How many minutes per mile should I be aiming for? - Women's Running

How many minutes per mile should I be aiming for?

Author: Laura Fountain

Read Time:   |  March 18, 2022

Wondering what you should be aiming for in terms of minutes per mile? Training expert Laura Fountain explains...

How many minutes per mile you should be running will depend on several things including your current fitness, what race distance you’re training for and what type of training session you’re doing. So, ideally, you should be running at different minutes per mile (or minutes per kilometre) paces each week.

One of the biggest errors runners make is having a number in their mind of how many minutes per mile they should be running that is based on what pace they used to run, what pace their friends run or what pace they are happy to share on Strava. All of these can be motivators to run faster, but none are based on science. The best way to get the full benefit of your training is to run the pace that’s right for you.

Measuring effort without minutes per mile

There are several other ways of measuring how fast or slow you should be running that don’t rely on minutes per mile, which is particularly useful if you recently started running or you’re returning from injury or a period of not running where your fitness will have changed. You can use the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) method where you simply give your effort level a rating from 1 (a light stroll) to 10 (all out effort). Heart rate training works in a similar way but you rely on your heart rate (beats per minute) to tell you how hard you’re working.

Hill training

RPE is useful for hill training. As all hills are different gradients, there is no surefire way to know what pace you should maintain. So instead, you could run a session such as 6x 1 minute uphill at 8 out of 10 effort. Then it doesn’t matter what the minutes per mile work out as.

Need some beginner training tips? Here’s our ultimate beginner’s training plan.

Easy runs

Slow or ‘easy’ runs are a commonly misunderstood element of training and most runners are guilty of doing them too fast, thinking that if running slow is good training, running faster must be better. But this isn’t the case. There are certain benefits to running at a true easy pace. These include increased capillary density (to get oxygen to your muscles more easily), increased glycogen storage (so you can put all that carb loading to use on race day) and it makes your body better at using fat over glycogen for fuel.

You should aim to be running at around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate, and you can get a rough idea of what your maximum heart rate is by taking your age away from 220 (220 – your age = max heart rate). For those not using a heart rate monitor, you can work to 6-7 out of 10 effort level, or run at a pace at which you can have a chat.

Race-paced runs

There are times when the minutes per mile on your watch really matter. If you’re training for a goal race, whatever the distance, you’re going to want to practice running at the minutes per mile that you’ll need to maintain on race day. The shorter the race, the faster you’ll be running so you should therefore train over shorter distances at this pace too. For example, marathon pace runs can be practiced over a longer tempo run of up to 10 miles, whereas 5k race pace is best practiced in interval training of 2 to 5 minute chunks with a recovery in between.


Of course, race day is when it’s most important to look at your watch and make sure you’re maintaining the right minutes per mile. You can use a pace calculator to translate your goal time into minutes per mile or kilometres per mile so you know how fast to go.

Want to improve your overall strength? Here’s our guide to strength training.

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Written by

Laura Fountain

Laura Fountain

Journalist, run coach and author of the The Lazy Runner, Laura has run over 20 marathons

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