How Long Does It Take To Run a Mile? + 9 Tips For Running Your Best Mile

How long does it take to run a mile? Read this article for average mile times according to age and running level. Stay until the end to get 9 tips for running a mile!

Some people like to jump into running, pavement-first and gasping for breath. Learning as you go is fine, but others like to head into the sport with a little more caution. They want to know, “How long does it take to run a mile?”  

After all, so many beginning runners quit before they ever achieve their first race, or even their first mile. It’s no secret that running is hard when you first start out. You’ll have to take frequent walk breaks and you’ll finish red in the face more than once. 

So planning things like the best running gear, knowing how much time you should set aside, and downloading a training plan, will give you an edge. 

How Long Does It Take To Run a Mile

The Mile Pace: Factors To Consider

Even though running is all about the experience and personal journey, tracking your progress helps you form realistic goals. Increasing your mile pace can motivate you and give you some healthy competition with yourself. 

Both beginners and professionals track their mile pace. Advanced runners need fast cadence to qualify for races and win sponsorships, while beginners and intermediate runners use the tracking system for personal growth. 

The average mile time depends on several factors:

  • Age 
  • Running Level
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Fitness background
  • Altitude
  • Weather

Two runners at the same fitness level could have different finishing times based on their location alone. A runner in Denver, Colorado will finish slower than a runner in Portland, Oregon, simply because the altitude in Portland is much lower. 

The most important factor to consider is the level of your fitness background.

Fastest Mile Time – Who Holds The World Record?

The record for the fastest mile time currently belongs to Hicham El Guerrouj, with a time of 3 minutes and 43.13 seconds.

The world record for the women’s fastest mile time belongs to Sifan Hassan with a time of 4 minutes and 12.33 seconds.

Fastest Mile Times – What Does It Take To Be In The Top 1%?

According to Medical News Today, here are the fastest finishing paces of the top 1% of runners. The times are surprisingly lenient, but worth bearing in mind they consider all runners…could you get into the top 1% for your age group?

  • Ages 17-41 finish at a mile pace of 6:30-6:38.
  • Ages 42-61 finish at a mile pace of 7:03-7:39. 

Faster Than Average Mile Times – What Does It Take To Be In The Top 50%?

From the same research, here are the fastest finishing paces of the top 50% of runners, regardless of gender. The :

  • Ages 17-41 finish at a mile pace of 8:18 – 9:45.
  • Ages 42-46 finish at a mile pace of 9:54.

There was no data on ages over 46 in the study.

Related: How To Run a 5 Minute Mile

Average Mile Pace for Runners – Overall

Do you see how much the time can vary depending on your level and age range?

Determining how long it takes to run a mile is difficult to point exactly, but not impossible.

For that, we look to Strava. The Outdoor Industry Association reveals Strava’s records for the average running times of U.S. runners in 2015.

The average U.S. male runner runs a mile in 9 minutes and 3 seconds, while the average U.S. female runner runs a mile in 10minutes and 21 seconds.

Related: What’s A Good Mile Time? Average Times To Run A Mile By Age + Gender

How Long Does It Take To Run a Mile Should It Take

How Long It Should Take to Run a Mile: Where to Set Your Own Pace

By taking these statistics into consideration and combining the male and female averages, a good average mile time for a rookie runner to work towards could be 8, 9, or 10 minutes per mile. 

As you get more advanced, you should aim to get faster and faster. Keep the miles times from the top 50% and 1% (mentioned above) in mind as you set your future pace goals.

Focus on one goal at a time. When you’re starting out, celebrate when you’re able to run a mile without stopping. 

After that, strive to meet your first mile achievement. The goal is to be able to run at a comfortable pace. You should still have the ability to talk to a running partner somewhat easily. As you get stronger, that comfortable pace will get faster and faster. 

Speed isn’t the only thing to keep in mind. What distance goals do you have? Are you planning to run a 5K race? Do you want to finish a half marathon? For distance running, the pace is usually slower, with a focus on endurance. 

If your main objective is to burn fat or set a record, think about incorporating some strength training to give your legs and core an extra boost. 

Always set two goals: a current one and a future one. Know your next milestone, but have another, bigger milestone in the back of your mind to motivate you for future achievements. 

Picture yourself in the future, after you’ve reached your dream, and imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve gotten there. Studies show that this helps you achieve your goals at an amazing rate. 

