My Inspiration to Run a Fast Mile

There are three people that inspire me to run my fastest mile.

First is Hicham El Guerrouj, the world record holder for one mile since July 1999. He clocked 3:43.13. More than his staggering performance, that has lasted for over eighteen years, is the man’s contribution to society and humble personality.

In my opinion he remains the gold standard for the mile and displays the positive attitude that all people (not just runners) should adopt.

Quentin Cassidy, the fictional protagonist in John L. Parker, Jr’s 1978 book Once a Runner, is another influence. Listening to the audiobook reminded me of my high school track career, where pain was an inevitable consequence of pushing one’s limits.

Roger Bannister is also an iconic figure in running history, as the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier. He achieved this through specific, sustained training. Surprisingly, his feat inspired others to further improve the record, proving that limits are as much psychological as physiological.

I too want to find out how quick I can run a mile (although not necessarily on the track). I am fascinated by this short distance, the primary unit that all my running is defined by. I am 27 years old, feel that I am in the peak range for my running fitness and believe this is the time to find out who I am as a miler.

Finally, my inspiration is the lifetime goal I have set (as a coach to myself) of running a mile in less than 4:30. Although extremely ambitious, I believe that I can get close, with future seasons of training, to my absolute physical and mental limit.

As with all goals it is important to break them into manageable chunks, and thus my current training will focus on milestones necessary to run a mile in less than 5 minutes.

Overcoming An Early Injury

15-21 January 2018

Wednesday – workout #8

7x 0.15 mile sprints (with uphill sections) at a range of 15 seconds slower and faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1½ min jogging recoveries

After 3 days of rest I knew I had to run.
But my right leg was still feeling sore.
So I compromised, committing to less reps than I could ordinarily manage.
I needed to prove I hadn’t lost any fitness.
Each rep began with an incline before flattening out for the last two thirds of the route.
My starting point for each rep crept up the hill as I struggled to jog far enough to return to the base.
“Drive. Drive. Power. Power.”
The mantra kept me strong throughout as my breathing became uncontrollable.
I had to dodge dogs and a few walkers but overcame slight stitches and acid reflux.

Thursday – workout #9

10x (2 mins hard effort at approx. ½ min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1 min jogging recoveries)

My right leg was worse, forcing me to doubt whether I should run a fast club session.
But I risked it, knowing I would have the remainder of the week recovering.
I was conscious of not running too hard.
I didn’t want to run at the front of the pack.
But I found myself there.
So I used lapping others as my motivation.
As another runner passed me during the active recoveries I used him as the marker to overtake on the hard sections.
“Don’t panic.”
I didn’t rush my movement but kept quickening my pace, attempting to feel relaxed.
Then the drizzle came.
I persevered until the end of the session, proud that I performed so well under less than ideal circumstances.

One Mile Challenge: Week 3

The rest of the week included 5 rest days (Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) to ensure that I fully recovered from my sore right fibula and sore throat. Heat and ice failed to make much difference so I used kinesiology tape, which supported Thursday’s workout and helped heal my injury over the weekend.

During my two quality workouts I accumulated 4.73 miles (25 mins and 8 secs) between 4:29 – 5:43 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 197 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

Famous Contributions of Sir R Bannister

Twin Tracks: The Autobiography (2014) by Roger Bannister


Born in 1929, Roger Bannister grew up in Harrow, Bath and Hampstead, winning numerous races from half-mile to cross country distances in his teenage years. He later competed for Oxford, whilst studying medicine, where he would meet other top British runners.

His race reports are fascinating insights into a professional and humble man. He sheds light on his rising journey to become an Olympic medallist, only to finish fourth in a dramatic race at the Helsinki Games in 1952. This was due to exhaustion from running the 1500m heat and semi-final in the two consecutive days leading up to the final.

However, his determination to overcome the damning press and realise his potential meant he continued to train smart towards new, but no less ambitious, goals. During his time winning four AAA (British) Championships in four years, and breaking the British record for the mile, he set his sights on breaking the four-minute mile, a feat the Australian John Landy was also close to achieving.

On 6 May 1954 at the age of 25 he did just that, using his two best friends Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway to pace him at different stages along the four laps of the Iffley Road Track at Oxford University. He ran the first and last lap in under 60 seconds each, and finished in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Significant factors contributed to his success, despite the abnormally windy day:

  • 5 rest days beforehand.

  • Lighter shoes than he was used to.

  • Ability to relax at the crucial moments of the run.

  • Willingness to wait for weather conditions to improve.

  • Positive encouragement from his friends, the crowd and one-time coach Franz Stampfl.

Then he beat Landy in the 1 mile race at the Commonwealth Games of 1954 in Vancouver with a lifetime best of 3:58.8. Bannister ended his impressive career by winning the 1500m gold medal at the European Championships in Switzerland in another lifetime best and championship record of 3:43.8.

In his book he reflects on his achievements during his decade-long running career

  • Genetics played a role in his development as a runner; he reached six foot in height and possessed strengthened legs that were naturally long in comparison to his torso. His father was also a strong runner at school.

