Last month I ran the Westminster Mile and it was my fastest mile time yet. Admittedly I could have of paced it a little bit better but I was happy with my performacne and how my training panned out which is what prompted me to write this post.
A mile is a really tricky distance to pace. If you go out too slow, you’ll give yourself too much work to do in the second half of the race and if you go out too quickly, you might not even make it to the finish line! But with that in mind, it’s a race where you really don’t have the time to hold back, so you have to look to your training to help you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Running is a lot of trial and error, and it’s beauty lies in the struggle. So, knowing what I know today after competing the Westminster Mile for the second time, heres how you can achieve your fastest mile.
Pick a good race/course
The Westminster Mile is such an amazing family fun event with waves happening continually throughout the day. The course itself is completely flat (or as flat as it can be) and it doesn’t have any sharp turns. Another plus is that you have your check points clearly marked out. The first check point you’ll see is the half way point, 800m. You’ll also see the current race time at this point. Next up you’ll see the 400m to go mark. I found that these markings really helped to keep you feeling motivated. As there are several waves happening throughout the day (around 50 in total), wave sizes are quite small which means it doesn’t feel too congested at the start. Just be mindful of faster runners overtaking you and for this reason i’d probably advise against wearing headphones just so you and other runners can weave in and out with ease. It’s only a mile race, every second counts.
2. Follow a training plan
If you’re used to running 5kms, half marathons etc, there’s no doubt that you can run a mile easily, but if you want to hit a time you are going to have to train for it. No matter how short the distance might be.
This time round it was my goal to run a sub 6 minute mile. I decided to add two speed sessions to my training, along one 2-3 gym sessions and an additional easy run at the end of the week if I had time. In all honesty, I probably could have done with adding a few more miles to my easy run because although I went into the race feeling like I had the speed in my legs, the endurance wasn’t there. I came in at 5:53 but with better pacing I know I could have shaved even more off my time.
The amount of speed sessions you do completely depends on you and your schedule but try to do at least one a week, focusing on running your 800s,400s and 200s. Ideally you should be able to run these a little bit faster than your goal mile pace. A session could be 800m, 400m, 200, x 2. Or 10x 400m. If you don’t have a coach, have a look at some sessions that you see on Instagram and take some inspiration from there. I post all of my sessions on my instagram so feel free to check them out. I’ve also just joined Eastnine as an audio run coach! A lot of my running sessions are interval based and perfect for developing speeds and feeling uncomfortable with the uncomfortable.
3. Don’t forget about hills!
No one likes hill training but if you can run fast uphill, running on a flat road becomes a lot easier. Hill sprints also help to build your muscular endurance and stride power. Hill sprinting also helps build your mental strength, which is exactly what you need when you’ve got 200m left of a mile race and your tank is feeling empty.
You don’t have to sprint up hill for that long either, for it to have a positive effect on your running. My favourite hill run sessions is 4x200m sprints followed by 4x100m sprints. I have 90 seconds in-between each interval and it doesn’t even take me 20 minutes to complete.
4. Enjoy it!
Speed training hurts and running your fastest mile is going to really hurt, but how you’ll feel when you cross that finish line knowing that you gave it your all will make it worth while. Remember, the beauty is in the struggle. Run hard and train hard but take each day in your stride. Not every run is going to be a good one and race day might not got to plan, but just enjoy the journey, keep learning from your mistakes and things will soon fall in to place.