Do a time trial. 

Run one mile at the fastest pace you can and measure your time. That will give you a starting number to get going. Set your ideal time for 30 seconds to one minute and use it for your next goal. 

  • Related: How To Run a 9 Minute Mile
  • 9 Tips for Running a Mile

    1. Wear Quality Running Shoes

    Don’t make yourself susceptible to injury and pain when there’s no need. Invest in shoes from the get-go. The best running shoes will fit your foot well, and will compliment your running gait and goals (distance, speed, trails, etc.) Other qualities to look for include:

    • Light soles that won’t weigh you down
    • Extra room in the toes to make room for swelling as you run
    • Additional holes for the laces up at the top to secure your feet and keep it from jostling
    • Traction in the soles to keep you from slipping

    If you’re not sure how to buy the right pair of shoes for your foot, visit a running store in person. They will have trained employees who can analyze your foot and running gait to find the perfect shoe.

    Remember to replace each pair every 300-500 miles. Using running apps like Strava will help you track that. Strava even alerts you when it’s time to buy a new pair. 

    2. Practice Breathing

    Nothing eggs on a side ache like uneven breathing patterns. The simplest way to monitor your breathing is to make sure your breath hits equal beats in and out. 

    Aim to inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. As you get more winded, that won’t be possible, but always count the breaths and keep them even and equal through the inhale and the exhale. 

    3. Set 3 Levels and 3 Time Goals

    First, take your ultimate goal. Then break it up into 3 levels. Set a time goal for each level. The best way to reach a big goal is to divide it into smaller chunks, taking them one at a time. 

    Whether your goal involves 3 weeks or 3 months, you’ll be ecstatic each time you complete one of those levels. 

    4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

    You’re probably following other runners on social media or through running apps. It’s important to stay inspired and to keep picturing your future self. 

    But we all know social media can make us set unreasonable expectations for ourselves. So keep your scrolling healthy by focusing on yourself first…and avoiding comparisons. 

    How Long Should It Take To Run a Mile

    5. Open Your Stride

    Your running stride plays a big part in getting faster. Opening up your steps increases your momentum and propels your body forward. 

    Just remember: Opening your stride is not the same thing as lengthening your stride. 

    Lengthening your step can slow you down if you overstep. Opening it means lifting your foot and leg higher to land and push off with more momentum. Your foot should land directly below your extended knee, not past it. 

    On your next run, try out both positions and get a feel for which one makes you faster. I guarantee it will be the open stride vs. the overstepping. 

    6. Work on Cadence

    Some people mistakenly assume that cadence is a synonym for ‘speed.’ Not so! Cadence involves getting faster through proper form and strategy. Improving your cadence involves:

    • Good posture – keep a straight back and upright shoulders.
    • Arm position – they shouldn’t swing out past your body, but should stay evenly aligned with your torso while you run.
    • Foot strike – don’t land heel-first; instead, hit the ground with your forefoot or midfoot. 

    To help your cadence even more, engage your core and posterior chain to be sure you feel the right muscles during your run. 

    7. Increase Your Mileage

    Even if your main focus is gaining speed, putting in extra miles will make your lungs and muscles stronger. 

    Cultivating that endurance will make your next fast run much faster. Doing a weekly long run goes a long way towards improving the shorter, faster runs throughout the week. 

    8. Run Intervals

    Even if you can run a mile without stopping, you should still do interval runs as a crosstraining method. Taking that small break to walk refreshes your body and renews it for another bout of fast running. 

    9. Tackle the Hills

    Hills are no one’s favorite running route, but while you run them, your lungs get stronger, your legs get more powerful, and your core tightens. All of these add up to faster running, especially when that fast run takes place on flat ground. 

    Bonus Tip: Download a Training Plan

    If you’re asking, “How long does it take to run a mile?” then you probably have higher goals on the horizon. Those who conquer running a mile rarely stop at just one mile. You’ll move on to 2 miles, then you’ll run a 5K race.

    Ask any seasoned runner. Once you get hooked, you can’t stop. Go ahead and download our free couch to half marathon training plan. It’s fully customizable to fit your unique schedule and running goals. 

    Sign up for that half marathon. 

    Envision yourself crossing that finish line 6 months from now. 

    You’ll be unstoppable. 

    Photo of author
    Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon where she works as co-founder of Evoke.

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