Perhaps you have been running for a while and like the idea of getting faster. Maybe you’ve thought about how satisfying it would feel to run a mile in 10 minutes.
In addition to being a nice even number that makes figuring out paces and timing a breeze, a 10 minute mile is a significant, yet achievable, goal for most runners.
If you would like to be able to run a 10 minute mile, but are not sure how to get there, this article has you covered!
We will talk about:
- Is a 10 Minute Mile a Reasonable Goal?
- How To Train For a 10 Minute Mile
- Putting Your Training To The Test: Running Your 10 Minute Mile
Is A 10 Minute Mile a Reasonable Goal?
Although anyone can aim for a 10 minute mile, this goal makes the most sense for those who are already able to run a mile in 11 or 12 minutes.
If your current fitness level is not in this range, a 10 minute mile goal is certainly still attainable, but will likely take a significant amount of time and may drain your enthusiasm in the process.
Therefore, if you’re not currently able to run a mile in at least 12 minutes, consider making that your first goal and save the 10 minute goal for later.
Running A Test Mile
If you’re not sure how fast you can run a mile at the moment (and unless you’ve run a mile race or done a mile time trial on your own lately, you likely don’t know) it’s important to do a test mile to see where you’re at.
To do this, you’ll want to give your best effort for one mile.
Pick a day when you are not tired or sore from a recent run or other activity.
Find a flat location where you can run one mile without interruption. If you have access to a track, consider doing your time trial there, with four laps approximating one mile.
Warm-up with some easy jogging for about ten minutes, followed by a few strides (short accelerations).
Once you are warmed up, run your mile. Run the mile as evenly as possible, but push yourself hard enough so you end your mile feeling as if you could not run much farther at that pace.
Now you know your current mile time.
If you ran your mile in 12 minutes or less, then a 10 minute mile is a reasonable goal for you, likely attainable in two or three months.
If you were a bit slower, then consider setting a goal one or two minutes faster than your current time. (And of course, if you surprised yourself and already hit the 10 minute mark, consider aiming for a 9 minute mile!)
How To Train For a 10 Minute Mile
Although there are many ways to approach mile training, any successful plan will incorporate workouts to help you improve your speed and your endurance.
You’ll want to get your body used to moving at a 10 minute mile pace (or a little faster) and you’ll also want to develop the endurance to maintain that speed over a mile, which is too far to run anaerobically.
4 Workouts To improve your speed:
To reach your 10 minute mile goal, you’ll want to include some speed workouts in your weekly running routine.
There are a variety of ways to approach speed work, some of which can be a bit complicated. The following plan, however, does not assume you have much experience with speed work and is fairly straightforward, yet has all the necessary elements to get you to your goal.
Find a track if you can (otherwise, rely on a GPS watch), and the first week, start with four repeats of 200 meters (half a lap around the track). Run these 200s at your goal mile pace, which means you should complete them in 75 seconds. Take about 90 seconds to rest after each one.
This workout should feel doable and will help you start getting a sense of what it feels like to run at your goal pace.
The second week, move up to 400 meter repeats (one full lap around the track), which should also be run at your goal pace (which translates to 150 seconds, or 2:30). These 400s will likely feel significantly harder than your 200s the previous week, but do your best to maintain your pace and push through for the entire 400 meters.
Take two or three minutes rest, then repeat. If you think you can do one more, then go for it, but don’t do more than three during this session.
Over the next few weeks, add one extra 400 meter repeat to your workout until you are completing six 400s at goal pace or faster. That’s right … goal pace is fine, but if you can push and run them a little faster, that’s even better. Ideally, you will be able to run your 400s in around 140 seconds, or 2:20.
Once you’re up to six 400 meter repeats, go back to four, but add two 200 meter repeats at the beginning and at the end and run those 200 meters quite fast, with 60 seconds being a good time for which to aim. Try to keep all of your 400s a bit under goal pace.
Once you have nailed this workout — running the 200s around 60 seconds and the 400s under goal pace — move on to your final speed workout, which is three 800 meter repeats at goal pace (5:00) with three or four minutes rest between repeats.
With all of these speed workouts, it is important to warm up with at least ten minutes of jogging and some dynamic drills and to cool down at the end with another ten minutes or so of easy running and perhaps some light stretching.
The timed, measured workouts are the key to improving your speed, but there are other ways to sneak in a little speed work during your other weekly runs.
One fairly easy way to get some snap in your legs is to include a few strides at the beginning or end (or both) of an easy run.
Strides are short bursts of speed lasting about 20 or 30 seconds, with a few seconds of acceleration at the beginning and a few seconds to slow down at the end, with the middle section being close to, but not quite, a full sprint, so you can still focus on maintaining good form.
Strides are short enough that they will not tire you unnecessarily but can be very effective in helping your legs get used to moving faster.
3 + 4. Hills, & Stairs
If you can incorporate some hills or stairs in your runs once a week or so, that will also build strength and help improve your speed. Even just finding a route with a mid-run moderate hill or one stair climb can be beneficial.
