Running can be a solitary activity. No one can run for you. You have to lace up your shoes and get out the door all on your own.
But when you run the mile, even when you run solo, you’re running alongside countless others that have given the mile a shot before you. From Roger Bannister to a third-grader in gym class, the mile is something that we all share.
The Strava Mile adds more camaraderie to the mix. This month, go out and run a mile as fast as you can and you’ll be running in a group of thousands all over the globe doing the same thing. In #MyMile, you don’t need a track or a race. You just need a watch and a goal.
And here’s the best part—by running the mile, you can get stronger and faster than ever, while having fun doing it.
On April 29, 42-year old Caroline Boller won the C&O Canal 100 Miler overall, beating all of the men and women by over two hours. Her time was a blazing fast 16:51, or 10 minutes, 6 seconds per mile. But even with all of the accolades Boller has received in ultramarathons, including many prestigious wins like the C&O Canal 100 and multiple national championships, she had a problem. She coached the community’s youth track team in Santa Ynez, California, and as Boller said, “ultra distances aren’t very relatable for the kids I coach.”
I decided to run the mile because it was a race that they ran too. That way they know: Coach Caroline is in it with me, she does this too.
So Boller set her sights on the State Street Mile, just five weeks later in Santa Barbara, California. The decision didn’t come without some apprehension. “The mile was so far out of my comfort zone that it was almost silly, but I was willing to do it anyway, Boller said. “My hope was to show the kids that I wasn’t afraid to go out and put myself on the line and risk looking totally ordinary. I hoped the kids could take something away from that.”
Boller and her coach Mario Fraioli shifted gears in training and showed up to the start line with an open mind and newfound speed in her legs. And the results were anything but ordinary. Boller won the elite masters women’s race and ran 4:59, two times faster than the 10-minute pace she was working on just five weeks before.
How did Boller feel about her extraordinary transformation?
When I saw the official result, I jumped up and down with joy!
You don’t have to be a pro to find the beast miler lurking beneath the surface of your current fitness. Strava’s Hera Carlos found that out when her coworkers all went to the track for the first official #MyMile challenge.
Back in high school, Carlos ran an 8-minute mile. Now she shoots for 4–6 miles on most of her runs and is comfortable in the fact that she’s “not really focused on speed.
But mix consistent training with motivation, and there’s no telling what might happen. When Carlos lined up for the Strava Mile on June 1, her goal was to break 7:30. In her first timed mile in more than 20 years, she ran a 7:05.
“Now that I know what I can do with minimal training, I’ll definitely work harder.” Carlos says she might even try the mile again as soon as this week. Why? She put it simply:
It was awesome.
Components of a Fast Mile
The mile is a simple event driven by complex physiology. But at it’s core, mile performance can be broken down into just a few variables.
Running economy: how much energy it takes to go a given pace.
You can improve your running economy quickly by doing short, fast strides during a few runs each week. To start, in the context of a normal run, do 4 to 10 repetitions of 20 to 30 seconds fast, with 1 to 2 minutes of easy running between them. Focus on running the fastest pace you can go while staying totally effortless—for most people, it will be around 800 meter race pace, but might be close to mile pace for experienced runners.
Velocity at VO2 max (vVO2): how fast a runner goes at maximal aerobic capacity.
VO2 max usually equates to an effort you could hold for 7 to 15 minutes, depending on your physiology—think of it as smooth, but unable to talk between breaths. Short intervals between 30 seconds and a few minutes with equal rest or below can improve vVO2.
Aerobic endurance: cardiovascular ability, with miles per week being a solid proxy.
All running performance rests on a base of aerobic development. To run a fast mile, just like running fast at any other distance, 80% of your running should be easy and conversational, maximizing how much you run while staying healthy.
Running Your Fastest Mile in Just Two Weeks
Boller had just two weeks of focused training for her mile, and you can learn from her quick build to lead to quick breakthroughs. Here is how to use the components of a fast mile:
- Run strides 2 to 3 times per week. In the second half of some of your easy runs, do 4 to 10 by 20 to 30 second strides faster than mile pace.
- Do 1 or 2 workouts a week focused on running mile effort or a bit slower, targeting vVO2.
- Run consistently 4 to 6 times per week, with all mileage easy outside of your strides and workouts.
While there is no perfect template, here is a plan for a 25 mile-per-week runner that you can scale up or down for your background.
2-Week #MyMile Breakthrough
Day 13: 4 miles easy with 6 x 20 seconds fast/2 min easy
Day 12: 2 miles easy warm-up, 2 x 3/2/1 min at 5k/3k/mile effort with 2 minutes easy between intervals and 5 minutes easy between sets, 4 x 30 seconds faster than mile effort with 3 min easy recovery, 2 miles easy cool-down
Day 11: rest and recovery
Day 10: 4 miles easy
Day 9: 4 miles easy with 4 x 30 seconds fast/90 seconds easy
Day 8: 2 miles easy warm-up, 4 x 2 min at 3k effort/1 min easy, 5 min easy, 4 x 30 seconds at mile effort/1 min easy, 2 miles easy cool-down
Day 7: rest and recovery
Day 6: 5 miles easy with 6 x 20 seconds fast/1 min easy
Day 5: 2 miles easy warm-up, 8 x 1 min at mile effort/1 min easy, 5 min easy, 6 x 30 seconds at faster than mile effort/2 min easy, 2 miles easy cool-down
Day 4: 4 miles easy
Day 3: 5 miles easy with 6 x 20 seconds fast/40 seconds easy
Day 2: rest and recovery
Day 1: 4 miles easy with 4 x 30 seconds at mile effort/2 minutes easy