The mile is a notorious running distance, most linked, perhaps, with a middle school or high school time trial in gym class. It's short, yes, but if done right it is hard, physically and mentally, says Olympian and five-time Fifth Ave Mile champion, Nick Willis.
"It's only a mile, but you have to be 100 percent dialed-in and focused," Willis tells LIVESTRONG.com. "You have to be willing to hurt for the whole distance."
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New runners often target a 5K for their first race, thanks to its manageable distance and popularity. But covering one mile, no matter how fast, is an attainable goal and you can test yourself as often as once a month, Willis says.
Average Mile Time and Pace
How long does it take to run a mile? Like all average pace times, the average time for finishing one mile varies, thanks to factors like age, sex and experience. It's particularly difficult to pinpoint the average one-mile time because so few people test their fitness for just one mile.
A Note on Language
We make deliberate choices about the language we use in regards to sex and gender, but most running events still categorize people as men or women, so we've used those terms throughout this article.
National Average Times for 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon
12:52 minutes per mile
10:58 minutes per mile
11:55 minutes per mile
9:45 minutes per mile
10:16 minutes per mile
8:15 minutes per mile
10:51 minutes per mile
10:16 minutes per mile
Remember: Running one mile is likely going to be faster than running multiple miles at a time. For example, if you run a 30-minute 5K (3.1 miles), you might expect to run one hard mile in about 9 minutes, or about 30 to 45 seconds faster than your 5K pace, explains sub 4-minute miler and coach Brandon Hudgins.
"But that's a gross generalization," Hudgins, a 1500-meter runner, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Common Mile Running Questions
How Long is a Mile?
A mile is about 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards.
What Is a Good Mile Time?
There's no such thing as a "good" mile time, necessarily. Times can vary depending on a variety of factors, including age, fitness level and even the weather (assuming you're running outdoors).
Hudgins, who studied exercise science and has hands-on experience in high school physical education classes, says the average mile time for students running a mile is roughly 10 minutes. So, taking that into consideration alongside the world records (see below), any time that falls between those numbers can be considered "good."
Bottom line, though, it's better to keep track of your progress, instead of comparing your time to others'. If you want to quicken your mile time, keep track of your personal records and take satisfaction in your own improvements. (A running pace calculator, like this one from Strava, can help with this.)
What Is the Current Record for the Fastest Mile Time?
The current IAAF world records for the fastest outdoor mile ever ran are:
What Factors Can Affect Your Mile Time?
There are a number of both internal and external factors that can affect your running performance, according to a March 2020 study in Sports. Your sex, running biomechanics, previous running experience and weekly mileage can all contribute to your running pace.
Weekly training routines (more on that below) play a big role in your pace, too, according to the above-mentioned study. Explosive training programs (like high-intensity interval training and strength training) can help improve your overall running economy and performance.
Training Tips to Prep for Your First One-Mile Race
Marathons, which cover 26.2 miles, require endurance, and sprints require speed and power. But the mile requires a little bit of everything.
"In order to optimally run the mile, you have to cover all facets of running," Willis says. "That includes speed, but your endurance and power have to be well-trained. The mile will make you a more well-rounded athlete."
Here are a few tips to get you ready for your first one-mile race.
1. Time Your Fastest Mile
Before jumping into a training program, you want to make sure you can complete a full mile without stopping, Willis says. Once you've done that, you'll want to test yourself with a mile time trial — the fastest time it takes you to complete a mile.
2. Add Longer, Slower Runs to Your Routine
It might seem counterintuitive to add slower miles to your training, but the more you can go the distance, the faster your average mile time will get. When you have a baseline of your one-mile fitness, it's important to add endurance. "Slowly build up the amount of time you can spend running each day or every few days without injury," Willis says.
When you go for longer, slower runs or jogs, the average pace per mile should be slow enough to allow you to have a conversation with a running partner, Willis explains.
"If you're not able to talk comfortably, you're not jogging anymore. You're going too fast and then it becomes a hard, strenuous run," he says. Hard, strenuous runs, he says, should only happen, at most, three times a week.