  • Specific training with single aims that balanced well with work, family and social commitments. His training was refined over many years that consisted of either 25 miles per week, or 4-5 sessions of 40 minutes per week, incorporating a lot of fartlek and interval training.

His advice to readers to improve their running is intriguing and pragmatic:

  • Run with friends to make the hard work of training more enjoyable.

  • Find a knowledgeable coach that inspires.

  • Experiment with training but also play to strengths.

  • Learn to harness natural instincts of pacing.

But it is Bannister’s position as consultant neurologist at two major hospitals in London, and as senior advisor to organisations, such as the Sports Council and the International Council of Sport and Physical Education, that warrant even greater admiration. His work paved the way for greater funding and provision of superb sporting facilities that support greater participation at every ability level. The various honours he has received are a token of his life’s extraordinary contribution.

First Complications of My Fast Training

8-14 January 2018

Monday – workout #4

10x 0.35 mile at approx. ½ min slower than 1 mile goal race pace* with 2¼ min walking recoveries

1 ¼ laps around two recreational football pitches.
I felt early on that I was not matching my 1 mile goal race pace by the half way mark of each rep. 
I adjusted my expectations and kept working hard.
I finished each rep strong but the extra distance played on my mind.
I used the mantras “stay strong” and “keep your form” to remain positive.

Wednesday – workout #5

3x (3x approx. 20 sec hill sprints at faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 40 sec jogging recoveries downhill) with approx. 2 min standing recoveries between sets

My first 2018 workout with my work running group saw me running Kenyan Hills.
My new Vibrams felt slippery on the stony gradient. So I switched to grass.
I stayed strong, using my arms to propel my way to the end of the straight at the top of the hill.
A fellow runner, a young 400m athlete from the local club, training on the same stretch reminded me of the power and form I needed.
I kept a little in reserve, unsure of the effect of an extra workout in the week.

Thursday – workout #6

11x 0.25-0.3 mile at approx. ¼ min slower to ¼ min faster than 1 mile goal race pace* with 1-1½ min jogging recoveries

Again I led my running club from the start as I navigated through the twisty path along the perimeter of a pond.
Despite the dark and sharp turns I soon knew my way.
I stayed fast along the last curve until I could jog.
I didn’t look around until rep nine when I had to pick up the pace to finish ahead of a fellow fast runner.
I had proved my speed and didn’t worry about him passing me the last two reps. I was pleased to stay within my pace range. I shook his hand in appreciation of his indirect support.

Saturday – workout #7

5x ½ mile at approx. ½ – ¾ min slower than 1 mile goal race* with 2 min walking/standing recoveries

My relatively straight route on the grass along a stretch of my local river walk felt long. Then I headed back the other way.
I couldn’t help but slow the last half of the distance for the first two reps.
I better managed my fast start the next two reps.
I kept telling myself “no pain, no gain”.
My final rep was hard.
I embraced the gut-busting effort and tried to control my breathing.

One Mile Challenge: Week 2

My week also included 2 rest days (Tuesday and Sunday) and 1 day of recovery running (Friday) amounting to 5 km.

Although I didn’t suffer much calf and quad ache throughout the week, I felt slight pain half way up my right fibula, requiring rest.

I accumulated 9.65 miles (51 mins and 14 secs) between 4:29 – 5:50 min per mile pace. My maximum heart rate recorded was 190 bpm.


* 1 mile goal race pace is 5:00 per mile.

My Fast One Mile Challenge

The mile, as a race, is an intriguing distance. It is the fundamental unit of measure that all road races are built upon, and yet is often forgotten as a test of overall fitness and assessment of progress towards other goals.

I first considered running a fast mile away from the track in early 2016 when, for the first time, I changed the settings on my Garmin sports watch to record mile splits.

I clocked 5:48.39. In subsequent months I lowered my best time to 5:38.41, 5:36.97 then 5:30.68, until in August 2016 I recorded four sub 5:30 miles, establishing my personal best as 5:08.41 (on the 22nd of that month).

Although I have since run numerous sub 6:00 miles, including in races such as the Witham May Day 5 Miler and Hardwick 10km, I have not managed to come any closer to the 5:00 mark. This is due in part to my reluctance to train specifically for the distance, instead preferring to use the distance (and shorter intervals such as quarter-mile, half-mile and three-quarter-mile) as repetitions during my speed workouts, for improving my performances at longer races.

In November 2017, after realising I had accumulated over 110 sub 6:00 miles in less than two years, I set myself an ambitious goal. For the first time in my running career I intend to focus solely on improving my one-mile personal record. I first took four weeks rest after my fourth Chelmsford Marathon in October 2017, then spent six weeks base training in preparation for my challenge.

My intention is to now train for 12 weeks, culminating in a time trial in the last week of March 2018 to compare my progress. I will use a local park as my ‘track’ and remind myself of why I am pursuing this life-time goal.

I ran 5:26.93 (my eighth current best time) on 30th December 2017 as a starting point for my challenge.