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How To Run Your Best Mile

How to run a mile

Monday May 6th is the anniversary of the first sub 4-minute mile. So what’s so special about the mile, why should we all include the mile in our fitness routine and how do we get started?

Why the first sub 4 minute-mile was such an achievement

The sub four-minute mile was always considered the holy grail of middle distance running and many believed it was a physical impossibility. The distance is particularly challenging because it requires a blend of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Mile times fell painfully slowly.

For years the record stayed stubbornly above 4:01 despite the best efforts of Swedish running legends Gunder Hägg and Arne Anderson throughout the 1940s. So when Roger Bannister went sub 4, at the Iffley Road track in Oxford on May 6 1954, he made headlines around the world.

Why should we all give the mile a go?

Here are 4 reasons why we believe everyone should include regular miles in their running schedule.  

  1. It’s accessible yet challenging.  If you’re brand new to running a mile is a great first target before moving up to 5k and beyond.  For experienced runners there’s always the challenge of shaving a few precious seconds off your PB.  
  2. It improves style. The mile forces you to really concentrate on your style.  Aim for a high cadence and positive drive with the arms.
  3. It improves pace judgement.  Focus on an even pace throughout.  Too slow a start and there isn’t the time to get back on schedule.  Too fast and your legs will flood with lactic.
  4. It’s great for your speed in the closing stages of longer races.

How do I get started? 

  1. Find yourself a mile. This could be on a treadmill, at the track (4 laps) or measure out a mile with a GPS sports watch.
  2. Warm up well. We recommend a good 5-10 minutes easy jogging then some dynamic stretching.
  3. Go for it! Try to stay aware of pace (see above). It’s easy to set off to fast, especially on your first attempt at the mile.
  4. Try running a timed mile every few months for an objective assessment of your fitness. It’s a great benchmark.

The mile forces you to really concentrate on your style. Aim for a high cadence and positive drive with the arms.

The mile record now stands at an amazing 3:43 (Hicham El Guerrouj, 1999). Whether one runs at twice that pace, three times or more the mile is still great addition to any fitness regime.

Good luck, and here are a few great track moments from over the years to get you inspired...

The first four-minute mile – archive footage from the Iffley Road track,1954 with Bannister providing the voice over - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTXoTnp_5sI

Olympic 1500m final, Moscow 1980 – Cram, Coe, Ovett are all realistic medal prospects for Great Britain. - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMz0WZzWWlw&t=180s

Olympic 5000m final, London 2012 – Mo Farah makes it an Olympic double in front of a jubilant home crowd on “Super Saturday” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C93qwVmBseE&t=1220s