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Improve Running Speed

Average Running Speed: What is it & Tips to Improve

As runners, it's easy to feel that we’re not making enough progress, but by monitoring our average running speed we can find new ways to improve and build upon our pre-existing fitness levels.

Within this article, we will answer questions such as ‘what is the average running pace of a human?’ whilst also addressing key factors that may affect a runner’s overall speed. In addition to this, we here at OriGym will also provide you with some insightful tips that can help to improve the average person's running speed.

But just before we begin, have you thought about a career in the fitness industry? If so, you may just want to check out our personal training courses. Alternatively, you can find out about all of our courses in our downloadable course prospectus. 

What Factors Affect Your Average Running Speed? 

Before we even begin to get into specifics of the statistics behind the average running speed of a human, let's first discuss the factors which influence a runner’s overall performance. 

1. Gender:

Running pace by gender

When faced with a question such as ‘what is the average running speed of a human?’, it is hard to give a definitive answer as our gender can greatly influence our overall performance as runners.

This is not a new discovery, as many of the current world records held within the running world reflect gender’s influence over the average pace for running.

For example, as we look at the world record for men running a 5k, the results come in at 12 minutes and 39 seconds. This is compared to the world record held by a woman for the same distance, whose total time came in at 14 minutes and 28 seconds.

Whilst the gap between men and women is not as wide as it once was, the average running pace for men is still somewhat faster than the average running pace for women. The reason behind this is down to body composition, and the different ways in which men and women process energy.

Running is powered by expending the energy that we generate by burning food in our bodies. Burning food is a part of oxidation, which plays an important parameter in affecting the body’s capacity to carry out endurance running, at the maximum rate of your capacity.

To carry out this process at the maximum rate, the body uses oxygen to produce energy (VO2 Max). Levels in which V02 max are generated are significantly higher in men than women, even when different BMIs are taken into account. 

This allows men to generate more energy than women, in turn allowing them to run at maximum capacity for a greater length of time. This is why the average running pace for men will always be slightly greater than the average running pace for women.

2. Age

Running Pace by age

When we discuss average running pace by age, a natural response to this thought is to automatically presume that as we get older, our average running speed will significantly decrease. 

However, recent research has shown that isn’t necessarily the case. This study investigated the average long-distance running speed of men aged 40-95, who competed in a range of distances from 5k to full marathons. 

The results showed that the average long-distance running speed for these men gradually decreased with age, and the findings suggested that performance isn’t hindered immediately as you get older. Rather, the study showed that if you keep in shape and stay injury free then you shouldn’t begin to slow down until your mid 30s.

The researcher who conducted this study even stated as such, claiming that 40 is the state in which fitness begins to decline. 

Whilst this research only included data collected by male athletes, we can also apply this theory of aging to the average speed of running for female runners. This is something that Shalene Flanagan showed us all in 2017 by winning the New York City Marathon at the age of 36.

When analysing a human's average running speed by age and gender, both factors show minor alterations in a runner’s overall performance. However, it is important to note that these factors are minor and won’t hinder you in the immediate future.

3. Running Cadence and Stride Length:

Running speed per mile image

Now that we have analysed the effects on a human’s average running speed by age and gender, we can discuss how a runner’s cadence and stride length can influence their performance.

Running cadence refers to how many steps a runner takes whilst they’re exercising, whilst the stride length refers to the distance their leg stretches. The product of these factors gives a mathematically accurate description of running speed. 

Research into cadence and stride length suggests that if one of these areas is improved whilst the other remains constant, then the average human running speed in mph will increase.

For example, if you start to take more steps whilst running but your overall stride length remains the same, then your speed should see an improvement. 

This is one of the rare factors in running that you actually have influence over, meaning it can be beneficial to your training to attempt to improve within one of these areas. 

4. Dehydration and Fluid Imbalance:

Running speed average

Whilst discussing factors that we have influence over, it is worth noting that our daily intake of liquid can have an effect on the average pace for running. 

Whilst dehydration does plague many a runner, one of the factors that go unrecognised is fluid imbalance within the body. This can hinder the average speed of running as your body needs liquid to flow throughout in order to run at optimum performance. 

Stereotypically, fluid imbalance occurs when we sweat and lose a significant amount of our daily liquid intake. You can try to avoid this by drinking plenty of fluid before you go out running. 

Alternatively, you can try to incorporate hydration tablets into your daily routine. Check out OriGym’s list of the 13 best hydration tablets here, which goes into further detail on how these products can benefit your health and running performance. 

By incorporating more fluid into your daily diet, you reduce the impact of the fluid you lose. When the levels of lost fluid have reduced, the average speed of a person running will be less affected. 

To monitor the amount of liquid you lose during a run, it is recommended that you weigh yourself before and after your run. Within the running community, it is typically believed that you should drink around the equivalent of about 1.5 times you lost. 

For example, if you lost three pounds during the run, in order to ensure your running speed average isn’t affected then you should drink about 4.5 pints of liquid over the next several hours.

