Lose Weight & Get Faster

Posted by Filed Under: Weight Loss

There was a nice little table in Runner’s World this month that illustrates how much faster you could be if you lost weight. Of course, this would not take into account speed increases due to training.

Pounds Lost
1/2 Marathon

According to RW author Amby Burfoot, the table is based on research that runners, on average get 2 seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. The times you see above are the amounts a runner can shave off his/her race times by losing weight.

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Note: Weight loss is for people who are overweight – not for people who are already slim. Losing weight when you are slim means you are losing muscle tissue and that means you are losing strength which in turn makes you slower. If at all in doubt, discuss with a professional (a doctor or your coach).

About Mark Iocchelli

Also known as the "Running Blogfather", I'm a 40-something marathoner who has beaten stress fractures and terrible shin splints. Now I'm running double the mileage with no pain - and I'm getting faster. I love to talk about running form and Arthur Lydiard. I also enjoy taking photographs, have a beautiful (and very patient!) wife, and am the proud father of two crazy kids. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the site.

  1. 21stCenturyMom on June 8th at 10:31 am

    hmmm….. I’d like to lose 5 pounds but getting 10 sec/mile out of that isn’t compelling enough for me to swear off the burittos. More time on the track sounds better.

  2. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on June 8th at 10:34 am

    I try not to lose weight; I think it would slow me down. All I need to do to lose weight is stop running and the pounds just drop right off.

    Come marathon time, I move towards the low end of my annual average range, but I have about a 5 to 6 pound range that I rarely move out of throughout the year.

  3. Mark Iocchelli on June 8th at 10:48 am

    Blaine: Yes, losing weight is not the answer for everyone. You can only lose weight to a certain point. After that, you compromise strength. I think the point is to lose fat – not muscle. I suspect you are already where you need to be.

  4. gregontherun on June 8th at 11:19 am

    Absolutely worked for me. I’ve dropped 53 pounds since January 10. 5K time went from 51 minutes on January 1 to 31.54 on May 19. Mile run time dropped from 13.30 to 9.19.

  5. Mark Iocchelli on June 8th at 1:18 pm

    Greg, that’s outstanding! Congratulations – that’s quite an accomplishment.

  6. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on June 8th at 2:17 pm

    Yeah, I have about 5.5% body fat; I don’t think I need to lose any.

  7. Dawn - Pink Chick on June 9th at 10:03 am

    I have to agree. Even with the little I have lost so far I have seen great improvement in my running and my times. As more weight is lost I hope to find that skinny fast runner that’s been hiding inside me.

  8. Melisa (Irish Blue) on June 9th at 9:03 pm

    I saw this table too. I figured all I have to do to qualify for Boston is lose 80 pounds.;-)

    Seriously though, I want to lose 10-15 pounds before I run a marathon is October and this table has motivated me.

  9. Soozan on June 10th at 6:16 am

    I’d have to lose 177 lbs to qualify for Boston.

  10. sdhjui on June 14th at 7:38 pm

    and this is why all us cross country girls become anorexic.

    seriously, some people aren’t running to lose weight and we are naturally skinny, and I know MANY girls who would misinterpret this chart and try to lose even more weight to try and run 18:30 5ks or whatever. There should be a note included that mentions that most naturally slim girls wont find time increases with these weight losses because they have already plateaued and that this is no excuse to try and lose even more weight if you are already slim because it will just hurt you

  11. Mark Iocchelli on June 14th at 7:44 pm

    Good point. That’s the last thing we want. I’ve added a note. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Heather on June 18th at 5:35 pm

    What does “overweight” mean in this article? I’m “normal” according to the obesity chart in the doctor’s office, but for a marathon runner it may be considered “overweight”. mmm… Would be interesting to see the subjects used for study and what the researcher looked as as “overweight”.

  13. Mark Iocchelli on June 18th at 5:46 pm

    Heather, that’s a good question. The article does not get into that part of it. For the record, I added the part about “overweight” after the comment previous to yours because I thought the commenter rightly had a concern about this article coming across the wrong way to some people.

    My view would be that you should not be so concerned about your weight, as much as you should be concerned about your percentage of body fat. Reduction of weight through loss of body fat should be the goal.

    We should do an article on that. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Emily L. on July 15th at 3:06 pm

    I used to do a lot of runs, triathlons, and swim year round. I stopped doing that 7 years ago. In the meantime, I’ve gained 25 lbs. and not working out as much. While I’m not fat, I’m trying to lose the weight I put on. Last year I had 8 triathlon races and a couple of runs. I’ve been losing more weight and have noticed this year’s race times are much slower. I have a lot more muscle since last year and train more. What do you think the reason is?

