Although many distance runners seemingly look down upon the mile after high school or collegiate competitions, running a fast mile or working on strategies for how to run a mile faster is still a very popular running goal.
It can even be surprisingly beneficial for distance runners who focus on longer events such as the 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon.
If you work on how to improve mile time performance, you will likely see a pretty significant carryover effect to some of the other “big four” distance running events, particularly your 5k time and 10k race times.
In this guide to how to run a faster mile time, we will briefly discuss factors that affect how fast you can run a mile, and then we will dive deeper into how to run a mile faster that you may find helpful when you are looking into how to improve mile time performance.
We will look at:
- Factors That Affect How Fast You Can Run a Mile
- Tips for How to Run a Faster Mile
Let’s get started!
Factors That Affect How Fast You Can Run a Mile
Improving your mile time can be beneficial for most all runners.
This is because many of the same strategies for how to run a faster mile will improve your aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, leg speed, and even pacing, all of which can help you run a mile faster as well as other distance races faster.
This is all to say that even if you stumbled upon this article looking at how to run a faster mile but are more invested in how to improve mile time average in longer races, you may be surprised to find that you either enjoy training to improve your mile time or that doing speed workouts end up helping you run your longer races faster as well!
Before we get into training strategies for how to run a fast mile, it is important to note that there will be a limit to how fast you will be able to run a mile.After all, there are world records, and unless you are chasing those down, you may hit your peak mile performance and then struggle to see significant improvements.
Here are some of the top factors that affect how fast you can run a mile and what even constitutes a good mile time:
#1: Age and Sex
Age and biological sex are two factors you can’t do much about.
However, as an example, at the one-mile distance, a 7-minute mile is better for a female than it is for a male when the two runners are matched by age and ability level.
If you look at the world records for basically every running distance, the men’s world record is always faster than the women’s world record for the same distance.
This is because men carry less body fat and have a higher percentage of lean body mass relative to women and, thus, are stronger and faster runners.
We also slow down as we age.
#2: Experience Level and Fitness Level
The newer you are to running, the more significant improvements you will see when you implement tips for how to run a faster mile because there is more room for “growth“ or “improvement.“
#3: Effort Level
Finally, it’s also important to consider your effort level when you want to run a faster mile.
Are you doing a timed mile on the track in a workout or as a time trial?
Or, are you looking for how to improve mile time average in longer races and training runs?
To some degree, there is a fair amount of overlap as to how to run a faster mile in either scenario, but there are also differences in how to run a fast mile when you are just doing a single all-out mile versus how to run a faster mile average in longer races.
Tips for How to Run a Faster Mile
Let’s move on to the practical for tips on how to run a faster mile.
#1: Build An Aerobic Base
Certainly, strategies for how to improve mile time performance will involve speed workouts, but it is also important to focus on building your aerobic base.
Gradually increasing the distance that you can run at a conversational pace without stopping is essential, especially if you are newer to running or trying to run a fast mile for an armed services physical fitness test, occupational test, or just a faster mile on the treadmill because you have started incorporating running before or after lifting weights.
Build up to at least one 30-minute run per week if you are a beginner looking into how to run a fast mile.
Experienced distance runners can essentially negate this mile performance tip and take the opposite approach—dialing back the distance of your runs and implementing more speed workouts for running a fast mile—will be a more effective approach for improving mile performance.
#2: Lift Weights
Strength training can definitely help you run a faster mile.
Rather than lift light weights for many reps, use heavy weights for fewer reps and focus on compound, explosive exercises like step-ups, squats, deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, weighted calf raises, and hip thrusts.
#3: Build Power
One of the best tips for how to run a faster mile is to work on your power.
This can involve incorporating plyometrics into your training program (box jumps, burpees, etc.) and working on resisted speed workouts such as running with a parachute, doing a weighted sled push or pull, and hill training.
#4: Practice Pacing
Newer runners may need to practice even pacing to improve mile performance.
Use your watch to try to run even splits so that you can partition your energy for the full mile without needing to slow down because you went out too fast for the first lap of your timed mile.
#5: Add Track Drills
Running drills like A skips and bounding can help you work on your neuromuscular coordination, power, and running form, all of which can be helpful for running a faster mile.
You can structure these types of track workouts to improve 1-mile time performance in various ways.
For example, you might divide the workout into sections, such that you do running drills, followed by sprints, followed by speed-endurance intervals. Alternatively, you can incorporate running drills and track and field drills or plyometrics interspersed with sprinting intervals.
#6: Keep It Varied
Track drills are only a small component of a speed workout to get faster.
You should also be doing sprint training with intervals. There are all sorts of ways to structure track workouts for running a fast mile.
You can run sprint repeats that are the same distance, such as 8 x 200 meters or 4 x 600 meters, or you can do ladder or pyramid track workouts.
A ladder track workout for milers involves either running intervals in ascending or descending distances.
For example, an ascending ladder track workout for a miler would be 4 x 200 meters, 2 x 400 meters, 2 x 600 meters, and 1 x 800 meters, with a full recovery in between each interval.
Each interval would be run at goal mile pace or faster.
A descending ladder track workout starts with the longest distance and works down towards the shortest sprint.
You can also do pyramid speed workouts, which involve increasing and then decreasing the length of the intervals.
For example, you could do a pyramid track workout for milers that might involve 200m, 400m, 600m, 800m, 600m, 400m, and 200m.
Pyramid workouts for milers are one of the best types of speed workouts to run a faster mile because you have to work on your pacing over the course of the entire workout, but you can also hammer home the descending portion of the ladder once you have hit the longest interval.
This can help you build leg speed and improve your kick in the mile in the third and fourth laps once you are already tired.
A time-based track interval workout can also be an effective speed workout for running a faster mile time, particularly if you are a distance runner and want to incorporate speed training into longer runs or you don’t have access to a track for mile workouts.
For example, you could run 8 to 10 x 30 seconds at 90-95% effort or max heart rate with 60 seconds of recovery jog in between each interval.
This would be a speed-based mile workout.
On the other end of the spectrum, you could do another time-based running workout to improve your mile time that might be more along the lines of:
4 x 5 minutes at mile pace (for milers with a fastest mile time of nine minutes or more) or 4 x 3 minutes at mile pace for mile runners who have a fastest mile time of eight minutes or faster).
These types of longer intervals (time- or distance-based) increase speed endurance, which refers to your ability to hold a faster pace for a longer time without slowing down.
Overall, you will want to incorporate both types of intervals into your program when implementing the best plan for how to run a mile faster:
Once a week, add short, super fast sprint intervals to improve turnover and target your anaerobic energy system, and at least once a week add the longer running intervals to improve your speed endurance, pacing, and physical and mental stamina for holding a faster mile pace for a longer period of time.
#7: Rest and Recover
Even if you are super keen on how to run a mile faster, you still need to respect the limits of your body and take adequate rest and recovery in your running workouts as well as in your training overall.
Particularly if you are new to running, run no more than every other day to start.
Even if you are an experienced runner, consider cross-training in place of one aerobic run per week to reduce the risk of injuries, especially if you are suddenly adding a lot of speed training to run faster when you have been predominantly doing steady-state, comfortable distance runs.
To that end, build the intensity of your workouts gradually for running a faster mile.
Lastly, we offer online run coaching and personal training for strength programs and more.
You can find even more workouts for running a fast mile and tips for training to run a faster mile time here.