How To Train For and Run A 5 Minute Mile

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A 5-minute mile is a big achievement. Beginners usually average 12 to 15 minutes a mile, and more experienced runners may hit 8 to 10 minutes per mile.

The 4 to 5 minute per mile mark is usually a mark of being an experienced and talented runner. Elite athletes can maintain this pace for a marathon-length race! But if you’re aiming for one mile at a 5-minute/mile pace, that’s quite doable for less elite runners.

Here’s our advice on how to train for and run a 5-minute mile. If it seems like a lofty goal, don’t worry! All it takes is consistency and determination. It’s within your grasp!

Keep reading to find out the details of how to get there.

How Fast Do You Need to Go to Run a 5 Minute Mile?

Running a 5-minute mile demands that you keep up a pretty steady pace throughout the entire mile.

Here’s what you need to know and keep an eye on if you’re aiming to hit that 5-minute mark.

Pace

In order to reach that 5-minute mile, you’ll need to run at 12 miles per hour (19 km/hour). That’s a significant pace to keep up consistently!

If you’re serious about hitting this pace, we recommend investing in a GPS watch that tracks your pace accurately.

Split Times

You don’t have to use split times, but it certainly helps you to keep on track with your pace throughout the full race.

You’ll split your one-mile race into four sections; ¼-mile, ½-mile, ¾-mile, and full mile. Here’s the time you should be aiming for on your watch at each split:

  • ¼-mile: 1 minute 15 seconds
  • ½-mile: 2 minutes 30 seconds
  • ¾-mile: 3 minutes 45 seconds
  • 1 mile: 5 minutes

How to Run a 5 Minute Mile

Now that you have this goal broken down into manageable chunks, here’s how to go about learning how to run a 5-minute mile.

Set a Benchmark Mile

A benchmark mile is one that helps to determine your baseline. Here, you’re simply going to head out on the road to run a mile and see how fast you can run it at your current fitness level.

You’ll need a way of determining when your mile is up. You can run around a track, which will be pretty easy. If you don’t have a track nearby, you can set up a mile-long route in an app like Strava or RunKeeper. Just make sure you end at the right place!

Otherwise, you may find it helpful to head out along the route beforehand and mark your splits with chalk or landmarks (telephone poles work well) so you can tell exactly where you are in your run.

Run 400 at a 5-Min Mile Pace

Once you know what your benchmark time is for a mile, you can work on hitting your ¼-mile split. Your goal here is to run one lap of the track (400 meters) at full pace.

Remember, you need a ¼-mile split of 1 minute and 15 seconds to hit a 5-minute mile in a race. That’s 75 seconds.

But in this exercise, we’re aiming for an even faster lap. Do your best to race this lap in 65 seconds or less. For this training exercise, you’re only going to hit one lap at a time, so don’t worry if you’re spent afterward!

Start implementing this drill into your training regularly. You should notice that you improve slightly every time. Once you can hit that 60 to 65-second mark every time, your 5-minute mile is in sight.

Start Training

If 5-min/mile is your big goal, you need to train for it like you would anything else. You’ll need to do something every day towards this goal – consistency is key!

Training Tips to Reach a 5 Minute Mile

1. Improve Running Form

First and foremost, you should get your running form sorted out. We all have small improvements that can be made, and your form could be the difference between making it and failing.

The easiest and quickest way to find your own flaws is to have a friend or family member video you while you’re running. Or you could use a tripod to record yourself.

This is simple to do with any smartphone, The video quality should be okay for the purpose.

Consider the following when you analyze your own running form on the video:

  • Are you striking with your heel, midfoot, or forefoot?
  • Where is your foot landing in relation to your hips?
  • Are your arms getting “lazy”?
  • How far are you lifting your heels on the push-off?

The ideal way of landing is on your midfoot, with your foot directly beneath your hips. You should be kicking your heels up until they’re parallel to the ground, if not higher.

And you should be actively using your arms to propel yourself forward, bringing your hands up to your chin on the forward swing and down to the hip on the backswing.

If you find changing your form difficult, consider hiring a running coach, even if it is just for a short period of time. Once your body is in the habit of running with correct form, it’ll be much easier to keep it up without thinking.

2. Build Up Your Base

Building up your base fitness and endurance is extremely important. Although one mile doesn’t seem long, there’s no point in being able to run it if you don’t plan on extending it to longer races!

The only way to build up your running stamina is to train often. You should be getting in 5 days of training per week, for at least 6 to 12 weeks before even considering adding speed drills into your training.

Introducing speed training too early can invite an injury, which will only set you back on your 5-minute mile quest.

If you’re serious about this goal, accept that it will take time. You’ll need to be dedicated and consistent. Rushing through this kind of training will not only be far less effective, but you’ll have more chance of injury.

Also, once you’ve built up your endurance, you’re in the best position possible to push forward to things like 5K races at your 5-minute mile pace.

3. Hill Repeats

Hill repeats help you to build up strength and stamina. If you have a hill nearby (200 to 400 meters, preferably), then this type of training is ideal.

If it’s close enough for you to jog to as a warm-up, even better! If not, that’s okay. You can use an incline treadmill to get the same kind of workout.

