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A Good Mile Rate for a Beginner Runner

author image Morgan Rush
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.
A Good Mile Rate for a Beginner Runner
A runner looking at her sports watch. Photo Credit julief514/iStock/Getty Images

Beginning runners might be unsure of how to track progress, especially when it comes to pace. After all, covering a mile running is an accomplishment in itself.

But, measuring your mile pace or rate helps you evaluate your improvements over time. There’s no set definition for a “good” starting mile rate, though, since factors such as age and gender come into play.

Mile Rates and Fitness

Using data from two 2011 Southwestern Medical School studies, researcher Dr. Jarett Berry determined that for men in their 50s, running a mile in 8 minutes or less translated to “high” fitness levels, running a mile in 9 minutes or less translated to “moderate” fitness levels and running a mile in 10 minutes or more translated to “low” fitness levels.

“High” fitness women ran the mile in 9 minutes or less; “moderate” fitness women ran it in 10 minutes and 30 seconds or less and “low” fitness women needed 12 minutes or more to complete the mile.

Run for Life states that a 10-minute mile rate is good for beginners; the goal is to complete 3 miles in 30 minutes. If a 10-minute mile rate seems out of reach, start with a 12-minute-per-mile rate and work your way up to faster speeds over the course of several weeks or months.

Time Your Benchmark Mile

Create your mile benchmark by running a committed, but not overzealous mile. End feeling challenged, but not winded. Achieve this first benchmark time without treating it as a “race;” racing speed isn't an accurate measurement of how fast you’d typically run a mile in training. Going all out can lead to injury if you haven’t been running regularly.

Record your mile time so that you’ll be able to see improvements as you progress in your running practice.

One vs. Several Miles

Beginning runners often make the mistake of treating their first mile as if it's the only mile they're going to run. Although a great mile time might make you feel satisfied, you might have spent all of your energy clocking that first mile when you still have additional miles to complete.

Your mile rate is more of an average; for example, if you run 3 miles in 36 minutes, the rate is 12 minutes per mile. Keeping up a steady pace over extended lengths usually is generally more reflective of total fitness.

It’s Not Just About the Mile

Although using a good mile time as a benchmark will help you measure growth, it’s not the only way to track your progress as a beginner runner. Try to reach between 20 and 30 minutes of running, three to five times a week, to accrue positive benefits associated with this fitness activity.

Take walking breaks as needed, and don’t strain your body since this can result in injury. After maintaining your running practice schedule, you can try another timed mile to see if your rate has improved.

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