The need for speed often has people searching for ways to get faster. One of the measures of fast is to run a 5 minute mile. Of course, that is something to aspire to. Greatness is something we should all want!
Is it achievable for all runners? How can you chisel down your mile time to get as close as you can to that epic milestone?
Is a Five Minute Mile Fast?
For most of us mere mortals, a 5 minute mile isn’t just fast, it’s blazing. With the world record for the mile at 3:43, setting a 5:00 is still super quick!
Having said that, most people have at least some proclivity to quickness that just has not been harnessed yet. If you’re looking to see what you can do to speed up, keep reading.
What Pace is a 5 Minute Mile?
Not that you should, but if you set your treadmill at 12.0 you will be running a 5 minute mile. The reason we preface that is because if you are not ready to run that fast, you really could get hurt.
In 2013, Asics sponsored a flatbed truck with a treadmill attached to head to the Big Apple with the treadmill set to Ryan Hall’s marathon speed. Equip with safety harnesses to keep runners who couldn’t keep up out of harm’s way, the treadmill was set to 12.6. This speed would replicate the 4:46 per mile that Hall ran for all 26.2 miles of the 2011 Boston Marathon.
Training for the Mile
If you are a runner, and you want to train for a fast mile that takes certain training. Let’s just say very few people can just step on the track and pop a 5 minute mile. We can’t promise you a “how-to”on how to run a 5 minute mile.
What we can promise is that with dedication and diligence, you will get faster.
Building a Base
It should be safe to assume that if you are yearning for a fast mile time, you have already built a running base. However, leaving nothing to assumption: the first thing you need is to build a base. This means if you have not been running consistently, you need to be.
You should be running five days a week with a consistent amount of mileage prior to trying to incorporate speed work into your workout regimen. Jumping right into speed prematurely can result in injury. Another ill effect to speed work before you are ready is you can end up tired, sore and, perhaps worst of all, frustrated.
Your body needs time to acclimate to a new form of working out. Adding speed to your schedule is no exception. We recommend six to eight weeks to build a solid base before delving deeper.
Set a Benchmark Mile
The next step is to set your benchmark mile. This means to head out to run a fast mile and just see where it takes you. Since it is ill-advised to run hard without warming up, first you should warm up your body.
You might gently run a mile, then engage in some dynamic warm up activity before your mile time trial.
Hint: You might find it helpful to know where you are at along the way. If you do not have a track nearby, you can find a flat, straight stretch of road and mark on the road every quarter mile with sidewalk chalk or chalk paint.
Schedule Interval Training
Make sure you are scheduling interval training into your workouts. You might set out to do quarter mile repeats as a starting point. You also need to decide if the entire workout will be dynamic or if you will approach each new interval rested.
If you are working on pure speed, you will typically get your heart rate closer to normal before beginning the next interval. For example: you might be doing 400 repeats with 1:45 rest between efforts. This rest should have you feeling fairly fresh for the next effort, at least for the first few.
On the other hand, some workouts have you jogging your recovery. If you are jogging for 200 meters every 400 you run, your heart rate may go back down but you’re still working between intervals. This will work your body differently. Workouts such as this type have you feeling able to power through that last mile of a 5K race.
Workouts you intentionally do on tired legs and while taxing your cardio system the entire time help you feel stronger when you race.
If you have wanted to race a fast 5K, you probably figured out you needed to train to run further than 3.1 miles. The same is true for the mile.
On top of building overall endurance with the base you have built, you should train your body to run hard for longer than a mile. This is where 2000 repeats can come in handy.
What, you ask? Why on earth would I need to run hard for 5 laps to race only 4? Because then on race day, 4 will seem easy. That’s the truth.
You also should not assume that because you are training for a fast mile that you can scrap the 5-6 mile runs. Your body needs these also. Just don’t approach those like your track work!
Improve Running Form
One way to increase speed is to improve running form. If you have the means to consider hiring a running coach for a few sessions to analyze your form, do so. If not, a simple Google search will net you drills that can help you hone in on proper form.
You can have someone take a video of you running. That is the easiest way to find the flaws in your own running form. Think about changing one small thing at a time while you run.
If there is one thing you can do to help power you through a mile it’s focusing on your arms. If you use your arms as a lever to propel the legs forward, they can pull you through.
When fatigue starts to kick in, focus on bringing your arm forward so your fist is near your chin, and hammering it back so the fist reaches near your hip on the backswing. One of the common ways runners get sloppy with form is to get lazy arms.
Spending time on a hill is another great way to build speed. Not everyone lives in a hilly area where they can do hill work over the course of a few miles. However, you should be able to find yourself at least one hill.
Ideally, you can easily jog to that hill. Once you get there, stretch if you need to then start charging up. Start with 4-5 “up” repeats. Work your way up to 8-10. After you are done, jog your way back home.
If you’re up for the Coach Layton Duer special, try this workout weekly:
- Find a hill 2-3 miles from your home
- Jog easy to the hill
- Do your repeats
- Reset your watch
- Race home
Keep track of your time to get back and see if you can stay within :15 seconds of your best time. As you increase hill reps, you will find yourself challenged to get back as fast as you did the last time. This workout is challenging and effective!
We would be remiss if we did not mention strength training. Adding weights to your workout is an excellent way to get faster. Please don’t worry about getting bulky. Runners who lift should focus on high repetitions of low weights.
Strength training for building speed should focus on these exercises:
- Box Jumps
- Speed Skaters
- Bird Dogs
- Calf Raises
- Side Shuffles for IT band work
- Core, Core and more Core work
Once you are ready for track work, there are many different ways to approach workouts. There are repeats, ladders, pyramids, etc.
When you do repeats, you have a set number of the same distance you are scheduled to run on repeat. Typically, your coach (or training plan) has a goal set for you to run these in a set amount of time with a certain time for resting.
For example, you might run 5 x 2000 on 6:30 with 4:00 minutes rest between intervals. Another might set a goal for 10 x 400 on :90 each, with :90 seconds rest between.
When running a ladder, you increase the distance you are running as you climb up the ladder, then decrease the distance as you work your way back down. In this ladder, you are getting faster as you increase distance.
This workout serves a different purpose than if you were running the shorter distances faster and gradually getting slower throughout the workout. A workout like the one below is about control, honing in on a pace and discipline.
- 400 meter @ half marathon pace
- 800 meter @ 10k pace
- 1200 meter @ 5k pace
- 1600 meter @ 1 mile pace
- 1200 meter @ 5k pace
- 800 meter @ 10k pace
- 400 meter @ half marathon pace
✓ Mixed Distance Workouts
Sometimes your coach will mix up the distance you run and have you hold that speed for a certain number of repeats.
One such example of a workout is to have the athlete run:
- 6 x 200, rest :45 between repeat
- 6 x 400 rest 1:45 between repeat
- 6 x 600 rest 2:30 between repeat
- (Extra 2:00 minutes rest between each distance set)
The goal when running a workout like this one is to find a rhythm early in each set. Don’t set out too fast and then fizzle out. Rather, find a speed you can “dial in” and stay within 5-8 seconds of that time for each repeat.
This workout gets challenging as you work your way through it!
The End Result?
We can’t promise you that doing all of these things will have you running a 5 minute mile; I wish we could. It’s simply not in all of our genetic makeup to run that fast. However, if you dedicate yourself to solid mileage, regular speed work, weight training and eating well, you may be shocked at what your body can accomplish.
Good luck and good running!