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Training

Run a “Magic Mile” to Discover Your Race Potential

A simple test for new racers to predict their performance, set appropriate goals and plan their paces in training and racing.

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Have you ever wondered how fast you could race popular distances if you did the right training? Fifty years ago when I started coaching, most of my athlete clients were choosing goals that were too ambitious for their current fitness level, resulting in over-training, injuries and frustration. I needed a prediction formula — a reality check on their goals. 

I tried various formulas over the next 10 years, while collecting data from my 50+ Galloway training programs, coaching clients and running retreat participants. The most accurate predictions came from using a one mile time trial. From this simple test, the data shows how much slowdown occurs per mile in a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon. I call this my “Magic Mile” or MM, which now has tens of thousands of runner performances behind it. 

You only have to run one strong mile, time yourself and do some simple calculations. This allows you to set realistic goals during a training program, pace workouts appropriately, monitor progress, and provide an accurate prediction of what you can run on goal race day.

How to Do the Magic Mile (MM)

Jeff Galloway talking to group of runners.
Jeff Galloway speaking during a clinic. Photo: Daniel Menacher
  • Schedule the MM about every 2–3 weeks — you can see sample schedules on my site or in my books.
  • Only one MM is done each day it is assigned, with a warm up before and a cool down afterward.
  • Go to a track, or use a GPS device to measure one mile. On a standard 400 meter track, one mile is 4 laps plus 10 yards.
  • It pays to warm up by running gently for about 10 minutes and then doing 4 gradual accelerations of 50 to 100 yards. Don’t sprint. Start each at a jog and pick up the pace to what you estimate will be your pace during the MM. Hold that pace for only 5–10 steps, then coast off momentum back into a walk.
  • Walk for 2–3 minutes.
  • On your first MM, don’t run all-out from the start — just run a normal pace for 3 laps then pick it up a little as you are able. Be sure to record your result, and try to remember the time of each quarter mile/400 meters (one lap of the track).
  • After the first MM, try to run faster on each MM that follows. 
  • You may run non-stop or use some form of my run-walk-run® method. Most of my recreational runners who compare times from non-stop vs run walk run®, usually run faster with at least 1–2 short walk breaks.
  • A school track is the best venue. Don’t use a treadmill because they are not typically calibrated, and often tell you that you ran farther or faster than you really did.
  • If using a GPS device to measure the mile, use a flat, safe course and measure the same mile several times. Mark the beginning and end. Then, measure the quarter mile segments. It’s best to use the same segment for each MM.
  • On each successive MM, adjust pace in order to run a faster time. Never sprint from the start: try to set an even pace throughout.
  • Cool down by jogging and walking gently for 10 minutes and then walking for 5–10 minutes.
  • By the end of the season, on your final MMs, you want to feel like you couldn’t run more than about 100 yards farther at that pace.

Interpreting Your Results

To calculate your race paces:

  • Add 33 seconds to your magic mile to get your pace for a 5K.
  • Multiply your magic mile time by 1.15 to get your 10K pace.
  • Multiply your magic mile time by by 1.2 to get your half marathon pace.
  • Multiply your magic mile time by by 1.3 to get your marathon pace.

Or…

Use the computation function on my site. It’s free, simple and instantly predicts your current potential in the 5K, 10K, Half, and Marathon, as well as providing a safe pace for long runs.

Alternative: the MHM—The Magic Half Mile

If you are just starting back after time off or it’s really hot, you can run half a mile for time and use this formula to convert to a MM: multiply the half mile time by 2 and add 18 seconds. For instance, someone who runs a 5:05 half mile would convert to a 10:28 MM. Then use the converted 10:28 time to compute your potential at JeffGalloway.com to find your current predictions.

To Run the Time Predicted by the MM:

  1. You cannot be injured.
  2. You must do the long runs and speed workouts appropriate to the race distance. If you’re following my program, all of the long runs on the Galloway training schedule need to be done at 2 minutes per mile slower than current marathon predicted pace or slower. And you must do all of the speed workouts in my time goal schedules.
  3. On race day, temperatures need to be below 60F
  4. The race course cannot be excessively hilly and can have no steep hills. 
  5. The race cannot be too congested. 
  6. You must pace appropriately. Note: I recommend that those running any race distance for the first time run at training pace until the last mile. Then pick it up a little. Wait until the second race at any distance to train and race for a time goal.

If you have any questions or are interested in Jeff Galloway’s motivational challenges, books retreats and zoom clinics, go to www.JeffGalloway.com, or contact Jeff at jfg@jeffgalloway.com