If you’ve just started running, you might be curious about what a good mile time is for a beginner runner. You might also be wondering how fast the pros are, too!
If so, this article is for you!
We’ll cover common mile times for beginners, variables that impact your time, and ways to get faster running a mile.
By the end, you’ll know not only what good mile times are but also how you can improve your personal time.
Common Mile Times
Let’s start with some basic data so that you can have an idea of how long it takes other runners to complete one mile.
Average Mile Time
The average time for all runners for a single mile is between 9 and 10 minutes. Men, in general, average a little bit faster – right around the 9:00 barrier. Women average somewhere in the 10:00 range. As total distance increases, pace slows down. So if you’re running 10 miles, the numbers will be different.
Obviously, this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, particularly age. If you’re younger, this is a more common average mile time. If you’re older, then you might run a little bit slower.
Elite runners can finish a mile a lot faster. Currently, the world record for men is 3:43.13 for one mile. Men competing professionally will have a similar time that is definitely under 4 minutes. We hear a lot about the 4:00 mile, but most runners don’t realize what an exclusive club it is. Worldwide each year, fewer than 50 athletes run their first 4:00 mile. 75% of them will never repeat the accomplishment.
The world record for women is 4:12.56, and any female competing professionally will have a similar time that is likely under 4:30.
A good rule of thumb is under 4 minutes a mile for men and under 5 minutes a mile for women is really, really fast! And the more competitive a runner, the farther he or she will be under that time.
While I’m sure you’d love to be able to say that you can run a mile in under 5 minutes or even 10 minutes, you might be slower when you first start. Depending on your age and overall physical fitness, your average mile time might be closer to 12-15 minutes.
Obviously, as you run more, you’ll shave time off that mile time. Don’t be discouraged if your current pace isn’t what you hope it would be!
Your Mile Time
Now that you have a good idea of various average mile times, you might be starting to think about your time. Before you think about trying to improve it, you also have to factor in variables that will impact your time.
Weather and Temperature
Although it might seem surprising, the weather will impact how fast you can run. If it’s really hot, it will take you longer to finish a mile. If it’s really cold, you also won’t have your fastest time.
The ideal temperature for running is between 50 and 55 degrees, with no wind and no rain. Because your body heats up to about 15-20 degrees hotter than the weather outside, this puts you at a comfortable 65 to 75 degrees after you get going.
Anything warmer or colder than this temperature range will slow you down. So, if you’ve been wondering why you’ve had a little bit of variation, this could be why.
Turns and Hills
Something else that can impact your time is how many turns and hills you have in your route. If you run a mile with numerous turns, it will slow you down because you have to take the turns slower. It’s faster and easier to run straight.
Running up or down hills will also impact your time because it’s harder to push up a hill and you don’t make up for it running back down. If you run a lot of hills in a mile, your mile time could slow down pretty substantially.
On the other hand, running straight and/or downhill will lead you to your fastest possible mile. Maybe you shouldn’t brag about it because it is downhill, afterall. But in 1983, Mike Boit ran what is still the fastest known mile by a human – 3:27.8 (!!) – in the Molenberg Mile, a straight, very downhill race that is ineligible for the world record. 3:27.8!!
We all know what track and cross-country runners look like: lean and mean. And the closer your physique to theirs, the more likely you’ll be able to go fast. If you regularly work out, then you’ll probably have a faster time than people who don’t run as often.
If you are lighter, then you’ll probably have a faster mile time. And as you lose weight from running and get more efficient at running that mile, you’ll see the seconds and even minutes start to disappear. It always needs to be said, though, that weight loss needs to stay within reason. There is being athletically trim, and then there is being unhealthily fixated on losing weight. Too much weight loss can substantially hurt your running, not to mention health in general.
Another thing that can unfortunately impact your mile time is recovering from an injury. If you’ve had a recurrent problem or are recovering from one, you won’t be able to go as fast (and you definitely don’t want to).
It might take you some time to build back up to the mile time you had before if you take some time off due to an injury or something else in your life.
Ways to Get Faster Running a Mile
Obviously, it’s helpful to have goals. Then we can push ourselves to reach them – and you might be thinking about how you can run a faster mile.
First, you need to be honest with yourself about what sort of time you’re able to reach right now where you are physically. Then you can start thinking about ways that you can slowly improve and do a little more each workout so that you get stronger.
For New Runners
New runners, and runners with paces in the 12:00-15:00 range are, believe it or not, the most able to make huge improvements in time. If you haven’t ever run before or if you haven’t been running for a while, you need to focus on building up your fitness. The best thing you can do is run regularly. This will help your body get used to running. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but many miles of long slow distance can substantially improve how fast you can run a short distance.
You also should focus on running a mile without stopping. If you need to take multiple breaks to walk during that mile, try to lessen the time that you spend walking so that you eventually get to running a full mile without any breaks.
For Experienced Runners
If you’ve been running for a while, then your body is probably pretty used to running. Because you are already at a certain level of fitness, gains in mile time are harder to come by. But there is hope! Adding new facets to your training can make stronger and fitter. So change things up to get your mile time down. Start by adding speedwork to your training.
By adding intervals or tempo runs (or the hilarious word, Fartleks) to your weekly routine, you’ll improve your mile time and you’ll burn more calories than you would for a steady-state run. Strength work is also critical. Squats, lunges, and core are all areas to work on if pace is your main goal. And don’t forget form drills. Strides, skipping, carioca, butt-kicks, high-knees and more all help develop explosive power and foot speed needed for a truly fast mile.
In the end, what constitutes a good mile time for beginners can vary widely depending on where you’re starting. If you’re like most people, you should be really pleased when you get your mile time under 9-10 minutes.
I know when I first got back to running, I made it my goal to have a sub 8-minute-mile time that I could consistently sustain. One coach suggests that an 8-minute-mile is a good standard to have.
But you have to figure out what works for you, and remember that your pace for a single mile will be much different than your mile pace for longer runs. What seems really slow to you might seem fast to someone else and vice versa. I’d encourage you to figure out what is a good mile time for you and worry less about other people. Be the best runner you can be!