How to Run a Fast Mile, with NCAA Mile Champion Henry Wynne

The Mile: it’s captured the hearts of track fans for generations. And it requires the speed of a sprinter with the endurance of a distance specialist.

How to Run a Fast Mile

The mile is the only imperial distance that survived the metric transition and is still recognized by the IAAF with a world record.

In May, 1954 Englishman Sir Roger Bannister became the first person in history to run a sub-4:00 minute mile (watch it here).

If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend his book The Four Minute Mile for a behind-the-scenes look at how Bannister became the world’s first 3:59 miler and how he trained to accomplish such a feat. Seeing as he just passed away this past weekend, it’s a good time to reacquaint yourself with this historic runner and milestone.

At the time, it was believed to be a physical impossibility to run less than four minutes for a single mile.

But runners have never respected “limits” much… and now the men’s world record stands at an eye-popping 3:43.13 by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj:

Incredible.

In high school, the mile was my favorite event. At 1,609.344 meters, it’s slightly more than four laps around an outdoor track and will test your ability to suffer.

Alas, I was never great at racing a fast mile (going to school with 4:10 – 4:15 milers is humbling…).

But I do know someone who’s far more accomplished: Henry Wynne.

Meet Henry: NCAA’s Fastest Miler

Henry Wynne Miler

Henry has an unusual origin story: he’s a former lacrosse player who had no interest in running but his parents encouraged him to stick with the sport in high school.

Fast forward about 10 years later and today, he’s an elite middle-distance athlete sponsored by Brooks. A former runner for the University of Virginia, he’s had several notable accomplishments over the years:

  • 2016 Indoor NCAA Mile – Champion
  • 2016 Outdoor NCAA Mile – 3rd
  • 4 x All-American
  • School Record Holder, 1500m

His personal best in the mile is 3:55 (from less than two weeks ago!) – and he’s going to let you in on how he prepares to race.

Subscribe to the show on iTunes or Stitcher.

Show Links & Resources:

Resources helpful for milers and other middle-distance runners:

Events typically become more complex as they get shorter. There’s less margin for error and small decisions have outsize consequences.

What questions about racing the mile (or 1,500m) might you have? I’ll answer every one!

Was this post helpful?

Then you'll love the free email lessons I've never released here on the blog. Enter your email and you'll get:

  • The exact strength exercises that prevent injuries
  • Workouts that boost your speed (even for beginners)
  • Pacing strategies, coaching Q&A, and more

Comments

  1. Kaleigh Hulett says:

    Hi Jason,

    I’ve followed your emails and podcasts for several months and this one about the mile is coming at a perfect time for me. My bottom line question is is it possible to train for a short distance, 1.5 miles, and a long distance, a marathon, at the same time?

    I’m currently training for my first marathon at the end of April. My current mileage is around 35 miles per week with a long run of about 18 miles. I’m also in the Air Force and will be taking my PT test the middle of April. My last unofficial 1.5 miles was in December and I ran it in 11:15. I would like to bring that time as close to 10:23 as possible (that is the time to receive max points) but was wondering if that is something that is possible to work towards while keeping high mileage to train for the marathon. My marathon runs are paced between 8:00-9-45 per mile depending on the type of run. I also do full body strength training 1-2 times per week.

    If this is something that is doable what is the best way to go about it? Thanks!

    • Great question Kaleigh. And no, you really can’t train for both goals at the same time because their physiological demands are very different. A marathon requires a lot of volume and a focus on aerobic fitness. Racing 1.5 miles requires speed and power. You’ll end up becoming mediocre at both, rather than at excelling at one. You can certainly train for both, but it’s simply not ideal.

      • Lance Sheppard says:

        What if the other event was closer in distance, like a 5k? I ask because I’m doing the same thing, only without the hell of running a marathon. Good luck Kaleigh, don’t know how you do it!

        • That’s a lot more doable! The physical requirements for events closer together in distance are more closely related. That makes the training more similar than dissimilar.

          Problems arise when you’re trying to do two opposite things at once: train for the 100m and the marathon at the same time, or try to gain 20 pounds of muscle while training for an ultramarathon. As you can imagine, it’s hard to do two very different things well at the same time.

  2. Tony Langdon says:

    I have the opposite problem. My best distance is 100 metres (around 13 seconds at almost 50), and I normally only race out to 400 metres, which starts to push the envelope. However, there is one scenario where I do need to be able to run 1500m, which is in the decathlon and pentathlon. While I have got useful points out of the 1500 in the past, my times are not spectacular over this distance – around 6 minutes.

    I’d like to be able to improve my 1500m times without sacrificing my speed (which takes priority).

  3. Lisa Thomas says:

    What is the best training plan for a 54 yr old female wanting to break 6 mins in the mile? I have broken it plenty of times in the past 10 years but have gradually got slower. Last year I ran a 6:02 at the 5th Ave Mile – part of the reason was due to starting too far back and it’s very crowded in the first quarter. I appreciate your feedback and enjoy your emails and podcast.

    • That’s a hard question to answer, Lisa. No coach is able to say, “Train this way if you are 54 years old with a goal of a sub-6 mile” because it depends on your current fitness level, the amount of time you have in front of you, your recent training, injury background, etc. In general, you’ll do mile training! Let me know if you want me to map it all out for you with a custom plan: https://strengthrunning.com/pr-race-plan/.

  4. Don Druga says:

    Hi Jason

    When I was a medical student I had the good fortune to be mentored by Sir Roger Bannister at the Institute of Neurology at Queen Square in London. When I asked him about the training, he said he and his mates would go for a bit of a run and then head out for some pints at the local pub. I took him at his word and all of these guys eats I thought he was just incredibly boy gifted. I will have to read his book and see what he really did!

  5. Baraka sila says:

    what’s a ideal workout for milers. I have run 4:40 but according to my fitness level I should be running faster. can you help me out?