How Fast Should You Run a Mile?

Individuals who begin a running program often want to improve their performance. Their goal may be to run a faster mile or reach a specific distance. The U.S. Military has devised standards for runners based on age that may offer a helpful target for running a mile.

How fast you should run a mile is dependent on several factors. (Image: LuckyBusiness/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

How fast you should run a mile depends on your experience and age. Set a goal and then work up to it safely and over time.

Ages 17 to 21

A runner who is 17 to 21 and in good health runs a mile in about 6:30 if he is in the top 1 percent of that age group, according to standards set by the Army Study Guide. Runners should shoot for a time of approximately 8:18 if they want to be in the 50 percent bracket for the age group.

Ages 27 to 31

As individuals get older, their physical fitness levels tend to diminish. This is the case when the age group is looked at as a unit, but it does not pertain to individuals who may be in much better condition as they get older because they make a commitment to exercise and live a healthier lifestyle. A runner who is 27 to 31 and can run a mile in 6:39 or better is in the top 1 percent for the age group. Runners who can finish a 1-mile run in 8:56 are in the top 50 percent for the age group.

Ages 37 to 41

At the onset of middle age, it is more difficult to retain physical conditioning. Physical strength can be maintained as long as individuals exercise, compete and work out regularly.

However, fatty areas on the body increase while reaction times and quickness tend to diminish. A lack of exercise can cause a dramatic fall in the overall conditioning level. An individual in this age group that can run a mile in 6:48 or better is in the top 1 percent of his age group. Runners who can finish a 1-mile run in 9:45 are in the top 50 percent for the age group.

Ages 42 to 46

Individuals have to make a commitment to stay in shape if they want to be healthy, compete in sports and take part in energetic activity after age 42. A runner who can complete the mile run in 7:03 or less is in the top 1 percent for the age group. Runners who can finish a 1-mile run in 9:57 are in the top 50 percent for the age group.

Cautions for New Runners

Only trained athletes can run a mile in these times. If you don't already run, start by walking briskly, and slowly incorporate jogging or running intervals of one minute or shorter into your routine. Gradually increase running intervals and decrease walking intervals until you can run a full mile, and then focus on slowly increasing your speed over months.

Oregon Health & Science University recommends speed drills to increase your running times only AFTER you have mastered the basics of running. You'll be performing what they call "bursts." As the word suggests, you'll be running, not as fast as you can, but definitely faster for 15 to 20 seconds on a straightaway. Incorporate bursts into your running program once you feel more confident as a runner.

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