How Fast Should An Athlete Be Able to Run 1-Mile?

October 24, 2012 |  by  |  Performance  |  Share

The answer: Most athletes should not be concerned with how fast they can run a mile. If you don’t run a mile continuously in your sport, long distance running offers little benefits. After working with football, softball, baseball, and some soccer, I’ve noticed long distance running is a growing way to test the ‘fitness’ of their athletes. In softball and baseball, it is not uncommon for coaches to want their pitchers to run at least a six-minute mile. Soccer may have their athletes run a timed two-mile run. Every year I hear of a college football player talking about how he led three-mile runs all summer. The game time for all of these sports have a long duration and the athletes generally run a long distance. Why not be able to run long distances continuously for a fast time?

Soccer and football have long game/match durations and the athletes run long distances. Pitchers in softball and baseball may have to throw over 100 pitches. None of these activities are continuous. Football players, on average, have 15 seconds between plays and the average distance covered in a play is 7 yards. The average football play lasts 5 seconds. If you watch or are a soccer player, there is a large amount of standing around in a match. The players never run continuously for more than 100 yards, if that far. Softball and baseball pitchers have about 20 seconds to recover between pitches. Any sport that does not require the athlete to run a mile should focus on other conditioning exercises besides long distance running. Specificity for these sports dictates that training distances should be short repeated sprints with at least a twice as much rest as it takes to complete the sprint/drill.

Running long distance for sports that require intermittent sprinting will slow you down. Your body has two types of muscle fibers and two main energy systems. There are slow twitch muscles fibers and an aerobic (slow) energy system. The other muscle type is fast twitch and anaerobic (fast) energy system. All of the sports above require high fitness in the fast twitch muscles and anaerobic system. Running long distances train the slow muscle types and aerobic system. By running long distances continuously you are training your body in a way that is opposite to what is required to play most sports at a high level.

I have heard over the years that a good aerobic base is required to lift weights and perform at a high level for sports that require short repeated efforts. The opposite is true. A good anaerobic base enhances aerobic fitness and aerobic training hinders anaerobic fitness. This is the reason why top level long distance runners run intervals for at least one training session per week. Again, if you don’t have to run a mile for your sport, get out there and sprint!

What are your thoughts?