Thursday 30 June 2011

Magic Mile

When I was training for my marathon over a year ago, I started listening to what was then a new podcast: Marathon Talk. It's light-hearted and funny, and touches on issues that apply to beginner marathoners as well as experienced runners. There's running news, training tips, listener results and experiences, and a guest interview most episodes. Although I have no current plans to run another marathon (not unless I get 2 feet transplants), I still enjoy listening to it, as the majority of topics and discussions are about running in general, rather than marathon running specifically.

Since the first episode, the presenters have asked every interviewee one question: If you could have 6 months of specific, injury-free training, how fast would you be able to run a mile? Guests have included Mo Farah and Ryan Hall (elites), as well as various coaches, physios and average runners, and they have compiled a leaderboard according to their claimed times. It's purely hypothetical, with guests making an honest best estimate rather than having to actually prove it.

Lovely Mo Farah - can run a mile somewhat faster than me

In the last episode I listened to, Marathon Talk announced a summer challenge: for listeners to spend 6 weeks training, and in the first 2 weeks of August to run a mile as fast as we can. You can then log your time on the website, and they will convert it into an age-graded percentage; there is a competition between UK listeners and Rest of the World.

I've decided to take up this challenge! I'd already more or less decided to limit my running this year to 10k distance and less, as I really don't want to risk further injury. So the idea of a completely new challenge related to such a short distance seems perfect.

So on Monday, I jogged 1.3 miles to the end of a long road with a wide pavement, stopped my Garmin, started it again, and ran a mile as fast as I could. It was not exactly a sprint - a mile is still a bloody long way, and I had no clue how to pace myself. The road is not great either, as it's quite hilly, but at least I don't have to cross over, turn around or change direction.

The start of my mile
- it does go downhill on the other side

Anyway, I ran the mile in 7m49s. This must be my fastest ever, as I did the same route and same run once before - last July when I was probably at my running peak. That time it was well over 8mins, so I'm very happy with that. I may be at my peak right now! Scary thought. On a less hilly road and with a bit of practice, I'd like to think I could run 7m30s. By the way, how do so many bloggers I read maintain this mile pace over half and full marathons? I have a long way to go.

On the podcast they are discussing a few speed sessions to help improve, so I'm going to have a go at that, and although I'm very busy and away a lot over the next month, I hope I can fit in some good running here and there. Bring on the magic mile challenge!


  1. You're going to have a challenging few weeks ahead of you. As for how people maintain ridiculous speeds for a marathon or half marathon - beats me. When you know that the pace for a world record marathon (men) is 2:57 per k - I'm in awe!

  2. That sounds like a fun challenge...if only I were running right now ;(
    I started listening to Marathon Talk after your recommendation but haven't listened to the latest episode. I'll have to keep an ear out for this challenge...

  3. I have never run a mile in the 7s. I read about this on another blog too.

  4. I do wonder that as well, I've got my mile time down to 6.3something but my half marathon pace is 8.5something... and that is pushing it... I feel like I have so far to go!