Whether you’re on a treadmill or a real hill, begin with 4 to 5 reps up the hill. Go all-out as much as you can to get to the top. Then you can jog back down, using that as your rest time. Then back to the next rep.

You should work on increasing to 8 or 10 reps in one session. This kind of training is excellent for building leg strength, stamina, and cardiovascular endurance.

4. Strength Training

Adding strength training to your exercise routine is an excellent way of boosting your performance. In fact, neglecting this part of training can actually have a detrimental effect on your efforts to hit that 5-minute mile.

While focusing on building muscle in the legs is important, don’t neglect the rest of the body. Balance is essential! You need to work both your upper and lower body.

If you like to lift heavy, that’s quite all right. Just make sure you’re doing it with proper form and not being too ambitious. But if you’re new to lifting weights, it’s safer and easier to focus on lower weight but more repetitions.

Use a weight that you can lift fairly easily. Your aim should be 20 to 30 reps per set, and 3 to 4 sets per exercise. You should target the major muscle groups at least once a week (chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs).

Here are some great exercises that you can incorporate to build leg and core strength (especially for running) that also help to build your stamina:

  • Squats (bodyweight or weighted)
  • Lunges (bodyweight or weighted)
  • Deadlifts (normal and Romanian)
  • Box jumps (if too hard, then step-ups)
  • Planks
  • Burpees
  • Calf raises
  • Side shuffles
  • Leg raises

5. Short Speed Workouts (Up to ¼-Mile)

Start incorporating speed workouts into your training once you’ve been working on your base fitness for at least 6 weeks.

These kinds of drills involve a set number of reps of a particular distance. Typically, you’ll be aiming for your 5-minute mile target pace in these sessions.

An example would be 10 to 12 reps of a 200-meter distance. Based on your 5-minute pace, you should aim to run these in 37.5 seconds each, with a minute of resting time in between each one.

If you can, it’s easiest to do these on the track so you know exactly how long 200 meters is. If you can’t, you’ll have to measure it out yourself to make sure you’re hitting the right distance.

6. Tempo Runs (10 Min and Longer)

Tempo runs are sort of easy runs at a mid-range pace. They’re not at your race pace, but they’re faster than your recovery pace. A tempo run comes in at about 25 to 30 seconds slower per mile than your average 5k pace.

You may feel like this is kind of worthless. Why do a training run at this in-between kind of pace? Well, there are some specific, helpful benefits to tempo runs.

Tempo runs help to increase your lactate threshold. You can read all about your various thresholds in this article. But in a nutshell, tempo runs help you to run faster and for longer.

Start off doing a 10-minute run at a pace of 6 minutes per mile. Build it up over time to 20 minutes at this pace. Try to schedule at least one or two tempo runs into your weekly running routine.

7. Longer Intervals (0.5 to 1.5 Miles)

Interval training is a fantastic way to build up stamina, strength, and lose weight. Typically, they’re shorter distances (like the speed drills), but we also recommend doing some longer intervals as part of your training.

These kinds of intervals help to build up your aerobic and anaerobic capacities, both of which are important for improved performance.

Try 4 reps of 1000 meters at your 5-minute mile pace. In between each, you should rest for 2 minutes to let your heart rate settle.

A Weekly Running Example

If you’re wondering how to structure this all into a weekly schedule, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a quick rundown of an example weekly training plan. You can adjust this to suit you, but it’s a good indication of what to include throughout your week.

  • Monday: 5K (3.1-mile) run, at 80% of your all-out effort.
  • Tuesday: Longer run of 5 miles at a tempo pace.
  • Wednesday: Hill repeat workout, either a 5-mile run on a hilly terrain or 8 to 10 reps of a 200 to 400-meter hill.
  • Thursday: Rest and recovery day.
  • Friday: Tempo run/track workout.
  • Saturday: Easy run, 6 to 10 miles at a comfortable pace.
  • Sunday: Rest and recovery day.

How to Approach Race Day for Running a 5 Minute Mile

As race day draws nearer, there are a couple of things you can do to boost your performance and make your race easier.

Run With Pacers

In the last few weeks before your race, it could be extremely worthwhile to run with a pacer. If you have a training partner who can help, ask them to join in one or two of your training sessions to help you reach your goal.

This will help you to focus on your running without checking your pace, and get a proper feel for how to run at your target pace.

Target an Even Pace

Remember your splits? That will come in handy on race day to help you keep an even pace. You can set up an alert on your watch for every ¼-mile and aim for your target pace in those 4 splits.

Resist the temptation to go faster in your first or second split! If you hit it too fast upfront, you may find yourself fatigued on the last two and lose time instead.

The 3rd Lap Is Key!

The 3rd lap (from ½ to ¾-mile) is the most crucial. You’ll already be getting tired now from sticking to your pace, and it’s super easy to fall off your pace and slow down here without even realizing it.

This is where you need to dig deep into your mental reserves. Concentration and willpower will come into play here! It’s going to be uncomfortable to push through, but if you can see this lap through, you’ll find the last one easier.

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AUTHOR

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.