Setting a New Benchmark: Running a Mile Time Trial

Runners starting a mile time trial race.

Yesterday, I outlined the 5k training block that I had planned for the winter. The first step in this plan was to run a mile time trial and use the results to set my training paces.

Well, this morning I woke up bright and early and I set out to run that time trial. It went well, and I’m excited about the next few weeks of training.

Preparing for the Mile Time Trial

Before I could run the actual time trial, I had to settle on a location.

My usual loop in the neighborhood includes a one mile straightaway, so that was a possibility. However, there’s a small but significant hill in the middle of that straight away. Given the short distance, I wanted a nice, flat course for my time trial.

Instead, I decided to head to the Orange Reservoir. It’s a short jog from my house, it’s flat, and it has distance markers so I don’t have to rely entirely on the GPS. It’s also where I plan on doing my speed work throughout the training block, so it seemed like a good choice.

With that decided, I jogged over to the Reservoir this morning. After an easy mile, I went through a warm-up routine. First leg swings, then lunges, and finally some drills.

I did three sets of strides, at about 75-100m each, to get ready for running at speed. The first set was a little slow, the second set was a little fast, and on the third set I tried to dial in my goal mile pace.

As for a pacing strategy, I was hoping to finish somewhere in the range of 6:45 to 7:15 per mile. I was pretty confident that 7 to 7:15 would be doable, but much faster than that might be a challenge.

So I planned to go out on the easy side – targeting 7:00 to 7:15 for the first few hundred meters – and I could then speed up if I felt good.

I’d also programmed a workout on to my Garmin watch. I set the distance at one mile with an intensity target for my pace. This way I could easily glance down to see the remaining distance and where I was in the 6:45 – 7:15 range.

Garmin’s graph of my pace during the mile time trial.

Running the Mile Time Trial

With my warm-up done, it was time to run. I lined up at one of the distance markers (0.3 miles on the oval) and opened the workout on my watch. Then I hit the start button, and off I went.

I eased into the run, and I probably took it a little too easy in the beginning. About a tenth of a mile into the run, and my pace was around 7:20/mi.

That first tenth of a mile came and went quicker than I expected, and I soon found my groove. I settled in to a pace of around 6:45/mi for the rest of that first half mile. I checked my watch a few times, and I was pleased with how things were going.

My breathing was definitely labored, but at the half mile mark I knew I could speed up just a bit. For the next 400m, I pushed it and at averaged around 6:30/mi.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I slowed a little in the final 400m. According to the Garmin graph, my pace fell back to around 6:40-6:45/mi.

Regardless, it was a strong finish. Garmin reported the mile PR as 6:41.

Reflections and Next Steps

Unlike my half marathon time trial, I was quite pleased with the results of my mile time trial this morning. My time (6:41) far exceeded my goal (7:00).

If I ran it again, I’d probably tweak my strategy a little. I think I started a touch too slow, and I could have sprinted that first tenth of a mile harder and then eased into my pace. I also might have held off on speeding up until the last 600m instead of the last 800m.

This wouldn’t have made much difference, though. I might have been able to eke out a few seconds, but I doubt I could have done much better at this point.

I plugged my time into Jack Daniels VDOT Calculator and got a score of 42.9. If you’re not familiar with Jack Daniels Running Formula and VDOT, you can read more about it here.

This score is significantly higher than my 5k and 10k times from the fall, which I’m happy about. It also suggests an equivalent race performance of 22:44 for a 5k. This falls in line with my goal of 22:xx for my time trial in January.

I’ll take the training paces from the calculator and use them throughout my training for the next few weeks. Repetitions will be at 6:30 to 6:45/mi, intervals will be at 7:00 to 7:15/mi, and threshold runs will be around 7:45/mi.

I may or may not do another time trial in a month to see how things are going and re-evaulate these paces. But I’m pretty confident that by mid-January I’ll be able to hit my goal in the 5k.

Setting a New Benchmark: Running a Mile Time Trial

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