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How to get your mile time under 6 minutes

Updated on June 25, 2014
World Record Mile time runner
World Record Mile time runner | Source


Running a mile in under 6 minutes; it's a reasonable goal for a seasoned runner. If you love running this isn't impossible. But you can't become Hicham el Guerrouji overnight. I have 4 years of experience with running for high school track teams, and I've run for for 2 different schools in 2 different states. Over the course of my high school career, I've learned that with running, and getting faster, consistency is key. Now I'll try to help you break 6 minutes on a mile.

Breaking 6

To understand how to run a mile in under 6 minutes, first let's analyze what running a 6 minute flat mile requires.

-First, let's make it clear that you need to be able to run a full mile nonstop.

-If you don't have something with a built in stopwatch, you should purchase a stopwatch. You'll need it to keep track of your times and progress.

If you break up your mile into 4 separate 400 meter runs, your average time for each 400 meter run is 90 seconds. One 400 is one lap around an average running track. 90 seconds is a decent speed, and maintaining this takes quite a bit of energy. You can't break 6 minutes on a mile unless you can hit times below 90 seconds for a 400 meter run. The reason for this is simple math. It is incredibly hard to pace out a 400 at an exact time, so working on your speed with each 400 is key, and to be safe you should have your 400 meter run time down way below 90 seconds. The minimum time you need to be able to hit on a 400 meter run in order to break 6 minutes on a mile, is 89 seconds. If you can't hit that time on a 400, you need to do some speed work. Once you've hit your target time, do it twice. Run an 800 meter run at the same pace. Once you've hit this time, do the same with a 1200 meter run. Here are the times you should be able to hit for each distance:

400 meters / 85 seconds

800 meters/ 2 minutes 55 seconds

1200 meters/ 4 minutes 25 seconds

You could also do mile repeats to see how close you are to your goal for the full mile. And once you're confident about your 400, 800, and 1200 meter run times, here's a strategy I used to break 6 minutes on a mile.

-Start out fast

I'm not saying sprint the whole first 400, but I'm saying start your run at a faster pace and do your best to maintain it. If you start out at a slower pace it's much harder to make up any time debt you've put yourself in later on. You want yourself in a good position when that 4th lap comes around. So your first lap should be a solid 1:25. If you can go faster by all means do that, just don't burn yourself out early because you're going to need a little something left in the tank for your last lap.

-Longer strides

The length of your stride is very important. You'll notice that if you take smaller strides, you have to use more energy to hit a faster speed. If you use longer strides, it's especially helpful when you're tired and you're trying your best to maintain a pace. The longer your stride is, the faster you'll be able to run.

-Ignore the pain

I know, it's not going to feel great. The first time I broke 6 minutes on a mile was in a track meet my sophomore year. I ran a 5:52, and I remember how I felt during and after the run; it felt like I was dying. It takes grit to maintain a speed even when you're in pain, but you can't let pain psyche you out. Your body is capable of incredible things that you wouldn't even imagine, so don't let your thoughts while running convince you otherwise. Keep a clear, calm mindset while you run and focus on reaching your goal. Pain is temporary, but accomplishments last a lifetime.

-Take deep breaths

How you breathe when you run is very important. You should breathe in through your mouth in a slow, controlled pattern, and take deep, full breaths. Your mouth is bigger than your nostrils, so that means more air can be breathed. Also, breathe in through your diaphragm, and not with your chest. Better breathing means more oxygen for all of your muscles,and that means more endurance.

-Sprint the last stretch

The last lap is where you'll be most tired. This is also where you'll give it everything you've got. Sprint the last 400 with every ounce of energy you have. This is where you dig deep, as deep as you can. Open up your stride, and take off. If you're in a race with others, make it your mission to pass by everyone in front of you that you can.

Even faster

The same concept applied here can be applied to running faster times as well. Simply take your desired time and divide it by 4 to realize what each 400 meter lap time needs to be, then do speed workouts until you can consistently hit these 400 times. Then run an 800 at the the same pace, and a 1200. This is a great way to prepare you for the actual mile time you need to run, because once you've hit the right 1200 pace, the mile time you want is within your grasp. Of course you could skip the 800 and 1200 and just do mile repeats until you hit your time, but it's all on preference.

Other things that help your speed and stamina are core workouts such as crunches, sit ups, leg raises, planks, pushups, etc. Another thing to add is that I run on the balls on my toes, and this is how we were naturally made to run. It utilizes our calves and helps lengthen my stride, although at first it slowed me down. If you are curious about the facts to this, you should read Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn. It's an excellent first person narrative on a Adharanand's trip to Kenya and his experience as well as all that he learned about running a marathon with Kenyan's.

Anything to add

If you have anything to add about running, any questions for me, or any objections to anything I've stated please comment. I'd love your input on faster mile times and better running in general.


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