Ask-a-Salty: Increasing Speed, Pregnant Marathons, Ball of Foot Pain

Got questions? Just ask!

Woohoo! A new Salty feature! Ask-a-Salty is where you ask the questions and we give you the answers! Just look at the top of this page and you’ll see the “Ask-a-Salty” link. Just click and ask away and maybe you’ll be featured in our next installment!

Of course with our Ask-a-Salty feature, as with any post on the site, readers are encouraged to weigh in with their input in the comments!

In this very first installment we have two great questions from two awesome readers!

The first question (actually 2 questions!) comes from Kenia who asks:

I have been running for five months. I have done a 5k, a 1/2 marathon and a 10k during that time. I would like to run a marathon, however I feel like my time it’s still not that good, 7:46 mi and 8:10mi. I’ve always
been very active and trained every day. This is the first time I’ve taken running seriously. What do you recommend to do to increase speed?

By the way 2013 will be the year that we will be trying for our third
child. Would you recommend doing the race before, during or after baby?

Great questions, Kenia! The good news is that at a mere 5 months into your running career you’re still a baby and have TONS of room for improvement. Even better, it should take no gimmicks to get to where you want to go.  When you’re this new to running and training, the most important thing you can do to get faster is to build your aerobic engine. And to build your aerobic engine you need to run more miles in your aerobic zone. The best news of all is that your aerobic training zone is your easy pace.

“Beginners can increase speed by slowly increasing weekly easy miles.”

Easy pace is the pace that feels easy. The pace that you can hold a 90 minute conversation with your best running friend. The pace that you could sing along to your favorite iPod mix (and maybe bust a few running/dance moves!). It’s just a nice easy trot that you feel like you could keep up forever if you had the time or the inclination. If you’ve run a 7:46 paced 5k, easy pace should fall somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00 pace. If in doubt, err on the side of slower. (For more on what easy pace is, check out our earlier post: Training Basics: What is Easy?)

To increase your weekly mileage, you can add another few miles on a day you currently don’t run or extend the length of one or two of your current runs per week a little bit every week. If you feel the need for speed, I feel the best workout for a newer runner is the negative split run where you run easy for the first half and slowly pick up the pace over the second half of the run. This is particularly a great workout on your long run days.

How confident are you that you can train for your first full marathon with one of these hanging around? Image via The Guardian.

As for the timing of the marathon, I would NOT plan to run the marathon while pregnant as you have no idea whether you’ll be able to do it or not. A marathon is both a huge financial and time investment that I wouldn’t suggest risking by planning to run the race while pregnant.  Some women can run a full marathon while pregnant, but some can’t. Some really want to, but some really don’t.  The safest bet would be to do the marathon before trying for baby and then focusing on the next big life milestone! After is fine too, but again you just don’t know what you’ll be able to handle once baby enters the picture. So if the goal is to train hard and run a great first ‘thon, I’d recommend knocking it out before moving on to the next best aerobic-training around (woo woo!) For more on racing while pregnant, check out this post: Racing While Pregnant.


 Our second questions comes from Cathryn who asks:

I’ve got foot pain, an ache in the ball of my foot which I think is metatarsalgia. I’m icing, I’ve foregone today’s run (aagh) but I have a half marathon in five weeks which I’ve trained my ARSE off for, and I badly want to run it well. So can you guys help me out really quickly so I can be miraculously cured and run my first sub-two???

Ah. The ol’ pain in the ball of the foot thing. No fun! I had something similar in my build-up to my first marathon.  The weird thing was I only felt it on Saturdays, which were my shortest run of the week and the day before my long runs. The weirder thing was I never was bothered by it during my long runs or on any other runs during the week. And that’s how I figured out it was a pair of shoes! I had a pair of shoes that I only wore Saturdays because they didn’t fit as good as my others. The toebox was super wide and they never really grew on me so I figured I’d just wear them for my short Saturday runs to get my money’s worth out of them. But once I figured out they were hurting me, I pitched ’em (well, donated them!) So, my first suggestion is to look at your shoes.

While training for your big race and it starts to hurt right over there, what do you do? Image via

The next thing is to consider how bad the pain is. This is where things get really gray. When we train our arses off as you have we are bound to have a few niggling aches and pains along the way. Some of them can really hurt in the moment, but turn out to be nothing. Others can start mildly, but turn into the beastly injury we can’t shake. As runners we need to learn to read our body’s cues to understand what’s just an ache and pain that comes with the territory and what’s something that demands our attention. Only you can decide where the line is for you. All I know is that I hope the icing and day off did the trick and you’re well on your way to that sub-2 PR! GOOOOOOO Cathryn!

What say you? How did you increase your speed when you started training? Would you wait to run your first marathon before, during or after a planned pregnancy? Any experience with ball of foot pain? How can you tell the difference between just another ache or pain and an actual injury?


Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Thanks for the thoughts!! I have wondered if it’s time to buy new shoes but I’m a bit tight like that and I wanted to have another 100 miles in them! Icing has worked really well, and a few extra days off but I’ll keep an eye on it!

    1. If you want to get another 100 miles out of them, why don’t you continue using them while you rotate in a new pair? That way, you can get some more miles on them, but beat your feet up a little less in the process. Besides, you don’t want to be racing in old shoes and if your race is not for 5 weeks, I definitely get a new pair. How many miles are on them?

  2. Thanks for checking in. I’ve been worried about you 🙂 Hope it continues to feel better. Keep us posted and DEFINITELY let us know how the half goes!!!

  3. OOOOH i like the idea of rotating shoes. That would make me a two-pair-girl and I’ve never been a two-pair-girl. I may have to discuss this with the holder of the family purse strings. Which is me, but I have to imply that the Earner is in charge.

    Thanks to both of you for the thoughts!!

    1. Definitely rotate! As Mint said, it’s actually economical because when you give a pair of shoes a rest in between runs in them you get more miles out of them.

  4. Metatarsalgia … oh, I literally feel your pain on that. Two thoughts:
    I found that I am not able to get as many miles on my shoes before my foot complains. You know that 500 mile figure that gets thrown around? I’ve never gotten over 300, and usually around 200 my right foot starts hurting. I’m a forefront striker, and I just blow through the cushioning there.

    Back in high school, I had custom orthotics made. They lifted up my arch a little bit, but they also had a ball under the metatarsals to live them up. Maybe something to look at for the future if switching shoes doesn’t solve it? I also had a convoluted taping routine for running without my orthotics (like racing in spikes or flats), but I don’t know how well that would work for distance running.

  5. Kenia, I’d recommend running the marathon before trying to get pregnant. As Salty said, it’s hard to predict what you’ll be able to do while pregnant. My first pregnancy, I could barely run during the first trimester because I was so tired and my hips ached so badly. The second pregnancy, I was able to run a 1/2 marathon at 14 weeks and felt pretty good. I also recommend trying to run one before vs after just because you don’t know how the postpartum period will go. I had an easy recovery with my 1st baby and was back running at 2 weeks. She was an awesome sleeper and I got back into a training groove quickly. My recovery was a little longer the second time, but the non-sleeping baby meant I was too tired to function much less run. With you having 2 already, I’m sure you know how unpredictable live with kids can be 🙂 So I think your greatest chance for success is to train and run it while you still have some idea of what your available time/energy will be.