Lose Weight & Get Faster

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).

32 thoughts on “Lose Weight & Get Faster”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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”.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. So there’s this runner girl who use to run like 26 minutes for a 6k..now 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?

  15. 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??

  16. 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.


  17. 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

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

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