5. Environment:

Running Speed km/h

One of the external forces that may affect the average speed of a person running is the environment in which you run. If you enjoy running outdoors or want to start, then you may be interested in reading OriGym’s guide detailing trail running tips for beginners.

If you run in extreme conditions such as blazing heat or the freezing cold, then your body is going to respond accordingly and react to what it’s being put through. One of the responses may be slowing down your overall pace, your body may not be able to cope with this strain and naturally, your running speed average will begin to decline.

Even worse still, if the weather is really bad your body may develop conditions that prohibit you from your training. For example, developing hypothermia due to running in the cold will keep you from running for a significant amount of time.

Avoid letting bad weather hinder your running performance by dressing appropriately. For information regarding how you can combat cold weather check out OriGym's article for a guide into what you should be wearing.

An interesting environmental factor that also impairs a runner's performance is air pollution. This factor has been found to increase the finish time and average running speed for half marathon and other long-distance events. 
With some athletes even seeing an increase as large as 30 minutes added to their overall finish time when training in air that has been polluted. 

Enjoying this article? Well, we can recommend a further 3 OriGym articles just like it! 

What is the average running speed of a human?

Speed in M/s

As we have already discussed there isn’t one average running speed of a human, there are many different factors that can affect the overall performance average of a runner. 

Within this section we will present the average running times for both men and women, when competing within specific categories of long-distance running. The data collected within this section is based on a collection of 10,000 recreational runners, aged 20-49.

When analysing an average running speed by age and gender, we can see that this study may be influenced by two factors. The first being the different genders of the participants, and the second being that some participants may not be as physically fit as others, due to being in their late 40s.

If you’re interested in reading around the topic of running, click here for our list on the 23 Best Running Books.

Alternatively, if you want to check out another one of our lists, this one details the 39 best running podcasts, which are sure to both inspire and teach you a few valuable techniques.

Average running speed for 5k:

Running Speed 5km Image

The average male running speed for completing a 5k, is 10 minutes and 18 seconds per mile.

Whereas the average running speed for women completing the same distance comes in at 12 minutes and 11 seconds per mile.

These results support the argument that average running pace per mile for men is always slightly faster than that of womens. This is a trend that occurs throughout the entire study.

Average Running Speed for 10k:

Running Speed 10km

The results calculating the average running speed for 10k also reflect this finding: 

When looking at the average running speed in mph, we can say that, the average male running speed for completing a 10k came in at a total of 8 minutes and 41 seconds per mile.

This is compared to the average running speed for women completing a 10k too, who completed their course in a total of 10 minutes and 2 seconds per mile.

Average Running Speef for Half Marathon:

Average Running Speed for half marathon Image

Whilst analysing the average running speed for half marathon, we begin to enter distances that are classified as being long-distance events. For more information relating to long-distance running events, why not read OriGym’s article detailing tips that can help you begin your training. 

The average running speed for a woman participant within this course came in with a total runtime of 10 minutes and 58 seconds per mile.

This is compared to male runners, whose average running speed in mph came in at a total of 9 minutes and 38 seconds per mile.

Average Running Speed for a Marathon:

Average running speed for marathon

When running a marathon, the average running speed per mile for women is 10 minutes and 23 seconds. Meanwhile, the average running speed per mile for men is 9 minutes and 28 seconds. 

As you can see from the evidence provided, regardless of the distances that the athletes competed in, the average running speed per km within the male participants was always higher than the speed within the female groups. 

If you’re interested in training for marathons but are unsure of where to begin, OriGym has covered how to train for a marathon in this article.

How to work out your average running speed

Average human running speed

If you’re interested in figuring out how to work out your average running speed, you may be interested in using a pace calculator. Using a pace calculator can help you determine how long it will take to run a certain distance. 

Recording your results and comparing this number over time can help you track your performance and see if your fitness levels improve. However, it is important to note that questions such as 'What is the average running pace?' and 'What is average running speed?' cannot be grouped together as pace is different from speed. 

Pace is a unit of time per unit of distance, whereas speed is distance over time. In order to work out your average pace and your average speed, you are going to need to take two different approaches. 

Knowing your average pace in advance can help when registering for events such as a 5K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon.

To calculate the average running pace per km you’re going to need to know the distance you have run and the time it took you to do so. An average pace may not be a round number, in which case you will need to convert fractions of minutes to seconds. 

Your pace will always be expressed in minutes per mile or minutes per kilometer. Racer organisers use pace to assign you to a start corral with others racers who share a similar pace. 

In order to calculate an average speed for running you will need to know the distance you ran and the time it took you to do it. Alternatively, if you know your pace, you can divide 60 by your overall pace.

When using pace calculators when you aren’t using whole hours, convert these hours into minutes and multiply the result by 60. 

For example, if a runner completes half a marathon which consists of 13.1 miles, over the course of 1.5 hours (90 minutes) you can input the following sum into a pace tracker, in order to calculate the average running speed in mph:

13.1 ÷ 90 = 0.1455 x 60 = 8.73mph  

Converting your stats into an average human running speed in mph, can be daunting. But once you know about this helpful sum, then calculating and monitoring your speed becomes an easy process.

