We often ponder the notion of a “good” time when it comes to 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon races. We wonder if we fall into the category of “good” runners. Today, we will explore what is considered a “good” mile time and where we stand in comparison.
This subject is complex as mile times are influenced by various factors including age, gender, and fitness level. Taking all of these into account, we will delve into the following key points:
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How Long Is A Mile?
A mile is equivalent to 1.6 kilometers, 1609 meters, or the completion of four laps around an Olympic-sized track (4 x 400m, plus 9m at the end!). Additionally, it measures 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards.
What Are the Current Fastest Mile Times?
Currently, the world record holder for the mile distance in the men’s category is Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj, who achieved a remarkable time of 3:43.13 on July 7, 1999, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Sifan Hassan, an Ethiopian-born Dutch athlete, holds the women’s world record with a time of 4:12.33, set on July 12, 2019.
While these records may seem out of reach for most, they offer inspiration and insight into what can be achieved with dedicated training. For a glimpse into what it takes to train for a 4-minute mile, you can refer to our comprehensive guide.
Now, let’s shift our focus to the mile times of average runners.
What is a Good Mile Time?
While the record mile times are undoubtedly impressive, we understand that setting realistic and attainable goals is essential for most of us. What constitutes a good mile time depends on our current fitness level, years of running experience, and other individual factors.
According to Running Level, a platform that calculates running times based on age and ability, a good mile time for males is approximately 6:37, while females aim for around 7:44. These average times are based on an intermediate-level runner. Later on, we will explore the average mile times for runners of all levels.
What Factors Can Impact Your Mile Time?
Determining what qualifies as a “good” average time to run a mile depends on several factors, including age, gender, ability, and fitness level. In general, male runners tend to be faster in competitive distances due to their genetic advantage of greater muscle mass and fast-twitch muscle density.
Age also plays a role, as younger runners may lack development and experience, while older runners may experience a gradual decline in performance. Research suggests that the prime running age category falls between 25-35. However, performance decline occurs gradually with age, offering a positive outlook for those over 40. We still have many years of solid running ahead of us!
While we cannot control our age, we can certainly improve our fitness level. Through proper training, we can enhance our mile time and overall running performance. We will delve into this topic in more detail later on.
What are the Current Average Mile Times by Age and Gender?
Now, let’s break down the average time to run a mile by gender, age group, and fitness level to gain a better understanding of what constitutes a good mile time for each range. Running Level provides a comprehensive breakdown of “good” mile times according to sex, age, and running level, including beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite categories.
To provide some context, here is a brief explanation of each running level:
- Beginner runners are defined as faster than 5% of other runners and have been running for at least one month.
- Novice runners are defined as faster than 20% of runners and have been running for at least six months.
- Intermediate runners are defined as faster than 50% of other runners and have been running regularly for two years.
- Advanced runners are defined as faster than 80% of other runners and have more than five years of running experience.
- Elite runners are defined as faster than 95% of other runners and have over five years of running experience, dedicating themselves to professional competition.
With this information in mind, let’s explore the data and see how we measure up to runners worldwide.
If you would like to further analyze the average mile times, Running Level provides even more specific data based on five-year age groupings such as 20, 25, 30, 35, and so on. For precise calculations tailored to your current times, you may use the running level calculator found here.
Now that we have examined the data and feel motivated to improve our mile time, let’s explore seven practical ways to achieve our goals.
7 Ways to Improve My Mile Time
#1: Perfect Your Running Form
Enhancing your running form will undoubtedly improve your running economy, resulting in faster mile times and overall running performance. Here are some quick tips to focus on when honing your running form:
- Maintain proper body alignment with your legs underneath you. Avoid overstriding and try to fall directly underneath your body. Aim for a mid-foot or forefoot strike to minimize the risk of injury.
- Keep your shoulders back, down, and relaxed.
- Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and swing them back and forth without crossing your torso.
- Maintain a slight forward lean, ensuring your body remains aligned without bending at the waist.
- Hold your hands in a relaxed, light fist, as if you’re holding potato chips. Avoid gripping too tightly or squeezing too loosely. We wouldn’t want to drop our post-run snack!
- Keep your gaze forward, focusing on a point 3 to 6 meters ahead.
Incorporating specific running drills into your warm-up routine, such as the 100-up drill, high knees, a-skips, b-skips, and pose method warm-up drills, can help you improve your running form. By integrating these drills, your body becomes accustomed to the ideal running mechanics, preparing you for optimal performance during your workout.
For further guidance on perfecting your running form, refer to our article “Proper Running Form – 8 Tips To Make It Effortless.” These minor adjustments will enhance your running efficiency and, consequently, your speed.
#2: Work Your Top Speed
Integrating speedwork or interval training into your routine, focusing on short distances and high intensities, will contribute to improved top-end speed. By engaging in these workouts, you enhance your running fitness and speed, ultimately aiding in reducing your mile time.
Begin by performing a mile test to establish your starting point and calculate the specific training paces to apply during your interval training sessions. Ideally, conduct the mile test on a standard-sized track, where each loop equals 400 meters, totaling four loops for a mile.
Here is an example of a mile test procedure:
- Warm up for 15 minutes with an easy jog.
- Perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretching.
- Run your mile as fast as you can without burning out. Initially, start slightly slower than your estimated pace and gradually increase your speed with each lap, giving it your all on the last lap.
- Record your total time and utilize a pace calculator to determine your training paces.
