Average Mile Time: Beginners VS Experienced Runners
New runners often ask how fast they should be running. The thing is that there are so many variables that come into consideration. The first informal rule of running is don’t judge yourself compared to the person standing next to you at your local race. The only person you should compare yourself to is YOU. There is a popular phrase in running, “The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” I used to subscribe to this school of thought until injury struck. If you have been sidelined for any period of time due to injury, you feel my pain here. It’s difficult to start from scratch with your fitness and easy to be hard on yourself. This is why you need to take each moment and judge it for the moment you’re in. Having said all of that, there are certainly some things you may be able to expect from your average mile time.
Those new to running often find themselves clocking an average mile time somewhere between 12 and 15 minute miles. If that sounds like there is a lot of discrepancy in there, it’s because there is. And that’s okay! What we have to all remember is that we don’t all start at the same point.
There are many things that go into determining what your average (or fastest) mile time will be. All of these factors come into play whether you are a new or veteran runner.
Things That Impact Running Pace
✓ Gender – Statistically speaking, if all else is equal, men tend to run faster than women. Sure, making this blanket statement will offend some people. However, the proof is in the pudding. Look at Boston Qualifier standards, military standards, world records. Like it or not, men are generally faster than women.
✓ Age – On the one hand, you may be thrilled to hear that over time you won’t necessarily get that much slower as you age. Most runners reach their fastest between age 18 and 30.
✓ Overall Fitness – If you were fast in your youth, likely you can be fast again. However, when you were young you had a seemingly infinite amount of time on your hands. Age often brings responsibility, which often means time crunch. Your overall fitness comes into play with how fast you can run. Are you healthy? Do you work out more than occasionally? Do you exercise regularly?
✓ Health – It stands to reason that your health also factors into how fast you can run. If you have had few medical issues, you likely will take to running a little better than someone who has had health concerns.
✓ Injury – Injury can be a big one. If you have suffered an injury that sidelined you for any length of time, you will likely have to climb and claw your way back. Hamstrings, for example, can take 6 months or more of rehab. These types of injuries can definitely impact speed.
✓ Body composition – You are hard pressed to find an article discussing the speed of runners that does not discuss height and weight. There is very real data that points to taller runners and that being an advantage as far as pace goes, as their stride is simply longer. In addition to that, it is also true that dropping a few extra points often helps runners to speed up. Having said all of that, there is no runner’s body. If you put on running shoes and head out to pound the pavement, you are a runner. I have raced against people who weighed considerably more than I do and they kicked my butt. Don’t put too much credence into this.
✓ Terrain – Your pace will change depending on the terrain on which you are running. Trails, for example, require careful attention to every step you take. This will usually slow you down. Running on a soft track is a nice, forgiving surface. Grass, on the other hand, is soft but often slows you down some compared to asphalt. If you’re exploring mountains that will probably slow you way down, especially if you are not used to being at a high altitude.
✓ Weather – While some people are self-proclaimed rain runners, certain weather tends to slow people down. Extreme heat or cold, for example, can slow down your average time to run a mile. Trudging through deep snow can also slow you down. Many runners have that perfect sweet spot where they run at their very best (mine is 40-50 degrees).
Based on data uploaded to Strava, the average time to run a mile is 9:48. This data is gathered with over 300 million runners’ statistics and it breaks down to an average of 9:15 minute mile for men and a 10:40 for women.
For many people, seeing those statistics is disheartening. For others, it hopefully affirms that they’re doing a fantastic job! The thing to keep in mind is that your mile is exactly that. YOUR mile. Own it. Enjoy it. Sing your own praises.
The fastest mile ever clocked by a man unaided by a downhill is a 3:43, set by a Moroccan runner in 1999. Are you wondering about the women’s side of the record? The fastest mile by a female is a 4:12:33 set in 2019. But that’s “just one mile.” What about the long haul?
Let’s explore some world record holders in the marathon. Marathoning great Eliud Kipchoge can run all 26.2 miles at a blazing pace averaging a 4:38 mile. Yes, you read that right. He holds that pace for 26.2 miles.
Kenyan Brigit Kosgei broke the women’s marathon record in 2019 by clocking a 2:14:4 for the 26.2. This was a 5:06 average across the distance.
How to Get a Faster Mile Time
If you’re interested in clocking a faster mile time, don’t lose hope! There are so many things you can do to get faster! Some things to consider:
First, consider how many miles you are currently running. It may be in your best interest to add some mileage to your week. Also, you should be sure you are running consistently if you are looking to improve. A run here and there doesn’t add up to much change. However, consistently logging miles does add up quickly!
Adding speed work to your workout regimen is a good way to get faster. This can be in the form of track work or pick up intervals called fartleks. Hill work is another great thing to add to your workout. Hill work is speed work in disguise! Pounding up the hill for repeats builds strength and power.
Speaking of power. Strength training is another great thing to do if you are hoping to get faster. In addition to strength, be sure you spend some time on focused core work.
Lastly, nutrition is an important thing. Too often we hope to build abs in the weight room when actually most of the work is done in the kitchen!
For recreational runners, running a blazing fast mile is probably not a top priority. However, if you are hoping to get faster there are for sure things you can do!
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