Why You Should Ditch That Half Marathon for a Mile Race Instead
What's got everyone so hooked on this quickie distance? It's a fun challenge for running vets and racing rookies alike.
The magic of the mile is that it's a doable goal for the run-shy but also the ultimate yardstick for PR chasers. That's why more runners than ever are taking on this short and speedy road race: Sign-ups have spiked 64 percent since 2010, while the number of races has nearly doubled, according to Running USA. The super-popular New York Road Runners New Balance 5th Avenue Mile, for instance, has over 6,000 finishers, ranging from first-timers to elite runners. (These are the best mile runs in the U.S.)
"The mile is the perfect way to get newer runners into racing because it feels more manageable and you know you can grit your way through," says Stephanie Schappert, a Hoka One One track athlete who specializes in the 1,500-meter race. "But it's also a new obstacle for seasoned runners who want to shave seconds off longer distances and embrace a speed challenge."
If you haven't attempted a timed run since high school, don't let that deter you, says Schappert. (Reference these running tips for beginners.) "A mile race is the best of distance and speed combined, so no matter where your strengths lie, you'll be able to handle it," she says.
To prep for this type of race, you'll want to train a little differently. Schappert's formula for success is a balanced combo of speed and strength workouts. That means adding intervals into your routine, such as three to five 400-meter (one lap around a track) or two to four 800-meter (two laps) repeats: Max your pace for that first lap (or two), then walk it off to catch your breath before tackling the next repeat. Do this twice a week to prime your body for the bigger effort you'll need to exert for the faster, shorter distance, says Schappert. Also pepper in bodyweight strength exercises and plyometric training such as box jumps (or try these other full-body plyo exercises) to boost your power and help prevent injury as you up your tempo. Just a few weeks with these tweaks will make a huge difference in your body's ability to handle going at a higher speed, she says.
Come race day, don't be afraid to push it. For first-timers, that may mean running without stopping. If you're a more experienced runner, crank your speed and don't hold back. After all, whether you run your mile in five or 15 minutes, you'll still be done before most people's mornings have even gotten started.