By Jeff Galloway
Two decades ago, I began using a 1 600-metre time trial workout around a 400-metre track with my runners to predict potential performances. Running a timed mile provides a reality check on your current goals, helps you determine a safe long-run pace, and gives you a tangible way to track your progress. Plus, it’s relatively easy to do and doesn’t require days of recovery.
Pencil it into your schedule every one to three weeks.
Go to a local athletics track or measured path.
To warm up: jog for 10 minutes, then do four 100-metre accelerations, gradually picking up speed, holding it, then slowing down; walk for three minutes.
For your first magic-mile attempt, time the entire four laps at your normal running pace – don’t push it. This will give you a baseline.
Always run the first lap fairly easy so you have the reserves for a strong finish. Allow at least two days of rest and/or easy running after long or fast runs before running the magic mile. Several scenarios can stall your progress: starting too fast, inadequate rest, and cold, wet conditions.
On subsequent attempts, try to improve upon the previous time. Begin slightly slower than your normal pace for the first lap.
Gradually speed up so that the final two laps are your fastest. At the conclusion of the final lap, you should feel capable of running no more than a half-lap (or less) at that pace.
Use the time from your most recent magic mile to predict your target pace for your next 5-K and for your long runs. Add 33 seconds to your 1 600m time to get your 5-K pace, and anywhere from three to five minutes for your long and easy run pace. As your 1 600m time improves, adjust these paces as necessary.
The fix: set two targets
When using the magic mile to predict pace for longer distances, keep in mind that predicted pace assumes ideal conditions, meaning the route can’t be too hilly, and you must be injury-free and feeling good. That’s why it’s smart to have a backup target – add 6 to 12 seconds per kay to account for unexpected situations.