These calculated training paces will guide your interval workouts. The “repetition” pace corresponds to shorter intervals with complete rests, while the “interval” pace applies to interval training sessions with jogging recoveries.
To integrate speedwork into your routine, consider the following sample interval workout:
- Warm up for 10-15 minutes with an easy jog.
- Perform 6 x 400 meters at your repetition pace, with 2-3 minutes of total rest between each repetition.
- Cooldown for 10 minutes with an easy jog.
You can also incorporate other distances like 200s, 600s, 800s, or even kilometers at your repetition pace or interval pace, adjusting the intensity of your rest periods accordingly.
#3: Embrace Hill Training
In addition to track or road intervals, incorporating hill training into your regimen can enhance your overall power, speed, and running economy. Hill workouts offer an opportunity to develop strength while simulating race scenarios and improving your performance.
Here’s an example of a hill repeat workout:
- Warm up for 10-15 minutes on flat terrain.
- Find a hill with approximately a 10% incline.
- Run uphill at a hard effort for 20 seconds.
- Walk slowly back down to your starting point, ensuring you rest for 2-3 minutes between repetitions.
- Repeat this sequence ten times.
- Cool down for 10 minutes on flat terrain.
If hills are not readily available in your running vicinity, you can perform these workouts on a treadmill. Most treadmills have inclines of up to 15%.
#4: Prioritize Endurance
Although our focus is on improving our mile time, maintaining endurance is equally crucial. If we solely concentrate on intense interval sessions, we risk exhausting ourselves. Short, high-intensity workouts should constitute only a small portion of our weekly training regimen, limited to a maximum of twice a week.
On the remaining days, prioritize recovery runs that feel easy and enjoyable. The frequency and duration of these runs depend on your current fitness level. Gradually increasing your mileage by about 10% each week will bolster your overall endurance.
These recovery runs aid in sufficient recovery from intense interval sessions, allowing you to perform at your best during subsequent workouts. Furthermore, they contribute to improved endurance and aerobic conditioning.
#5: Strength Training
Strength training holds significant importance in enhancing strength, power, balance, coordination, speed, and endurance for runners. These benefits directly impact your mile time. Incorporating two to three strength training sessions per week yields substantial improvement.
Consider including the following exercises in your strength training routine:
- Squats (bodyweight, goblet, split, pistol)
- Lunges (reverse, walking, side, front)
- Deadlifts (bodyweight, Romanian, one-legged)
- Glute bridges (two-legged, one-legged, elevated hip thrust)
- Planks (elbow, side, TRX, body saw, Spiderman)
- Push-ups, pull-ups, rows, pull-aparts, shoulder presses, and chest presses
Begin with bodyweight exercises, gradually progressing to incorporate resistance through the use of dumbbells and kettlebells as you advance. Ensure you prioritize adequate recovery time between strength training sessions, allowing your body to recuperate effectively. Leaving 4-6 hours between sessions is ideal.
#6: Plyometrics for Power
Including plyometric exercises in your strength training routine further enhances power, which is vital for achieving a fast mile time. Plyometric exercises promote stability, coordination, muscle and joint strength, cardiovascular conditioning, Vo2 max, speed, endurance, and improved running economy.
Plyometrics involve explosive movements, often incorporating jumping. Integrating a short circuit of plyometric exercises into your strength training sessions provides numerous benefits and offers a metabolic boost at the end of your workout. Here are some examples of plyometric exercises:
- Jumping jacks
- Scissor jumps
- Box jumps (single-leg, double leg)
- Lateral jumps
- Long jumps
- Frog jumps
- Jump rope
- Jump squats
- Jump lunges
- Lateral lunges with runner’s jump
- Star jumps
- Tuck jumps
- Squat jacks
- Plank jacks
- High knees
By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you’ll experience increased power, translating to enhanced speed during your runs.
#7: Improve Your Cadence
You may have come across the recommendation of achieving a cadence of 180 steps per minute as the ideal stride rate. While realistically anything above 170 will contribute to improved running economy, we can work on enhancing our cadence or turnover in a couple of ways.
One approach is to use a metronome set at 180 ticks per minute or listen to music with a rhythm of 180 beats per minute. While running to this beat, ensure each foot strikes the ground with each beat. Be cautious when selecting playlists, as some may claim to be 180 BPM but may not be entirely accurate. To verify the beats per minute, you can utilize a BPM counter app, ensuring the count falls between 170-180.
Additionally, incorporate small bouts of cadence work into your easy runs. Dedicate a few minutes here and there to quicken your feet and enhance your cadence. However, be mindful not to overdo it, as focusing solely on cadence can naturally lead to an increased pace. Add this work gradually and intermittently to your running routine.
Including strides or gradual accelerations and decelerations during one of your easy runs each week will also contribute to improving your cadence. For a detailed guide on performing strides correctly, refer to our comprehensive article.
Now that we have explored the average mile times, analyzed various training methods, and discovered ways to enhance our mile time, it’s time to put our newfound knowledge into action. Let’s get training and work towards achieving our mile time goals!
For further guidance tailored to specific mile times, refer to our training guides:
- How To Run a 7 Minute Mile
- How To Run an 8 Minute Mile
- How To Run a 9 Minute Mile
- How To Run a 10 Minute Mile
- And if you’re feeling exceptionally ambitious: How To Run A 4 Minute Mile
Remember, consistency and dedication are key to improvement. Embrace the process and enjoy the journey towards becoming a faster and more accomplished runner.