Improving your running speed and average mile pace is a process. There are no shortcuts. Understanding that is the first step to becoming a faster runner.
In this post, we’ll look at average mile times and show you how you can get faster without running the risk of injury.
So, how long does it take to run a mile?
The Mile Pace: Factors to Consider
The time it takes you to run a mile – that’s what pace is. The pace at which you run a mile depends on several factors:
- Fitness level – Competitive runners build a faster mile pace than beginners. But they don’t do it overnight. It’s a process that takes time.
- Age – Most runners are fastest between 18–30 years. But they can work toward a good mile pace at any age.
- Sex – Men have more muscle mass than women, enabling them to run faster.
- Weight – A high body weight can slow a runner down. The muscle-to-fat ratio also matters.
- Height – Tall runners may have a longer stride. But flexibility and other factors come into play. Just because a runner is tall doesn’t mean they are faster than a shorter runner.
- Genetics – Some people are naturally faster runners than others. But without training, they may fall behind less gifted but better-trained runners.
- Weather – Temperature extremes, strong wind, and the running surface may slow down a runner.
- Altitude – Higher altitudes mean lower air pressure, which affects the rate at which oxygen diffuses into your blood. This, in turn, can slow you down.
- Total distance you have to run – During longer races, runners cannot sustain a fast speed throughout the event. Long races call for the release of speed at the right time.
How long to run a mile depends on your fitness level, running goals, and other factors. Looking at the average mile times is a good way to set realistic mile pace goals.
Average Mile Times
If you’re wondering what the average mile time is, the answer can vary significantly depending on the runner’s fitness level.
Average time to run a mile
The average time to run a mile for a recreational runner in good shape is around 9–10 minutes, according to data provided by the popular running app Strava. That’s twice the time that it takes an elite marathon runner to run a mile.
Mile speed for a beginner runner
If you’re new to running, you can easily add 3–5 minutes to that time. As a beginner runner, 12–15 minutes is a good time to run a mile. You can and will get faster if you stick to it. But expecting too much too soon is simply not realistic and may only invite injury and disappointment.
Average mile run time by age
How long should it take to run a mile when you’re young? According to data collected from 5k runners in the US, most runners are fastest between the ages of 16–30.
Men reach their peak pace between 20–24 years, for an average pace of 09:30:36. Women reach their peak pace between 25–29 years, for an average pace of 11:42:37.
Judging from the same data source, men in good shape continue to run the mile well under 11 minutes up until they are 50. Women run it under 13 minutes up until the same age.
After 50, the average mile pace significantly increases for both genders. For example, men between 55–59 run the mile in 12:07.58 while women between 60–64 run it in 14:47:58.
Top Tips to Improve Your Mile Speed
Are you aspiring for a 9-minute or even an 8-minute mile pace? You have to take it one run at a time.
Reaching your running goals becomes easier if you use the factors you can control, such as running equipment or diet, to your advantage.
1. Have the right running shoes
According to a 2017 research paper, wearing lighter shoes could speed up long runs. Researchers found that shoes that are 100 grams (0.22 pounds) lighter, alongside other factors, could enable a runner to finish a marathon in under 2 hours.
Your running shoes should be comfortable, have good but not excessive cushioning, and not weigh you down. They should also match your running gait and the surface you run on.
2. Warm up and cool down
Warming up before you begin timing yourself readies your muscle for the run. More than reducing the risk of injuries, it helps put your muscles into running gear.
Cooling down after the run is also important as it helps prevent injuries so you can keep on running toward your mile speed goals.
3. Practice breathing
Counting your breaths is a simple strategy that can help you avoid uneven breathing patterns that may slow you down. Breathe in and out using both your nose and mouth.
Use rhythmic breathing to align your breathing with your foot strike. Breathe in for 3 seconds and breathe out for 2.
During a hill climb or another demanding part of the run, you can switch to a 2:1 breathing pattern. That is, breathe in for 2 seconds, and breathe out for 1.
Tip: You may want to practice rhythmic breathing as you walk or sit before taking it to your runs.
4. Track your progress
Use a running journal or app to track your mile pace. It will help you set realistic goals and motivate you to achieve them.
The sense of progress that comes with jotting down run times can be empowering. It can spur you on to compete with yourself and become faster.
5. Run intervals
Running intervals can improve your running performance. It can help you develop stronger muscles while also boosting your body’s ability to use oxygen as you run.
Plus, it’s a fun way to cross-train. By alternating running at a fast pace with walking, you can avoid the monotony that sometimes comes with running at the same pace.
6. Build endurance
Research shows that endurance training enables your body to adapt to running faster. If you’re new to running, building endurance training into your workouts can lay the foundation you need to increase pace progressively.
Alternate walking with running and build mileage slowly every week. Having a running plan will make everything easier.
7. Supplement your road miles
Increasing your runs can condition your body to withstand the stress of running. It will make your lungs stronger, too. It may bring you results faster than if you stick to running the same distance on repeat.
On the other hand, you don’t want to run too much too fast. Supplement your road miles gradually. Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10%.
8. Put safety first
Strength training helps your build stronger and more balanced muscle groups. Strong muscles will support your joints and bones when running, reducing the risk of injury. They will also make it easier for you to push yourself harder when you need to.
You want to start slow, though. Whether you choose to go to a gym or train at home, follow a strength training routine for beginner runners.
9. Make a habit of running
Some days, lacing up your shoes and going for a run will seem hard. It happens to all runners. But sticking to your running plan is what will make you a stronger, faster runner.
Making running a habit gets easier if you plan your runs at least a day in advance. Rewarding yourself for runs also helps, as does joining a running community.
A 2018 study on trained male runners found that caffeinated coffee improved mile times. It’s yet another confirmation of the benefits of caffeine for runners.
Remember that coffee is not the only source of caffeine. You can get a healthy dose of caffeine before your runs through healthy supplements as well.
Nutrition matters for runners. A 2014 review article notes the positive effect of dietary nitrates. Found In leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and arugula, as well as beetroot, dietary nitrates can increase the body’s tolerance to exercise as well as performance.
They’re just one of the food types you can add to your runner’s diet. Fruits and vegetables, oats, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds are others.
12. Running music
Running music can motivate you and make your run faster, according to this study. Try running on tracks that have a tempo that matches your running cadence.
A very fast cadence may not necessarily be better, though. You may want to experiment with different music cadences and see how your body reacts to them.
A fast mile pace doesn’t come overnight, but the process of getting there can make you stronger and fitter all-around. Here are the things to remember.
- Building endurance, developing stronger muscles, and running regularly are all necessary to become a faster runner.
- Running intervals can help you improve your mile pace.
- Eating more leafy greens could improve your effort tolerance.
- Caffeine can boost your running performance.
- Logging those miles and tracking your progress can keep you motivated.
At the end of the day, if you make running a habit and stick to it, speed improvements will come. It is, literally, a question of time.