Workouts To improve your endurance:
When you think of endurance, you may think of the ability to run many miles, such as in a marathon, rather than just one mile. But a mile cannot be run anaerobically (basically, without oxygen), so you will need to train your body to be able to sustain the energy necessary to maintain your goal pace for 10 minutes.
To do this, it’s important, in addition to your weekly speed work, to run three or four additional times each week.
Ideally, one run should be at least 4 to 6 miles, while the rest can be 2 or 3 miles. This amount of mileage should be enough to prepare your body to cover your timed mile with sufficient energy.
These runs will not be at your mile goal pace, but it is important to occasionally increase your speed a bit during these runs. During a 3-mile run, for example, you could run your first and last mile at an easy, conversational pace, but pick up the middle mile to about 10:30 pace.
You can experiment with these mid-run pick-ups and choose when you want to include them and for how long based on how you’re feeling, but the important thing to remember is to avoid running all your miles at a pace significantly slower than your goal mile pace.
If your typical runs are around 12 to 13 minutes per mile, for example, it’s important to speed up periodically to a sub 11 minute pace to avoid letting your brain and legs get locked into the slower pace.
4 Additional Factors To Consider:
#1 Stride Turnover
When trying to get faster, runners often lengthen their stride. Doing so, however, can result in over-reaching, which can actually make it harder to increase speed (and also increases the impact on your hip and leg joints which can lead to injury).
Instead, aim to increase your leg turnover, or cadence, rather than your stride length. Focus on taking quick, light steps with your feet landing almost underneath your body rather than far out in front of you.
Shortening your stride and quickening your leg turnover may seem a bit awkward initially, but making these changes can help you run faster without exerting more energy.
#2 Running Form
Do a mental check-in with yourself every now and then while running to be sure you’re maintaining good form.
Optimally, you should be running straight and tall, looking forward, with shoulders relaxed.
You arms should be bent at about a 90 degree angle and swing back and forth from your shoulders (not your elbows) and should not cross your midline.
Also be sure you’re not clenching your hands, as you don’t want to cause tension in your arms, shoulders, or neck. Instead, imagine you’re holding a potato chip in each hand that you don’t want to break.
Whether you’re in the middle of an easy training run or pushing yourself as hard as possible on a mile time trial, it’s important to monitor your breathing and keep it even and rhythmic. Ragged, uneven breathing is a sign you’re not running efficiently and can cause you to tire and slow sooner than you would otherwise.
You can experiment to see what feels most natural for you, but consider trying a 3:2 breathing pattern (inhaling for three foot strikes and exhaling for two) when running at easier paces and a 2:1 ratio (inhaling for two foot strikes and exhaling for one) when running faster or racing.
#4 Strength and Core Work
As a strong core and leg muscles will help you maintain your form while running and give you strength to run faster and farther, consider adding some core and strength moves two or three times a week, with a focus on your abdominal muscles, lower back, hips, and glutes.
Exercises such as planks, bicycle crunches, bridges (regular and reverse), and superman can help to strengthen these areas and improve your power and stability when running faster.
The Test: Running Your 10 Minute Mile
Once you’ve put in all the work, it’s time to put your training to the test.
Just as you did with your initial time trial, pick a day when you are well-rested and not achy or sore, and if possible, run your mile using the same route or track you used before so your time comparison will be as accurate as possible.
Warm up well before you run your mile. Jog a mile or two, then do some dynamic drills (high knees, butt kicks, skips, grapevine, hip swings) followed by several strides.
Shake out your arms and legs, take a few deep breaths, then go!
Try to hit your 10 minute mile goal pace immediately.
If you are running on a track, focus on running the first lap in 2:30, the second lap by 5:00, and the third lap by 7:30. If you are not on a track but have a GPS watch, check it periodically to make sure you are on pace.
Maintain good running form and even breathing and don’t forget to use your arms.
Be careful to maintain your pace during the middle section, try to increase your pace over the last quarter mile or so, and use whatever energy you have left to sprint at the end (and then don’t forget to stop your watch if necessary).
Keep walking to catch your breath and check your watch.
Did you hit your 10 minute goal? Congratulations! You set a goal and achieved it and should be incredibly proud of yourself. Perhaps even a little celebration is in order.
If you came up a bit short, though, don’t be too down about it. Worthwhile goals often take more than one try.
If you were very close to a 10 minute mile, consider running another test mile in another day or two to see if you can shave off a few seconds.
If you were farther off, try repeating some of the workouts for a few weeks before giving it another shot.
When resuming training, think about your test mile, and if you were able to maintain a consistent pace throughout the mile, but simply could not hit the 10 minute mile pace, then consider emphasizing speed work.
On the other hand, if you were able to maintain 10 minute mile pace for most of the mile, but ran out of steam at the end, you may want to focus on improving your endurance.
With just a little additional training, you will likely be able to hit your goal before too long.
And then it’ll be time to shoot for a 9 minute mile!