For newbies, the jogging pace might be a walk-run: Run a mile at a conversational pace, walk a mile. "If you don't have former fitness, trying to jog for a period of time is like doing a strenuous workout because you don't yet have the fitness you need to hold a jogging pace," Willis says.
Hudgins likes to use an effort scale with his clients when gauging pace. For example, easy runs should be about a three or four out of 10, with one being the easiest and 10 being maximum effort (or in other words, feeling like you're going to throw up, Hudgins says.)
"I'm constantly battling people and their GPS watches and heart rate monitors," Hudgins says. "I love data and hard numbers, but I spend most of my time as a coach talking about running by feel. You shouldn't be looking at your watch every 10 seconds."
3. Run for the Hills to Increase Power
An example of a hill workout is running up a steep hill for 30 seconds and walking or jogging back down. Repeat 10 times.
In addition to building endurance over longer, slower runs and hill workouts, Willis recommends shorter, faster intervals to get your legs used to a fast turnover. An example of this type of interval workout might be 8 200-meter runs (FYI, that's half a lap on a track) at your goal mile pace.
4. Strength Train Wisely
Hudgins reiterates the importance of hill workouts, but when it comes to strength training for mile training, he says it depends on how much time a person has. (Try tacking on this 15-minute core workout at the end of your run.)
"I'd rather you run more or do hill sprints," he says, noting runners won't see speed improvements after strength training unless they focus on an intense program.
5. Train for the Course
While most runners who are testing their speed in a one-mile race will head to a flat, soft track on race day, Hudgins says running on more challenging terrain can help improve strength and speed.
"If you can sprint up a hill, you'll be fine on a track," he says.
But if you're running your one-mile race on the road, it's important, then, to train on terrain that mimics it or is harder than your race course, Hudgins says.
Boost Your Mile Pace With These Running Workouts
6. Follow Safety Precautions
Alongside your actual training routine, there are some safety precautions worth considering as you prep for your first mile.
- Follow the rules of the road at all times. As often as possible, run on sidewalks, staying alert and aware of your surroundings, per the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA). And unlike when you're driving, you want to run against traffic to keep an eye on oncoming cars.
- Try to stay in well-lit areas or run with reflective or lighted clothing at night. Running with a buddy or crew is always a safe bet, too.
- Drink enough water and consume enough calories to fuel and hydrate your runs.
- Cut your run short if you're not feeling well.
- Avoid running in extreme weather or temperatures.
- Don't ramp up your training too quickly — increase your mileage only by about 10 percent each week to prevent injury, per the Cleveland Clinic.
- In case of emergency, carry your cell phone and ID with you. You can even share your route or location with a roommate or friend, so they know where to find you if necessary.
How to Improve Your One-Mile Pace
Once you've got a few one-mile races or time trials under your belt, it's time to focus on getting faster. Willis emphasizes the importance of not overtraining and giving your body time to rest and recover.
"Get in a solid block of training and then rest up, get a spring back into your legs, and that's when you'd try again," he says, recommending a trial or race each month or every two months.
Hudgins instructs his athletes to "heat and sleep" on their days off. Applying heat to muscles immediately after a workout has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), according to a July 2017 study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. Foam rolling might also help relieve tightness or soreness.
As you improve, increase your total weekly mileage to build your endurance. Focus on faster running, whether that's hills or intervals, once or twice a week and push the pace, Willis says. In other words, run those workouts faster.
"But don't push in too many areas," he says. "Try to increase the speed of your faster workouts and increase your total volume [of mileage], but keep the recovery runs the same."
Common Running Mistakes
As LIVESTRONG.com has previously reported, common running mistakes that could hurt your progress and lead to injury include:
Many factors, including age, sex and fitness level, can influence your mile time. But there are a few ways to get faster if that's your goal:
- Log longer, easier miles
- Run hills
- Strength train
- Ramp up training miles slowly
Want to PR Your Next Race? Here's How to Increase Your One-Mile Pace
- International Amateur Athletic Federation: "World Records"
- Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: "The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness"
- Sports: "Factors Affecting Training and Physical Performance in Recreational Endurance Runners"
- RRCA: "Runner Safety Tips"
- RunRepeat: "120+ Running Statistics 2021/2022 [Research Review]"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How to Become a Faster Runner"