Most people start off running for health, fitness, and weight loss benefits. But the more we fall in love with the sport, the more we want to improve when it comes to our performance. This means nailing proper running form and increasing our average pace. And for some, this means getting to run a 9-minute mile.
Some runners are lucky enough to start off their running journey with impressive paces. Others start with a run/walk method until they work their way to 5k and longer distances. Running a 9-minute mile seems like a goal that might take a long time to reach. But it absolutely is possible—even for those 12 and 11-min/mi runners.
I need to emphasize that runners are not defined by their paces. A 12-minute mile runner is just as much of a runner as a 9-minute mile runner. But there is nothing wrong with wanting to advance as a runner and work on getting faster.
When I started running years ago, I was clocking in around 12-minute miles for my 3 to 4-mile runs. Over time, as I became more serious about running I was running 11-minute miles and then a comfortable 10:15-minute mile on average. When it became comfortable to run in the 10-minute range, I knew that I had the ability to break into the 9s. And I did. In fact, my fastest 5k was 27:37 with an average pace of 8:54. My fastest mile to date is 8:45 (best pace 8:02), with around a 9:15-9:30 min/mi becoming my new comfortable pace for short distance. (I have even been able to see lots of 9s even when running 10 miles). It just took some time to move from consistent 10s to consistent 9s—and it only happened after I did the following things.
So how does a runner run a 9-minute mile?
In order to get faster, the runner needs to “practice, practice, practice.” This means focusing on the types of workouts the runner is doing. No longer is just going for a run and trying to push the pace going to cut it. These are the specific workouts to do it get faster.
The funniest of running terms, fartleks are serious workouts. The word is Swedish for “speed play.” Think of it as interval training done throughout the entire workout. Instead of walking for 30-seconds, running for 60, these bursts are speed are done while continuously running. Farlettks include running at a comfortable pace and then targeting a landmark, road sign, house, anything really, and sprinting to it. Then return to a conversational pace.
Tempo runs are those done at a pace that is 25 to 30-seconds per mile slower than 5k pace. It might sound silly to slow down a bit in order to get faster, but trust me on this one. 5k pace means the runner is putting all their efforts in for that 3.1 miles. The problem is the runner might feel like they are burned out afterward or left gasping for air. A tempo run helps the body learn to get used to a faster pace without feeling like they are burning out. To get specific, they are improving their lactate threshold, basically, the body clears lactate (which the body produces when burning carbs that can lead to legs cramping). This is the most beneficial for those running longer distances. In short, tempo runs help increase the pace for those longer than 15k runs.
One of the best ways to get faster is to run hills. It builds endurance and helps improve proper running form. Running hill just make a runner stronger. It strengths the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes—helping the runner option more power in their stride while working out these muscles. It is challenging but works the muscles more than running on flat ground. Run up the hill and recover on the way down. Repeat. Run these hill repeat at least once a week.
Running on a track can be intimating. But it doesn’t have to be. Have a planned workout, and it actually can help make a runner hit their 9-minute mile goal. Use the measurements on the track for an interval run. Sprint for 100-meters then run at a leisurely pace for 100-meters. Do this for the 400-meters of the track, and 4 times around to make a mile. The more advanced the runner gets, the more they can play with the track intervals. Sprint for 200-meters, recover for 100 and repeat.
OTHER TIPS TO RUN FASTER
Find A Fast (Group of) Friends
Joining a running group is the single best idea I ever made as a runner. I am typically shy when first meeting people and especially when it came to my running. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to keep up with others. I was so wrong. Find a group you click with, one that is open, warm and welcoming. I started mid-pack and found myself in the front in less than a year.
That’s because I made friends that are fast. These running buddies pushed me to push the pace. I began looking forward to chasing after my closet running friend, loving when I began to be able to keep up with her even if was just for a mile. Run with someone about 30-seconds faster. Let them pass you and make it a goal to keep up with time over time.
Run A 5k, Then Another
The best way to know how fast you are is by racing in a 5k. Start your speed journey off with one as a baseline. Then put in the work from the workouts listed above. Then in a month or so, do another 5k. See how you progressed. Then set a 5k for say 4 to 6 months from when you start working on your 9-minute mile journey. See how close you are to seeing 9s all three miles.
Properly Take Care Of The Body
This means staying hydrated before, during and after a run. Fuel properly, especially during those long runs. Eat nutritiously in order to power through speed workouts. Fast food will slow you down, making you feel sluggish. But a balanced meal of a protein, carb, and veggie will make your body feel nourished. Get enough sleep because your body needs it in order to be able to perform up to par.