Training for a 26.2? Not us. We're aiming to run a single mile—super quick!

By Rozalynn S. Frazier
March 10, 2016

Training for a 26.2? Not us. We're aiming to run a single mile—super quick! And we aren't the only ones: According to Bring Back the Mile, an organization that promotes this distance, there are more than 800 mile-long races in the United States—up from 600 five years ago.

Don't scoff at the shorter span; it's actually a real challenge. "The mile hurts," explains Joe Holder, a Nike trainer and running coach in New York City, who notes that you need a combo of speed, strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination to really drop your time. "You start fast and end faster, and the acclimation period is much shorter due to the distance, so there's no 'easing into' your target pace."

Ready to go for speed? Try these tips from Holder, then scroll down for his exclusive six-week training plan.

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Your Six-Week Training Plan

First, check out this cheat sheet to the types of workouts and runs involved.

Speed workout: You need to get fast, and speed-oriented workouts will get you there. On these days, workouts will include hill repeats and hitting the track.

Endurance workout: "Fast" can't come without a quality aerobic base. “Endurance workouts will help you keep your stamina and resting heart rate at comfortable levels, helping to ensure you can take on the tougher workouts that a speed-focused session will provide,” says Holder.

Recovery workout: Proper conditioning and performance enhancement is not just about the hard workouts; recovery is also key. Rest, easy runs, and low-intensity days serve a purpose and are strategically placed. Use them to your advantage, reminds Holder.

Cross-training workout: No longer just a throwaway filler or a "maybe" workout, cross-training sessions are mandatory in this training plan. Strength, stabilization, muscular endurance, and mobility will take your runs to the next level, and cross-training sessions can help.

Easy run: A low-intensity run. You should be able to sustain a conversation fairly easy.

Base run: A run at your natural pace that you can sustain for a long time; meant to work on keeping your aerobic base and endurance.

Tempo run: A run focused on speed endurance, and sustaining a quick pace for a long period of time. It typically takes place right at the runner's "lactate threshold," or that moment where you feel it's a little tough to keep going, but you actually can.

Hills: Hills are a great way to increase your aerobic power, foot speed, knee drive, stride length, and overall strength. The key is to find a hill with a moderate incline and use these workouts to increase your overall running prowess, says Holder.

Fartlek: Swedish for "speed play," this run introduces different speeds in a workout and gets you used to the impact that changes of speed for various distances and times can have on you during a race as you go from fast to faster. “It’s a great way to work on mechanics and fatigue resistance,” explains Holder.

Track or interval workout: These speed-focused workouts are built of short- to moderate-length distances that then provide a break of active- or standing-recovery periods. These distances are curated in such a way to ensure the runner performs a high-quality workout and gets the proper fitness adaptions.

Striders: A drill following an easy run. It's used to work on mechanics needed for quality speed performance while keeping the "bounce" and "spring" in your legs. Focus on quick foot turnover, as well as proper stride length. How to do it: At the end of an easy run, perform 6 to 10 80-100 meter strides where you work on your acceleration as you keep foot speed quick, and progressively open up your stride without diminishing foot speed. You should work up to no more than 75% of your maximum speed and be sure to include a progressive deceleration.

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Week 1

Sunday: Mile time trial
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3x1 mile at a 5K pace with a 2-minute jog recovery between each mile
Wednesday: Cross-train
Thursday: 30-minute easy run with striders
Friday: Rest or cross-train
Saturday: 3 (800-600-400 meters) at a 10K, 5K, and mile pace, respectively. Take 90 seconds of rest between each, and 2-3 minutes of rest between sets.

Week 2

Sunday: Base run (35 minutes, 2-5 miles)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Tempo run (2-3 miles, begin and end with 10 minutes at an easy pace)
Wednesday: Cross-train
Thursday: 30-minute easy run with striders
Friday: Rest or cross-train
Saturday: 4x600 meters at a mile pace. Beginners should take a 300m jog recovery between each; intermediates, a 200m jog recovery; and advanced runners, a 100m jog recovery. Then, 3x200 meters at your goal mile pace with 90 seconds to 2 minutes of recovery between each.

Week 3

Sunday: Base run (40 minutes, 3-6 miles)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Fartlek (5 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 5 minutes at a 5K pace, 4 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 4 minutes at a 5K pace, 3 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 3 minutes at a 5K pace, 2 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 2 minutes at a 5K pace, 1 minute at a half-marathon pace, 1 minute at a 5K pace)
Wednesday: Cross-train
Thursday: 30-minute easy run with striders
Friday: Rest or cross-train
Saturday: 1 mile at a 5K pace, 2 minutes rest. 3 (400-300-200 meters) at your goal mile pace, with half of each distance jogged as recovery. 2-minute recovery between sets, 90 seconds between reps. 3x200 at a fast pace (faster than mile pace), followed by 90 seconds of recovery.

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Week 4

Sunday: Base run (45 minutes, 3-7 miles, with the last 10 minutes fast)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Hill repeats 3x90 seconds at a 5K pace, 3x60 seconds at a 5K pace, 3x20 seconds faster than your mile pace. Take 3 minutes of rest between sets, 2 minutes of rest between reps.
Wednesday: Cross-train
Thursday: 30-minute easy run with striders
Friday: Rest or cross-train
Saturday: 2 (4x400 meters) "buildups": First 200 at your goal mile pace, last 200 at a slightly faster than goal mile pace. Take 1 minute of recovery between reps and 2 minutes of recovery between sets.

Week 5

Sunday: Base run (50 minutes, 4-8 miles, with the last 15 minutes as a fast finish)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Fartlek with progression run to finish (2.5 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 5 minutes at a 5K pace, 2 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 4 minutes at a 5K pace, 1.5 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 3 minutes at a 5K pace, 1 minutes at a half-marathon pace, 2 minutes at a 5K pace, 30 seconds at a half-marathon pace, 1 minute at a 5K pace). Then take a 1-mile progression run to finish, beginning with a 10K pace and finishing with a mile pace for at least the last quarter mile.
Wednesday: Cross-train
Thursday: 30-minute easy run with striders
Friday: Rest or cross-train
Saturday: 1x800 meters at your mile pace and a 2-minute recovery. 6x200 meters at your goal mile pace with a 1-minute recovery between each.

Week 6

Sunday: 35 minutes, 2-5 miles
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Tempo run, 2 miles (begin and end run with 10 minutes of recovery at an easy pace)
Wednesday: Cross-train
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 20-minute easy run with striders
Saturday: Mile time trial