Perfecting Your Mile

This is an excerpt from Mastering Running by Catharine Utzschneider.

Why run the mile? Why not? First, with age grading, you’re never too old for the mile. You may be in your 50s, 60s, or 70s and it’s never too late to run your fastest mile time. One of the Liberty Athletic Club runners, Mary Harada, set a world record in the mile in her age group at 70 and 75, running her fastest age-graded mile times ever. While a distance runner in earlier decades, she had never set a world record before. If you’re a sprinter, you can use your speed to help you in the mile and also work on your endurance as well. If you’re a distance runner, racing the mile or 1,500 meters will help you to improve your ability to handle speed in the 5K, 10K, half marathon, and even marathon. The mile is getting more popular with masters who run the distance on the track or on the roads. If you’re a beginner, you can find many mile races with 5- and 10-year age divisions for masters. Why not see what you can do? You might surprise yourself, and no time is too slow. You’re out there and in the game.

If you’re an elite masters runner, you can find mile and 1,500-meter races at state, regional, national, and international masters track and field championships, including state and national senior games. The Hartshorne Memorial Masters Mile at Cornell University, held each year in January, attracts top-caliber masters. In 2013, the top 10 male masters competitors, age 40 to 52, finished under 5:00, clocking times from 4:23:39 to 4:55.31. The top 10 women masters, age 44 to 55, finished in 5:17:55 to 6:03:68. The top age-graded performances were scored by a man and woman, not in their 40s or 50s, but their 60s: Nolan Shaheed, 63, ran 5:07:54, for an age-graded time of 92.41 percent (the equivalent of running a 4:00 open mile) and Coreen Steinbach, 61, ran 6:15:73, for an age-graded time of 92.5 percent (the equivalent of running a 4:32 open mile).

I suggest that before you start the training plan, you run the mile on a track, if possible, as fast as you can, to obtain a baseline time. You can then find your VDOT on Jack Daniels’ charts in the appendix for the paces at which you should run for track intervals and repetitions in the strengthening, sharpening, and tapering training phases. You’ll also notice that a 5K race is recommended at the end of the fourth week. While a 5K will feel long compared to a mile, it will help you build endurance, making you feel a mile is short. If you can’t find a race, you can time yourself for one to three miles (1.6-4.8 km) just to check on your progress.

Read more from Mastering Running by Cathy Utzschneider.

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