Sesame’s Strategy for Racing Your Best Mile

Today we are talking about a short and sweet race distance, with some tips on how to successfully compete in a one mile road race. You may be thinking, it’s just one mile, how much strategy do you really need? Initially, I had the same reaction. Then, last summer I did a one-mile road race, and I used an awesome effort-based pacing strategy that helped me more than I could have imagined. Having a strategy helps, as does thinking about said strategy pre-race (i.e., not winging it).

I’ve done a couple of one mile events over the years and I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. It’s not everyday that you get to go out and see how fast you are truly capable of running. In fact, I would venture to say that a lot of us have not tapped into our true potential as far as our speed goes. A one mile race is an excellent place to test your limits and find out what you are really made of!

Warmup: I recommend doing an easy 2 miles pre-race, followed by several strong 10-15 second strides to get the blood pumping and muscles primed.

We are going to divide this race up into four segments, but it’s not going to be the exact four quarter-mile segments that you would likely expect. Here’s how the race should go down:

First 12.5%: You should take off fairly quickly during the first 200 meters, but don’t sprint to the point of distress this early on. You want to start out quickly enough to give yourself some room and establish your position among the other runners. Try to be as smooth as possible.

Next 37.5%: From 200 meters to the half way point, you want to stay strong, smooth and controlled. This gives you lots of good one-word mantras to focus on while you are suffering (side note: suffer isn’t one of the go-to words). Be aggressive (after all, it’s just a mile). It’s early enough in the race that you will still feel good, so enjoy it, get excited about challenging yourself in this event and get through the half way point strong and in control.

Next 25%: The stretch from the half to three-quarters of a mile will likely be the toughest section of the race. If you know this going in, you can expect it and not let it derail you when you actually get there. You will start to get tired and your lactic acid levels will be rising. Other runners will likely start to slow down during this stretch. Tell yourself that you are smarter than those runners and see how many of them you can catch by staying strong, focusing on your leg turnover and simply maintaining your pace.

Last 25%: I’m not going to sugarcoat it here … you will be in distress, but it’s almost over. Now is the time to really be aggressive! The hardest part of this section is simply making yourself start the finishing kick. Did you know that you actually tap into new glycogen stores when you transition into an all-out sprint? Say what?! Hear me out here. Once you think you are done and you have nothing left to give … give MORE. Make yourself sprint and give it all you’ve got. You will find a new energy source that you didn’t know existed and you might just surprise yourself by running faster than you ever have before.

Cooldown: I recommend doing another easy 2 miles post-race jog to flush all the junk out of the system (and a one mile race will produce some serious junk). This will help you to jump-start the recovery process. If you have the time and the willpower, take an ice bath when you get home.

While you can find a local 5k or 10k just about every weekend, the local one mile race seems to be much harder to come by. Sometimes races will have a one mile “fun run,” but it can sometimes feel a little awkward “racing” those. I mean, sure, it’s fun to put a 5-year-old in his place sometimes, but it’s much more fun to race against runners of your own age and ability. If you are looking to branch out and test your abilities with a one mile road race, here are some good options:

Have you ever competed in a one mile road race? If so, please tell us about it! If not, I encourage you to go for it. Use this strategy and be sure to report back and let us know how it goes.

I am a running and racing enthusiast. I love racing everything from the 1 mile to the 50K! I work as a CPA in public accounting. I enjoy running (obviously) and spending time outdoors (especially near the water). I am also a big fan of coffee, naps, puppies and sunsets.

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5 comments

  1. I’ve only raced a mile race once and it was fun and hard! Ours was on a Friday night during a street festival which was really neat. There was a 180 degree hairpin turn though which was tricky and definitely slowed us down. I got passed in the last 200m and just couldn’t find that extra gear.

    That race only happened once, but another group just introduced a 1 and 2 mile race this year down our main street ahead of a parade. I ran with my daughter, but it would be fun to try all out. It’s a straight shot down the road with a 90 degree turn at the end – and cool to run down a street normally reserved for cars.

  2. I have done a one mile road race as well as one on an indoor track. Both completely different experiences! I’ll admit I had no strategy whatsoever and would love to try another one with a plan. I try to convince anyone I know to try one because as you stated it’s a lot of fun to see how fast you can go all out.

    1. Yes! When I did my first one mile race, I actually beat my time by over 30 seconds, which was huge! Looking back, that was actually a big turning point in my racing over the years. Suddenly paces that seemed completely foreign were actually quite doable. Who knew?!

  3. I have never done a one mile race before. This post makes me want to try. I know there is a big one-miler near me in July. I am going to look at the particulars and give it a try. Thanks!