We often look at 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon times, trying to figure out what a “good” time is and maybe even if we fit into that category. Today, we will take a look at what is perceived as a “good” mile time and where we stand in comparison.
This is a tricky topic as mile times depend on many factors such as age, sex, and fitness level. We will take all of that into consideration as we discuss the following:
- How long is a mile?
- What are the current fastest mile time records?
- What is a good mile time?
- What factors can impact your mile time?
- What is the recent average time to run a mile by age and sex?
- 7 tips for training for and improving your mile time
Are you ready for this?
Let’s jump in!
How Long Is A Mile?
A mile is 1.6 kilometers, 1609 meters, or four laps around an Olympic-sized track (4 x 400m, plus 9m at the end!).
It is also 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards.
What Are the Current Fastest Mile Times?
The current world record holder for the mile distance in the men’s category is Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, with a time of 3:43.13. On July 7, 1999, this record was set at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy.
The women’s world record for the mile was set by Sifan Hassan, an Ethiopian-born Dutch athlete, on July 12, 2019, with a time of 4:12.33.
These paces just seem out of this world, don’t they? If you want to take a peek at what training for a 4-minute mile looks like, you can check out our guide.
Now that we know what the best runners can do, let’s check out mile times for the average runner.
What is a Good Mile Time?
Running Level, which calculates running times based on age and ability, says that a good mile time for a male is 6:37, and a good mile time for a female is 7:44.
Those average times to run a mile are based on an intermediate-level runner. Later on, we will look at average mile time for all levels of runners.
What Factors Can Impact Your Mile Time?
Deciding what a “good” average time to run a mile depends on several factors, such as your age, sex, ability, and fitness level.
Regarding sex, male runners are often faster in most competitive distances due to genetically having more muscle mass and fast twist muscle density.
Age is another factor that can vary greatly as much younger runners may lack development and experience, and older runners may feel a slight decline in performance.
Research suggests that the prime running age category is between 25-35. However, performance declines at a very gradual rate as we age, which is excellent news for all of us over 40. We’ve still got plenty of solid running years left!
We can’t control our age, but we can control our fitness level. With the correct training, we can improve our mile time and running level in general. We’ll get to how to do that a bit later.
What are the current average mile times by age and Sex?
Let’s now break down the average time to run a mile by sex, age group, and fitness level to see what a good mile time is for each range.
Running Level breaks down “good” mile times by sex, age, and level, including beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite.
So you have an idea of the definition of each running level according to Running Level, let’s take a look at an explanation of each one:
- Beginner runners are defined as faster than 5% of other runners and have run for at least one month.
- Novice runners are defined as faster than 20% of runners and have been running for at least six months.
- Intermediate runners are defined as faster than 50% of other runners and have run regularly for two years.
- Advanced runners are defined as faster than 80% of other runners and have more than five years of running experience.
- Elite runners are defined as faster than 95% of other runners and have over five years of running experience, and have dedicated themselves to competing in the sport professionally.
Now that we have that information clear let’s get on to the data and see how we measure up to runners around the world.
Average Mile Times: Male
|Age Group: Male||Beginner||Novice||Intermediate||Advanced||Elite|
Average Mile Times: Female
|Age Group: Female||Beginner||Novice||Intermediate||Advanced||Elite|
If you would prefer to break down the average mile times even more, Running Level breaks them into even smaller age group chunks every five years: 20, 25, 30, 35, etc. To take a look at more specific data, you can click here.
In addition, if you would like to calculate your specific running level based on your current times, you can do so here with this formula.
Now that you have seen the data and are pumped up and inspired to improve your mile time, let’s check out seven ways you can do so:
7 Ways to Improve My Mile Time
#1: Perfect Your Running Form
Here are some quick tips when focusing on your running form:
- Keep your body properly aligned with your legs underneath you. When you step, try not to overstride but instead fall directly underneath you. Try to either fall on your mid-foot or forefoot as your footstrike to avoid injury.
- Keep shoulders back, down, and relaxed.
- Keep your arms bent at 90 degrees and gently swing them back and forth. Do not rotate your torso or swing your arms across the front of your body.
- Lean forward slightly, keeping your body aligned and not bending at the waist.
- Hold your hands in a very light fist, relaxed. You can imagine you are holding potato chips in each hand. You don’t want to hold them so loosely that you may drop them, and you don’t want to squish them either. Either way, you would lose your post-run snack!
- Keep your gaze forward, always looking 3-6 meters ahead.
Adding a drill or two to your warm-up routine will remind your body of how it should operate while running and will prep you for your workout ahead.
Also, while working on your form, try and focus on one aspect at a time so you can properly perfect it. Trying to work on everything at once will be overwhelming and may slow your progress. Choose your biggest weakness, and work on that first. Then when you’ve got it, keep scrolling down the list.
For more details on how to perfect your running form, read our article “Proper Running Form – 8 Tips To Make It Effortless”. These minor changes will result in running more efficiently, therefore, faster!
#2: Work Your Top Speed
Speedwork or interval training at short distances and high intensities will help improve your top speed. By doing so, your running fitness and speed will improve in general and give you a hand in shaving down your mile time.
First, take a mile test to not only have your mile time starting point but to calculate your specific training paces to apply to interval training.
The best place to take a mile test is on a standard-sized track. Each loop is 400 meters, so your full mile would be 4 loops of the 400-meter track.
1. Warm up for 15 minutes by jogging at an effortless pace.
2. Do 5 minutes of dynamic stretching.
3. Run your mile as fast as you can without burning out. This can be tricky to gauge if you are not used to taking these tests. My advice would be to start out a bit slower than you think you can run the mile and increase your speed as you finish each loop, running your last loop all out!