  15. Back in town, back in the saddle on September 25th at 8:32 pm

    […] back to my high school and college soccer playing weight.  Second is that you can lose up to two seconds a mile for each pound you lose.  If I can come in 17 pounds lighter, that’s the 5 minutes I need […]

  16. Brian on December 5th at 3:07 pm

    I don’t know if anyone still monitors this string but I just found the website and wanted to add my .02.

    Regarding the caveat, “this (chart) would not take into account speed increases due to training.” I just wanted to say that between losing about 25 pounds and an additional 24 months of running experience I have dropped my marathon PR by 54 minutes and 9 seconds from my very first marathon (Tucson, December 2005) to my most recent marathon (Las Vegas, December 2007). I began running at 39 years of age and I still have weight that can be lost. Soldier on fellow overweight newbies!

  17. Secret Santa » Complete Running Network on December 17th at 6:01 am

    […] you could work a lot faster. Conventional wisdom says that for every pound you lose, you can run an average mile two seconds faster. Figuring that you travel about 25,000 miles to circumnavigate the Earth, if you lost just five […]

  18. anthony on January 2nd at 2:02 pm

    Makes sense that if you lose a few pounds you would be lighter therefore be faster,this also applies to say doind prush-ups or pull-ups,in theory you would be lighter so you could do more reps:)
    The Biggest Loser diets

  19. CJ on January 28th at 9:45 am

    After losing a staggering 70 lbs. and running my 1st 5K ever at the age of 50 just 2.5 years ago, I couldn’t even imagine what my time would have been if I had tried to run at my top weight! I am “running” 1/2 marathons now but the scale is creeping up (+20 lbs) and my time is not much better than if I were walking fast. I was quite disappointed during my last race. I never got quite down to my goal weight in the first place — I needed to lose 20 more lbs for a total of 90 lbs — but with with this gain over the last year I’m now 40 lbs overweight. I’m hoping with some new motivation I can get to my goal and pull off some PRs during 2008.

  20. Dan on April 2nd at 11:06 am

    So to carry this a little further. Would it be more beneficial to stop doing upper body weights , thus not adding further weight , and take the time spent on more cardio training for weight loss?

  21. Bidgette on April 9th at 7:26 pm

    So there’s this runner girl who use to run like 26 minutes for a she lost like 20 pounds, is super skinny and can run a 6k in 21 minutes….so the lighter, the faster? how is her body not breaking down yet…its been 2 years?

  22. michele on April 16th at 6:24 pm

    i am doing my first triathalon this summer. i am following the training schedule and my nutrition is right on. i have been trying in vain for the last year to lose 10 pounds. I thought that with the triathalon i would lose some weight since i am doing so much cardio. No such luck. is this normal?? I am at a loss. I know i need to lose fat not weight, but how??

  23. Spring 08 Wrap-Up « RunningSoules on June 15th at 5:59 pm

    […] say that you improve by 2 seconds a mile for every pound you lose. I don’t know if it’s exactly that, but I certainly did feel it began to get easier as […]

  24. mfoley on July 24th at 2:04 pm

    I would have to agree with this, i’m about 14 lbs lighter now compared with March this year and my 5 mile time has gone from 51 mins to 42 and jsut ran a 2 mile race in 15:08… sub 20 would not have been possible months back.


  25. Julie on August 8th at 1:56 pm

    I’ve started running three months ago. I’m up to seven miles four times a week, but I’ve gained 4 pounds. My whole motivation for running is that you don’t see fat runners. I was hoping to trim down. Is my body wonky or is this normal to gain at first?

    Julies last blog post..Op vakantie en bijna jarig

  26. Susan on September 11th at 11:58 am

    Anything to motivate you to lose weight is important. Staying focused can be difficult if you suffer from cravings, but I also think its great advice to remind people that you only want to lose weight if you’re overweight.

    There are many ways to lose weight, and supplements can help you if you suffer from intense cravings or low energy.

  27. omar on October 20th at 7:36 pm

    okay i weigh 157 pounds and i run a 20:54 PR 3mile for cross country… what would be my mile time??????????

  28. Jon (was) in Michigan on October 21st at 6:25 am

    Hey Omar,

    McMillan’s race calculator says that your best mile time will be 6:15, if that PR is fairly recent.
    .-= Jon (was) in Michigan´s last blog ..dream =-.

  29. Lose the Belly on November 9th at 7:37 pm

    That really is a very interesting table. Food for thought?

  30. Don on July 1st at 5:57 am

    The lighter you are the faster you go! Also, it seems that since Ive dropped 20 pounds, I have less knee and back problems. Most of your fast runners unfortunately look like Christian Bale in “The Machinist”. Another benefit is that I am able to sustain faster pace in hot/humid weather than before.

  31. FatBurningFurnace on August 18th at 4:38 pm

    Great site. Thanks for the post.
    .-= FatBurningFurnace´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  32. Andy Eaton on November 23rd at 7:33 am

    great post, its so true that many slim people are fast as they arent carrying extra weight around.