Everyone starts their running journey with different backgrounds, levels of fitness, and motivations. While the rare gazelle may be able to lace up their shoes for the first time and bound down the trail, most of us need to take a different approach and a little more time. One simple strategy is learning how to train based on your average mile time.
Why should you care about your average mile time? As you start your running journey, you may want to set goals for yourself — like accomplishing a sub-10-minute mile or training for a short race.
Figuring out your average mile pace is important for not only tracking your personal progress over time but also because it's used as a key baseline metric in most training plans when you start training for a race. You'll either run slightly slower or faster than this average pace during your training. So, where do you start?
Determine your average mile time
To determine your average mile pace, simply divide your total running time by your mileage after a run, then repeat over the course of a few runs to find an average. A smartwatch or running GPS watch can be certainly helpful here, but you can also use a regular watch or stopwatch to track your times. There are some great apps available to help you determine how far you ran. One of my favorites based on its simplicity is On The Go Map, which allows you to map out your run ahead of time or calculate your mileage after your run is done.
If you are completely new to running and have no idea what your average mile pace might be, I'd recommend aiming for between 14–16 minutes per mile. From there, you can gauge your effort and adjust accordingly. If you find this pace too taxing, slow down, and don't worry — you'll get to where you want to be soon enough. More than anything else, running should be fun, so it's just as important to strive to enjoy your runs as it is to meet certain times.
Find a running pace that you enjoy
One tried-and-true method for establishing your individual average mile time is what's known as "conversation pace." The idea is you should be able to hold a conversation with someone for the majority of your run. If you're unable to hold a conversation, that's a good indicator to slow your pace a bit.
Once you land on an average mile pace, you're ready to input this number into training plans and track your progress. Remember, no matter your relationship with running, it's important to focus solely on your personal journey and improvements. Running takes patience, but if you stay focused, you will continually get faster and stronger. If you make running fun for you, your average mile time might soon surprise you!
Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.