Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj set the record in 1999 for the fastest mile ever run by a human. His time was 3:43.13 -- an average pace of around 16 miles per hour. The then 29-year-old's feat is impressive, but it's an anomaly; most adults run far more slowly than that.
Whether you're just starting out as a runner, or have been competing recreationally for a while, your mile-time should be a reasonable goal you've set for yourself based on a safe and effective running program. What that time is will differ from person to person.
Going out and running a 7-minute-mile when you haven't been running previously, or without adequate conditioning, can lead to an injury. Muscle pulls and strains from pushing yourself too hard too soon can derail you for weeks or months. Don't try to run faster than you should just to measure up to a standard.
Average Mile Times for Men and Women
Age, gender, body weight, training time and quality and numerous other factors influence running pace. Men average faster times than women, and younger people typically run faster than older people.
According to the Mississippi State University website, men ages 30 to 34 average a one-mile pace of 7:26 to 7:40, and men ages 35 to 39 average 7:43 to 7:55. Women ages 30 to 34 average a mile in 8:20 to 8:35, and women ages 35 to 39 average a pace of 8:42 to 8:56.
Top Times By Gender
If you want to go beyond average, you'll have to measure up to some pretty fast paces. In the 80th percentile, one-mile times for men ages 30 to 39 range from 4:39 to 4:57. For women in the same percentile and age group, times range from 5:13 to 5:35. In the 90th percentile, times range from 4:38 to 4:58 for women and 4:08 to 4:24 for men.
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Reaching Your Goal
Setting small, specific and achievable goals is better than setting large, lofty goals you may not be able to reach -- at least, not without injury. Set weekly training goals and a monthly speed goal. Test yourself each month by running a mile on the same terrain and under the same conditions.
Ensure Proper Technique
Before you start to run faster, make sure your running technique is solid. Increasing speed with poor technique can lead to injury. Make sure you're landing on your mid-forefoot, keep your jaw relaxed, maintain good posture, and lean slightly forward at the ankles. Keep your hands at 90 degrees or just below, and swing them lightly with the opposite leg.
Add Speed Workouts
Once you have proper technique down, you're ready to add speed workouts. Interval training allows you to increase your speed for short periods of time, balancing all-out sprinting with periods of recovery. This builds your cardiovascular ability without a lot of stress on the body.
Do intervals one to two times per week outdoors or on a treadmill. After a warm up, increase your speed for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, sprinting as fast as you can. Follow with a periods of recovery, either jogging or walking, for as long as you sprinted. Do 6 to 10 rounds, then cool down.
Crosstrain, Strength Train and Recover
More is not better when it comes to training. Running Coach Jenny Hadfield recommends running no more than every other day. More can put too much stress on the body. On alternate days, bike, swim or do something else active that you enjoy.
Building strength is also an important part of running faster. Two days a week, spend an hour in the gym training your legs, glutes, core muscles and upper body muscles. Use lighter weights and do more repetitions to build muscular endurance rather than bulk.
Make sure to include some easy training days and take one day off a week. Your body needs time to recover so you get faster and avoid injury. Recovery also includes stretching and foam rolling before or after each workout.
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