Setting a Benchmark-The Magic Mile

Now that we have our first run of the season out of the way, it’s time to do some benchmarking.  But what exactly is a benchmark?

A “benchmark” is a term that means to set a standard by which something can be measured or judged. It is also a term used by surveyors to indicate a known point from which other measurements can be made. If  you are a software technician, you know a benchmark is often used to measure the performance of your programming or computer system.

This is what your first Magic Mile should be:  a POINT from which you can measure your progress as a runner.  Once we complete this magic mile, record your time and keep it safe. This will be your benchmark and your goal should be to be able to run faster the next time we do a Magic Mile.

So what is the Magic Mile? Runners obsess over their ability to finish a race in a given time and often gear their training to achieve this goal.  Over the course of Jeff Galloway’s coaching career, he developed the Magic Mile to help runners of all paces to PREDICT their race times based on a one-mile run. By using his online Magic Mile Pace Calculator, a runner can enter their magic mile pace and see what their finish times MIGHT be for a given distance. The resulting times are good predictors of your finish time provided you have completed your training for your distance and time goals, the weather is cool and cooperative. and you pace yourself correctly and take the necessary walk breaks.

The Magic Mile can help us place you in the proper pace group. It also gives us a chance to see how fast you can run if you are not limited by the pace of the team.

For slower runners, the Magic Mile is often a very intimidating event.  It feels competitive; we wonder how we will compare to the other runners in our group.  We worry about being able to run a mile quickly. We wonder if our performance means we either have to move up or move back.  Can we fail the Magic Mile?

Relax! Yes it is important to put forth a good effort for this run, but the goal is to run this mile at 80% of your ability. You should not run so hard you get injured or throw up at the end. 80% effort is considered “comfortably hard” running.  You should not be able to chat with another runner, but you should be able to breathe comfortably. Your breathing should increase, but you should not be out of breath. If you find you running too hard to breathe? Slow down.

So what can you expect on Saturday?


We will gather at Fleet Feet and start from there. We will go up Ridge Road for approximately a mile to get warmed up for the Magic Mile.  When we get to the intersection of Lake Boone and Ridge Road, there will be a small sign that indicates the start of our measured mile. One of us will have a watch with a timer. If you have a timer, you may time yourself.


We will all start together. The person with the watch will try to run on ahead to make sure that they reach the end point so that everyone behind them can get their time as they cross the finish point. Don’t be nervous! You will do just fine. Remember, you are trying to create a benchmark to measure your future progress.


During the run, you will pass signs at each ¼ mile point. These will give you a chance to readjust your effort and to let you know how far you’ve gone. You may do a walk/run ratio, or just walk or run the entire distance.  HOWEVER, this is not meant to be a stroll. You should be running or walking hard enough to not want to chat. This pace should not feel particularly easy, but it should not exhaust you to the point where you cannot complete the mile and do the two miles back to Fleet Feet.


When you pass the FINISH mark, be sure to listen for your time or ask for it if you don’t hear it. SECONDS count, so don’t round up your time. Make a mental note of your time and write it down when you get back to Fleet Feet. This will be your benchmark. No one else needs to know how fast you went. This number is only for your leader and for you. This number is not so you can compare yourself to other runners.

We will all WAIT for the last runners to come in. There should be room on the opposite side of the street to stand-just watch for traffic. Please do not start running back to Fleet Feet until the last runner from our group makes it across the finish line. You should not have to wait for more than a few minutes. This is one of the few times it is important to support your fellow runners and you can cheer them on if you need something to do. When the last runner makes it over the finish line, we will regroup and then head back to Fleet Feet, which will be approximately two miles.


Make sure to write down your Magic Mile time somewhere safe. You can also visit Jeff Galloway’s Magic Mile Race Predictor page and insert your Magic Mile time into the box provided. Below this box, there are several more boxes with race distances next to them. Once  you put in your time and hit return, you should see the times your current Magic Mile time predicts you’ll finish these distances.


Once you get your Magic Mile time, you can determine if you are training in the right pace group. Your leader will let  you know after you cross the finish line if you need to move up. However, you do not have to move up if you are happy where you are. However, if you have a problem running slowly, it may be an indicator that you need to move up. Your leader will try to help you with your decision based on your Magic Mile and your physical condition and ability.


If you gave it your 80%  and ran the mile and came in at a time you are not happy with, it is not a failure! It is an indication that you may have unreasonable expectations about your abilities. As a member of the 18s, our goals are not primarily about speed, but more about simply getting out and running and finishing our races. Concentrate on a consistent training plan: 2 days of at least 30  minutes per week, plus your Saturday long run. Make sure there is a day of recovery between your two midweek runs. Run these midweek runs at a pace that is comfortable. You should feel the effort but not be out of breath. Do not increase your midweek distances or time dramatically. If you want to add mileage do so gradually. An addition of a 1/4 mile per week should be good.


So now you have a benchmark. When we do our next Magic Mile, compare your time with your first Magic Mile. Were you faster? Did the second one one feel easier? Was this one slower? Make a note of this and adjust your training. If you are not getting faster, you may not be getting in the midweek runs regularly enough to increase your endurance. It is extremely important to do these midweek runs-they keep you loose, they keep you moving and they keep  you focused on your running goals. Sometimes our second Magic Mile happens when the weather is very hot, and this can affect your performance, so keep this in mind.

Again, the Magic Mile is YOUR benchmark. It is just another tool among many to help you understand how to train. It is not supposed to make you feel badly about your performance, but is supposed to help you keep your expectations realistic.


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