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Why the mile is the best race distance

I'm not sure what my "best" distance is, as far as times and conversion charts and potential given the perfect training plan. But I do know that I tend to retain my speed more than my stamina, and I have a lot more fun running as fast as I can over a short distance than slogging my way through the final miles of a marathon or trying to hang on in a 10k. So if I had to pick a favorite distance, I would have to say it's the mile. Four laps on the track is such a tidy event, and it goes by in a thrilling blur. In the first lap you jostle for position and try not to get tangled up. In lap 2 you try to relax and establish your pace. By lap 3, you are simultaneously trying to extend yourself and hold on to your momentum, while also setting yourself up for a strong surge at the bell. Lap 4 is when there is no holding back and you push yourself as hard as you can around the final turns, trying to keep your legs from going all wobbly, bursting off the final curve and giving it all you've got down the home stretch.

But enough about track miles. The REAL fun lies in the rare and elusive road mile! I’m especially fond of street miles, because they are not broken up into tidy quarter-mile loops, but rather present a unique course, often a single loop or point-to-point (my favorite) without the distraction of repetition. There might even be some (gasp!) hills! You just run all out for 5280 feet, with no aid stations, no bonking, and the wind in your hair (and bald spot). You get to experience the sensation of pure speed (YOUR speed, whatever that may be), and it’s all over before you can say “energy gel”.

There’s nowhere to “hide” in a mile. There are no excuses. There’s no time to take a breather mid-race and reboot. It’s go time from the gun to the finish line.

At the end of every mile, I realize I was working as hard as I could, but at the same time it’s over so quickly that I always wonder if I left something in the tank. That just makes me look forward to the next mile race even more!

About Joe Dudman (243 Articles)
Portland, Oregon native Joe Dudman has been running races since his sophomore year in high school, and has accumulated over 600 race shirts through the years. Although he has survived 8 marathons, Joe prefers shorter, faster races like 5Ks and the mile.

2 Comments on Why the mile is the best race distance

  1. As I wrote earlier, the 10K is my favorite distance. But I have to admit that there’s something thrilling about the pure speed rush of the mile.

  2. Agreed. The mile is the perfect race. Why don’t we have any good street miles in Portland. Bring back the mile!

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