up and giving it a try despite how we think we’ll do. The studies show that even those who finish last are ultimately benefitting the most.

Written by Amber O’Neal

Amber O'Neal

With over 12 years of professional health and wellness experience, Amber is well-respected by her peers in the fitness and nutrition community. In addition to speaking to corporate and community audiences, she is a freelance fitness and nutrition writer and media expert who has been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Marie Claire, and Heart & Soul. Her television appearances include CBS, NBC and FOX affiliates as well as the NBC Nightly News.