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A Good Mile Rate for a Beginner Runner
Adopting running as a new hobby can have important benefits, including increased cardiovascular health and the potential to drop unwanted weight. Beginner runners might be unsure of how to track progress, especially if gains are small at the beginning.
Using the mileage rate to track progress isn’t a bad idea since it can help you measure your increased speed over time. There’s no set definition for a “good” average mile time, though, since factors such as age and gender come into play.
Mileage Rates and Fitness
Mayo Clinic determined that for men in their 50s, running a mile in eight minutes or less translated to good fitness levels, while running a mile in nine minutes or more translated to “needs improvement." Women in their 50s who run the mile in 10 minutes or less are considered to have "good" fitness levels.
A 10-minute mile is also good for beginners; the goal is to complete 3 miles in 30 minutes. If a 10-minute mile seems out of reach, start with a 12-minute mile and then work downward.
Time Your Benchmark Mile
Beginners can create their mile benchmark by running a committed but not overzealous mile. Achieve that first benchmark time without treating it as a “race” since it won’t be an accurate measurement of how fast you’d typically run a mile. Racing can lead to injury if you haven’t been running regularly. Note that time so that you’ll be able to see improvements as you progress in your running practice.
One vs. Several Miles
One mistake that beginning runners make is treating their first mile like it’s the only mile. Although a great mile time might make you feel satisfied, you might have spent all of your energy clocking that first mile when you still have additional miles to complete.
Your mileage rate is more of an average; for example, if you run 3 miles in 24 minutes, the rate is eight minutes per mile. Keeping up a steady pace over extended distances might have more payoffs for you than achieving a brisk mile and then being unable to complete additional miles.
Not Just About the Mile
Although using a good mile time as a benchmark will help you measure growth, it’s not the only way to track your progress as a beginner runner. Try to reach between 20 and 30 minutes of running, three to five times a week, to accrue the positive benefits associated with this fitness activity. Take walking breaks as needed and don’t strain your body since this can result in injury.
In fact, the Serpentine Running Club advises that running beginners don't even run at all for the first three weeks. The club suggests walking instead. Since the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends performing 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense cardio every week, walking to improve your fitness level will fit right in.
After maintaining your running practice schedule, you can try another timed mile to see if your rate has improved.
- Mayo Clinic: "How Fit Are You? See How You Measure Up"
- Serpentine Running Club: "How to Start Running"
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition: Chapter 4. Active Adults”
- Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Herrmann SD, et al. 2011 compendium of physical activities: a second update of codes and MET values. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(8):1575-81. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821ece12
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical activity guidelines for Americans.
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.