8 Tips for Running an 8-Minute Mile

The coach of DC EZ8 shares how she learned to run a faster mile.

By: Melissa Romero

Running coach Kathy Pugh learned to run an eight-minute mile with the help of EZ8, a national running program geared toward women. Photograph by Kevin Thompson.

Believe it or not, even the most avid runners couldn’t run a mile under eight minutes at some point in their lives. For local running coach Kathy Pugh, after gaining almost 60 pounds and having a child, just running ten-minute miles seemed impossible.

But four years later, Pugh is a marathon runner, and running a mile in eight minutes or less is a piece of cake. The founder of the local chapter of EZ8 Running now coaches women of all ages during eight-week sessions with the goal of helping each runner nail that eight-minute mile. She shared the top eight tips she’s learned through coaching and training to master a faster mile.

1) Do fartleks.
A fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is an interval training technique that involves running at varying speeds throughout the run. While running at a leisurely pace, once you spot a lamppost or garbage can a few yards head, run at full speed, Pugh explains. Once you pass the mark, slow down and repeat. Your run becomes a game and mixes up your workout.

2) Run hills.
We know, hills are awful. But Pugh is a big fan, and each Wednesday she does Hump Day Hill Day with her runners. Not only do hills build strength, but “you become faster because you get so used to really having to work those hills, but then on flat terrain [the run] will seem so much easier.” Find a hill (Pugh recommends one that is about 0.2 miles from bottom to top). Get warmed up, then run up the hill and jog or walk down. Start with four to five hills, then work your way up to mastering ten. (Read our tips on how to properly do a hill workout.)

3) Vary your runs.
Running three miles four times a week is great for your overall fitness and heart health, but if you want to run a faster mile, don’t become a creature of habit. “You’ll never get any faster,” Pugh says. “Try something new, don’t do the same old jog loops, and mix it up.”

4) Sign up for a race.
“As with anything in life, when you have a goal, you tend to work toward it,” Pugh says. So sign up for a race and set a goal time for yourself; 5K races are especially good if you’re trying to run faster miles.

5) Find a running buddy.
Your running buddy should be at your pace level or slightly faster. However, Pugh cautions, “If you’re starting out at a 12-minute mile, don’t try to run with an 8-minute miler. You’ll be disappointed and hurt yourself.” Your partner should be around 30 seconds per mile faster.

6) Get enough sleep.
Sleep has to be one of the most underrated ways of staying healthy. “Make sure you get seven hours of sleep. You can run and eat healthy all you want, but if you don’t get sleep it won’t do any good,” says Pugh, who says she used to be a night owl. “Everybody functions better on rest.”

7) Fuel your body wisely.
Think of your body like a car. “You’ve to put good fuel in it,” Pugh says, “otherwise, it’s not going to feel very good and it won’t perform well.” Energizing with Starbucks and fueling with Pop-Tarts “only works for so long.”

8) Stay hydrated.
Especially when temps top 100 degrees, drinking water is essential. “It’s amazing what a difference it makes,” Pugh says. Keep your water bottle on you at all times and eat water-rich fruits and vegetables.

The summer EZ8 running session starts Monday, July 9, and continues for four weeks. Register at EZ8DC’s website for $150.