How Fast Can You Run 1 Mile?

Periodically people ask me a question like, “So, how fast can you run one mile?” Any other runners experience this? It’s sort of embarrassing to admit, but I don’t really know for sure. I have run a 2 mile race, a bunch of 5Ks, quite a few 10ks, 2 half marathons and 9 marathons, but I can’t tell you how fast I can run one mile. My 2 mile PR was 12:23 last year, so I know I can run a mile faster than half that or faster than 6:12. I’m also in better shape now than I was last year, so definitely faster than 6:10. I usually hem and haw a bit and throw out a number like 5:45 or 5:50. I decided to test my theory this morning.

I have a problem deciding what kind of runner I want to be. I admire people who are committed to a distance. Some people can run 3 maybe 4 days a week and total no more than 20 miles a week and run blistering 5K and 10K times. I also know people who rack up the long miles and compete in 50 and 100 mile ultras. But I don’t know many who are committed to both.

After nearly 8 years as a runner, I’m really still trying to decide which kind of runner I want to focus on being. Or maybe I have decided to just not decide. I ran my first 5K in July of 2000 and six months later ran my first marathon. I’ve been running races of all distances between 2 mile and marathon since then. I have trouble thinking about focusing on 5K’s because I just like putting in more miles during the week. But I wonder how much faster I could be if I made running faster a priority over long runs.

Back to my testing of my theory. All this talk about running faster and I am smack dab in the middle of tapering for a 50k, my first race longer than a marathon. The race is in 9 days. Today was a run day where I was planning 5 miles and I figured it was safe to get some speed work in, so to add a little variety this morning I decided to test my fast mile theory by running up to the high school track and running a timed mile. It’s just about 1.5 miles from my house to the track so it makes a nice warm up and cool down.

It was cool about 72 degrees F but humid this morning in the predawn darkness. After jogging a bit on the track I hacked my gps and picked up the pace. I immediately fell in to a comfortable rhythm and focused on turnover and form, not really worrying about breathing all that much. After half a lap I checked my pace and saw 6:10 which was faster than I felt like I was running, so I was immediately optimistic. I checked my enthusiasm though reminding myself I did not know how much gas I would have in the tank in 3 more laps. Backing off the pace just a bit I ran the first quarter in 1:33.5 or a 6:14 pace. At this point I decided to keep the effort about the same and then pick up the pace on the final lap.

The second lap was still comfortable and I cruised to a 1:33, apprehensive that a wall was looming. I began pressing on the back half of lap 3 and my effort shaved a couple of seconds off to 1:31. In the final lap I focused on turning over with good form and increased the effort. I glanced at my pace on the back half and saw a 5:45 mile pace on the garmin. I was pumped. After running 3 controlled effort laps I was still going faster and felt like I had more speed I could turn on. The last lap was a 1:26:15 for an even 6:04 mile time.

I’m happy with that. I’m not fully rested and I was not going all out. I think I could easily break 6 minutes and keep working it down from there. Next time I’ll shoot for 3 x 1:30 and a fast final lap. But before that, I’ll knock out this little 50K race. I guess now if someone asks me how fast I can run one mile flat out, I’ll just tell them I recently ran a 6:04 mile, but I’ll add that I think I’m faster than that.