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Quick Fact
In 1999, in Rome, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco ran the mile in a record time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds. His record remains intact even today!
Amazing feat, isn't it? Now, this does not mean that everyone can run a mile in such a short time. Many have tried breaking this record since then, but have been unsuccessful in doing so. It takes a lot of physical conditioning and training to be able to run a mile in less than 5 minutes. So, what is the average time to run a mile for people like you and me? Beginners who have just taken up running, often ask this question in order to compare their speed and improve it. Here we shall find out!

How Long Should it Take

A mile equals 1.6 kilometers or 5280 feet, and is the most basic scale against which a runner or a sprinter can compare his/her speed. The average time to run a mile is around 10 minutes.

In the basic training that the army provides, recruits are required to run a mile within 9 minutes. Going by this standard, it is safe to say that 10 minutes is a good estimate of the average time, since recruits in the army are physically much stronger and agile. They also have greater amounts of stamina than regular people.

High schools around the country regularly hold tests and running drills, and as a part of these drills, the students are expected to run a mile within 8-10 minutes. Students who are a part of the athletic and track team, or the football team, are usually able to clock the mile in fewer minutes. The speed at which one runs also affects the average time. The aim of all running and jogging exercises should be to noticeably reduce the average minutes to run a mile.

Factors that Affect Running Speed

Now, all said and done, each individual is unique, and has varying physical and mental strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, no two random individuals can run at the same speed for the same distance. As a matter of fact, there are three major factors that can affect the running speed of an individual, and they are:

Body Weight
The body weight of an individual, or body fat to be more specific, will impact the oxygen intake capacity or VO2 max of that individual (a bit on that later). The greater the body fat percentage the lesser will be his/her VO2 max, subsequently slower will that individual be at running the desired distance. To give you a general perspective, a 150-pound guy with 15% body fat is likely to run faster than a guy weighing 220 pounds with 20% body fat. Some may argue that the above example may not necessarily be true, which brings us to our next factor.

Age or Physical Condition
The age of an individual does affect the speed at which he/she would run a desired distance. Generally speaking, a 25-year old guy is likely to run faster than a 60-year old senior. Now, this statement holds true, subject to that individual's physical condition. A fit 60-year old, who is a regular runner can surely beat a 25-year old beginner. Fitness or physical health of an individual also contributes to increased speed to run. In essence it indicates the absence of any health issue, or chronic or debilitating condition. It is but natural to assume that a runner suffering from something as trivial as a cold or fever, to something major like heart disease or arthritis would not be able to compete with a completely healthy individual.

Terrain and Weather Conditions
This factor can sometimes be overlooked, but does affect a runner's speed. An uphill, uneven route or road in comparison to a flat even track, is likely to offer stiff resistance to a runner slowing him down considerably. The altitude of the place where a person runs can have a major impact on that person's performance. At higher altitudes, a runner has to breathe in more to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the air. The low density air results in less oxygen supply to the body resulting in muscle fatigue. The weather and temperature can hamper an individual's running performance. Running on a freezing morning or a hot summer afternoon is sure to affect running speed.

Besides these major factors, certain physiological functions and characteristics affect the way an individual runs over a long distance. These factors may seem insignificant for beginners or joggers but are vital for athletes or pros.

Maximal Oxygen Uptake (VO2 max)
Running is an aerobic activity which means oxygen is used to generate energy for running. Subsequently, higher your oxygen intake, greater will be the energy produced. Now this intake capacity is measured in ml/kg/min and can be accurately calculated by undergoing tests in a lab.

An average untrained healthy would have a VO2 max of approximately 35-40 ml/kg/min. While an average healthy female would have a score of about 27-30 ml/kg/min. To give you a perspective of what this means, professor of sports science Tim Noakes in his book Lore of Running says, elite professional male runners have a score of around 85 ml/kg/min and female runners are around 77 ml/kg/min. The good news for all us normal people (those who are not athletes) is that VO2 max can be improved with training, and losing body fat, with intensity of exercise being the most important factor affecting VO2 max. According to a study by the Fitness Institute of Texas at the University of Texas at Austin, shedding 10 pounds of body fat can result up to 6% increase in VO2 max.

Running Technique and Breathing
Another point that can sometimes be neglected or overlooked is to follow proper running technique.
Faster efficient runners tend to have short steps where the feet are not lifted too much off the ground. Also they tend to run to a beat of around 180 steps per minute. Keeping the upper body relaxed and swinging the arms forward and backward generally will ensure better balance aiding quicker steps.

Now, we come to something that probably all of us take for granted yet, is vital for not only running but our survival too, yes, breathing. As a child, I remember being told to close my mouth and run, and only breathe through my nose and not mouth. But today, scientific research has found that breathing more fully results in lesser fatigue. Runners should be belly breathers and not chest breathers, which means filling the belly with air each time you inhale. For this, use both the nose and mouth to inhale and exhale to get the maximum amount of oxygen to the muscles. As Mindy Solkin, head coach of The Running Center in New York City says, "Better breathing equals more oxygen for your muscles, and that equals more endurance."

Interesting Trivia on Running a Mile

Here are some fun facts on running a mile, and some world records that are sure to leave you inspired!

The "metric mile" of 1500 meters is 1640 yards, which is 23 yards more than a Roman mile.

About 104.3 calories are burned every mile when one runs at a 10 minute/mile pace.

The first man to break the "four-minute barrier" in the mile, was Roger Bannister. He ran the mile in a record-breaking 3 minutes 59.4 seconds!

The longest-standing world record for running the mile stood for eight years and 293 days. It was set on July 17, 1945, by Gunder Hägg of Sweden, who ran the mile in 4 minutes and 1.4 seconds. It was broken on May 6, 1954 in Oxford, by Roger Bannister.

The first American to break the "four-minute barrier" in the mile was Don Bowden of the University of California, who ran 3:58.70 on June 1, 1957.

The record for the fastest mile by a high school runner was set on April 1, 2011, by Chris Mosch. He ran the mile in an amazing 3 minutes 52.2 seconds!

The world record for a mile by a race horse is 1:31.41!

Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises one can get, and everyone should run a mile or two everyday for staying healthy. It builds and develops pretty much every muscle group in the body, and at the same time, is extremely enjoyable. Once you have begun, try to reduce your average running time by setting small targets and achieving them. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your pair of running shoes and get, set, go!