Plug your total time into the following pace calculator.
Let’s look at an example using the female intermediate average mile time. If you plug that data into the calculator above, you will have the following training paces as a result.
|Mile total test time: 7:44|
|||Pace Per Kilometer||Pace Per Mile|
|Easy Pace||6:27-7:05/km||10:24 – 11:25/mile|
You will use your “repetition” pace for shorter interval training with complete rests and your “interval” pace for interval training with jogging recoveries.
Include some high-intensity speedwork into your training to work on that top speed. Here’s an example of a 400 workout:
- Warm-up 10-15 minutes easy
- 6 x 400 meters repetition pace with 2-3 minutes of total rest in between each one
- Cooldown 10 minutes easy
You can also work 200s, 600s, 800s, kilometers, etc. at repetition pace, or at interval pace with light jogs as recovery.
#3: Run To The Hills
In addition to interval training on the track or on the road, you can add in some hill work to increase your overall power, speed, and running economy.
Here is an example of a hill repeat workout to try:
- Warm-up for 10-15 minutes on flat terrain.
- Find a hill with roughly a 10% incline.
- Run uphill for 20 seconds at a hard effort.
- Walk slowly back down to your starting point. Be sure and rest for 2-3 minutes in between reps.
- Repeat ten times.
- Cool down for 10 minutes on flat terrain.
If you don’t have hills close to where you run, you can always do these workouts on a treadmill. Most treadmills have the capacity to create a 15% grade incline.
#4: Work Your Endurance
Even though our current focus is improving our mile time, we can’t forget about keeping up our endurance. If we solely focus on interval sessions, we will surely burn ourselves out.
Short, intense workouts should only be a small portion of your weekly training, twice a week max.
The other days throughout the week should be recovery runs that feel easy and enjoyable. The time and frequency of these runs will depend on your current fitness level. You can add about 10% more volume each week to build up your mileage.
These runs will help you recover sufficiently from your interval sessions and be able to jump back into the next one, ready and raring to go. At the same time, they will improve your overall endurance and aerobic conditioning.
#5: Hit The Gym
Strength training is critical for runners to improve their strength, power, balance, coordination, speed, and endurance and help prevent injury. All of these benefits will contribute to a good mile time.
Two to three strength training sessions per week should be plenty to see improvement.
Here are some specific exercises that should find their way into your strength training program:
- Squats: bodyweight, goblet, split, pistol
- Lunges: reverse, walking, side, front
- Deadlifts: bodyweight, Romanian, one-legged
- Glute bridges: two-legged, one-legged, elevated hip thrust
- Planks: elbow, side, trx, body saw, Spiderman
You can begin with using just your body weight and move on to adding resistance such as dumbbells and kettlebells as you improve.
Do your strength training routine after your runs if running is your priority, so you don’t tire yourself out. Leaving 4-6 hours between sessions is ideal to give your body sufficient time to recuperate.
#6: Add Plyometrics To Your Strength Training Routine
In addition to adding the above strength training exercises to your gym workouts, plyometric exercises are also an excellent addition to improving your power, which is very important to run a fast mile time.
Some of the main benefits of plyometric exercises include improving stability, coordination, muscle and joint strength, cardiovascular conditioning, Vo2 max, speed, endurance, and of course, power!
Plyometrics can also improve your running economy in general, which will also help you to run faster.
Plyometrics are exercises that involve fast, explosive movements, usually involving some sort of jumping.
Add a short circuit of 4 or 5 of these exercises at the end of your strength training sessions every so often. Not only will you reap the benefits listed about, but you will also finish off your workout with a metabolic blast.
Some plyometric exercise examples include:
- Jumping jacks
- Scissor jumps
- Box Jumps (single-leg, double leg)
- Lateral jumps
- Long jumps
- Frog jumps
- Jump rope
- Jump squats
- Jump lunges
- Lateral lunges with runner’s jump
- Star jumps
- Tuck jumps
- Squat jacks
- Plank jacks
- High knees
After adding these to your workout, you’ll feel yourself getting more and more powerful, which will translate to improvements in your fast running.
#7: Improve Your Cadence
I’m certain you have read over and over that 180 steps per minute are the “ideal” number of steps for your stride rate or cadence. However, more realistically, anything over 170 will help improve your running economy.
We can work our cadence, or turnover, in a couple of different ways.
One, by using a metronome set at 180 ticks per minute or two, listening to music that has a rhythm of 180 beats per minute. Either way, while you are running with one of these methods, make sure you hit each foot to the pavement on each beat.
Be careful with posted playlists, as some are posted as 180 BPM but are not always accurate. You can check the songs out yourself with this BPM counter app to be sure the number of beats is somewhere between 170-180.
Include small bouts of cadence work into one of your easy runs, just a few minutes here and there, to get those feet moving and help improve your cadence.
Focusing on your cadence is exhausting as you will tend to speed up naturally, so just add in a bit of this work every once in a while.
You can also work your cadence by adding strides, or gradual accelerations and decelerations, to one of your easy runs during the week. For a closer look at how to perform strides correctly, check out our guide here.
The following are a couple of examples of workouts where you can include strides:
- 30-minute easy run with 10 x 10-second strides
- 45-minute easy run with 8 x 15-second strides
Be sure to leave enough time in between each stride to ensure your heart rate lowers enough for your to recover before adding in the next burst.
Now you’ve got it all, the average mile times for age groups and levels across the board, plus plenty of ways you can work on improving yours. What are you waiting for? Let’s get training!
Check out our training guides to shave down those mile time:
And if you are really ambitious: How To Run A 4 Minute Mile