Run a mile – top tips from Steve Cram

Take the test and run a mile Whether a complete novice or seasoned runner, the challenge of how best to run a mile is a good one. Luckily, of course the legendary Steve Cram is someone who knows what it takes to run a great one.

Cram is a former world record holder for the mile distance and still holds the European record of 3:46.32.

Usain Bolt spends years just doing starts and drills and people are like: ‘That’s not really training is it?’ It is.

He is part of Britain’s rich history of running the mile ever since Sir Roger Bannister flew around Iffey Road running track in under four minutes for the first time in 1954.

Cram offers his advice on how to improve when you next run a mile.

“The first thing is not to be frightened of being ambitious about that,” he said. “Most people take it easy and say, ‘okay, I’m an 8 minute miler for 10k and so I’m happy if I run a 7 and a half minute miler, that’s quite fast for me.’

“In reality, I think that you should be able to run 15-20% quicker for one mile than you run for 6 miles (10km). If you run 8 minute miles for a 10k, you should be able to be doing a 6-minute mile as your best effort. But to do that, the first thing is be ambitious and plan it.”

Steve Cram’s top tips on how to run a mile…

Pick your target

Get a target that’s going to stretch you based on what your normal running pace is, but be ambitious with that target.

Vary your training

You need to vary your training. It’s not simply a case of run a mile every night as hard as you can and you’ll get better. It doesn’t work like that. Break it down into its components:

– Endurance
– Speed endurance
– Speed – it’s the speed that most people don’t have.

Speed running

Speed is just purely running fast. Practice it – most people don’t know how to do it.

Usain Bolt spends years just doing starts and drills and 20 yards/30 yards and people are like: ‘That’s not really training is it?’ It is. He learnt to run fast because running fast is different. When you run 6-minute mile pace, it’s different to doing 8-minute a mile – it’s a different action.

You need to introduce that into interval training where you’re doing repetition and recovery so you’re doing 10x a minute, 10x 30 seconds, 10 x 45 secs that sort of thing. You should be doing it at your race pace – at your projected pace. So if you want to do a 6-minute mile its 90 seconds a lap. So you should be trying to do 1 min reps at that pace. 200m reps where you’re running 45 seconds. Your training needs to reflect that.

Stretch and strengthen

I think the third thing is to be conscious that if you’re going to change some of your running action/speed works/bigger endurance, think about stretching and strengthening, so non-running activities as well. It’s not just about saying you have to go to the gym, but start doing plyometrics and stretching. You’re going to start using your quads and your hamstrings and being on your toes much more than you would do in your normal running. You need to train your body for this – you don’t want to get injured.

Race Day – be brave and break it down

You need to be bold and really treat it like a race. Race a mile. You’ve done the training, now break it down. You’ve got four laps.

Plan getting to halfway so that you’re kind of reasonably relaxed. The focus then has to come on the third lap – don’t wait until the last lap. What most people do is they lose it on the third lap, holding back for lap four. They start getting a bit tired at that point so they slow down and get out of the rhythm because they still think ‘I’ve got quite a long way to go still’.

It’s the third lap when you win or lose it, so focus. That’s a psychological thing. Focus on the third lap, not the last lap, the third lap, because on that last lap you’ll always find something a bit extra.


The mile race distance has become somewhat overlooked in recent times, so Wiggle, the sports retailer, have teamed up with Strava, the social network for athletes, in a bid to get runners of all levels to run their best mile in June.

As part of the collaboration there are over 100 pairs of running shoes, provided by Wiggle, up for grabs. Any runner who uploads a run at least one mile in distance and tags #MyMile in their activity title on Strava has the chance to win for themselves and up to 10 of their Strava followers.

Run your fastest mile with wiggle.com and Strava this month for a chance to win one of over 100 pairs of running shoes. Visit the site for more details.

The initiative will run until June 30.

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