10 tips for running a mile faster than ever
Veteran runner Steve Cram says a mile is the ideal distance for amateurs to focus on in their training. Here he advises how you can boost your speed with clever, yet simple, training techniques, writes Tom Ough
For runners, both amateur and professional, the mile has failed to last the distance. In the Olympics, middle-distance stars like Mo Farah compete for the 5km and 10km golds.
On the streets and in the parks, joggers work on their (considerably slower) times for the same distances.
Enter Steve Cram, who along with Steve Ovett and Seb Coe formed the British trio of middle distance runners who led the global field in the 1980s. Cram, now 52 and a coach, presenter and commentator, advocates the mile as a good distance for amateur runners.
Mastering the mile, he says, requires working on your sprinting and endurance, giving your training more variety — which in turn means your body will get more out of it.
1 Use your longer-distance times as a guide
Whatever your 10km pace is, knock 20pc off it. If you’re running eight miles per hour over a 10km distance, for instance, that’s a six-minute mile. If you haven’t got a longer-distance personal best, be ambitious with your mile target. A lot of people are a bit timid about what they can do.
2 Give yourself time
Everyone wants results quickly. But a golfer can’t change their swing in a day and, likewise, a runner has to be patient. It takes about three weeks for any training effect to show. The more time you give yourself, the better you’ll get.
3 Vary your training
The biggest mistake people make in their mile training is doing the same thing each time. You’ve got to vary your running: pace, and type of runs, and types of training.
4 Do pure speed work
Get someone to have a look at your basic form. Fast running uses your toes and arms more. A good way to introduce that is to do l`ow-level hill sprints to teach you to drive with your knees and your arms in a way you don’t normally. Get some strength in, generate a bit more power.
5 Watch fast runners
Look at the way someone like Usain Bolt trains. It’s all about being ballistic, being quick, and being explosive. Watch them practise their stride length.
6 Do interval training
This will help your speed endurance. Alternate effort with recovery a few times a minute.
7 Work on your legs at the gym
Plyometrics — an intense form of training based on jumping — will help give your muscles a little bit of extra strength. At the gym, work on your hamstrings, quads and calves.
8 Keep up your stretching
The danger, when you change your training, is that you’re asking your muscles to go through a range they haven’t got yet. Stretching is really important.
9 Practise the course
If you want to run a six-minute mile, go to a track where it’s measured and learn what a 90-second lap feels like. That should be part of your interval training.
10 Concentrate on your third lap
If you’re trying that four-lap, six-minute mile, the first and second laps should feel comfortable. People normally speed up on the last lap — which often means they get it wrong in the third lap. You’ve really got to concentrate on keeping your pace up in that third lap.