Why is it important to monitor your average running speed?

Women Average Run time

Now that you know how to calculate your average speed running, you may be questioning why you’d even need to know this. Many runners focus so much of their attention on the distance traveled, when in fact their speed is what they should really be focusing on, as knowing it provides excellent benefits.  

Helps With Pacing of Short Distance Event:

Studies have shown that increasing the average running speed for a 5k by 3% within the first mile is considered to be the optimal pacing strategy. However, running more than 6% faster than your regular running pace considerably reduces your overall performance. 

Hypothetically let’s say a runner takes 20 minutes to run 5k. The average pace for this hypothetical athlete will be 6 minutes and 26 seconds per mile. To reach the optimal 3% extra speed, then they’d need to achieve an average of one mile every 6 minutes and 15 seconds. 

Monitoring your running can give you direct goals that you need to reach as opposed to operating blindly and running with no real goal in mind. With monitoring, the runner in the hypothetical situation above would never know that they’d need to reach one mile every 6 minutes and 15 seconds in order to progress.  

Helps with Pacing for Long Distance Events such as Marathons: 

The average long distance running speed strategy, follows the exact opposite theory to the one presented previously. For a successful marathon race, it is recommended that you set a target pace of being 3% slower (10-15 seconds per mile) than your goal marathon pace, during the first 3-4 miles.

If you have ever trained for a marathon, then you have probably heard of the term ‘putting time in the bank’. This refers to running the first half of the marathon slightly faster than your goal pace, in order to compensate for a slow finish. 

Unfortunately, this strategy which is used by many runners could not be more damaging, from both a physiological standpoint, as well as from empirical evidence. The main problem with this ‘time in the bank’ strategy, concerns the use of carbohydrates or fats as a primary fuel source. 

Once you burn through your available stores of fats and carbs your performance will suffer. To prevent this, you must adhere to a strict goal pace that only monitoring can provide.

After reading this, if you find yourself questioning why running slowly at the beginning of a race is best for your average running pace per mile, empirical evidence may provide some clarity. This research analysed multiple historical world records, within the world of marathon running.

The results showed that the average running speed for a woman and man significantly improved, when the first portion of the race was performed at a slightly slower pace, compared to a faster second half. 

This proves why monitoring your pace is so important. Should you decide to follow this training method of starting at a 3% slower speed, you’ll allow yourself to improve and build upon your personal best. This is a much better approach than falling into the ‘time in the bank’ trap which plagues many runners.

If you are a regular participant in long-distance running events, it may be worth checking out our article which lists the 15 best long-distance running shoes.

Tips for Improving Running Speed:

Running speed km/h image

Now that we have discussed how to calculate an average speed for running and why it’s important to do so, we will now pass along some general tips you can use to improve your average running pace per mile.

Work on Improving your Running Cadence: 

In order to improve your average running pace in mph, you need to train. We have already discussed how improving either cadence or your stride length will help to better your overall runtime, but in turn that poses a further question of - what is the best method of doing this? 

Before you go on your run, it may be worth downloading a cadence monitoring app. Apps such as RUNZI and Weav Run track your running cadence over the course of total run time and generate an average number of steps taken per minute. 

Weav Run in particular is beneficial for those of you who’d like to train using a running metronome. This app will play music and will encourage you to plant your feet to the beat of the song, until you reach an optimum 180 beats per minute. Using a metronome may feel a little odd at first, however it is greatly beneficial for improving your cadence as well as your average running pace in mph.

For an in depth analysis into cadence, why it matters to your overall performance, and how to improve it, read OriGym’s article on running cadence here.

Dress Appropriately:

human running speed

The average running speed of a human can be affected by a multitude of things, including what you choose to wear whilst out on your run. This piece of advice is fairly straightforward, if you want to improve your overall running speed, then try to avoid weighing yourself down.

When the weather is bad, we may feel tempted to throw on a thick waterproof jacket as we go out on a run. But this will only slow us down by weighing us down. Instead, we recommend that you look for lightweight, weather-resistant clothing. This will allow you to feel more free whilst running, allowing you to reach your optimum running speed.

For examples on what kind of jackets you should consider buying, we recommend checking out our article on the 17 best running jackets for 2021.

In addition to this, it may also interest you to read this article detailing tips for running in the rain

Above all else you should look to be comfortable, don’t wear clothes or shoes that are too loose or too tight. The last thing you want to be doing whilst running in a marathon is stopping because your shoes are too tight or because your pants are falling down! 

Focus on Form

The average running speed of a human

If your goal is to improve the average human running speed, then you’re going to have to maintain good form when running. If your form is even slightly off, you could be unknowingly hindering your own performance.

In order to maintain proper form, we recommend sticking to these simple guidelines:  

  1. Look Ahead: 

Never stare at your feet, your eyes should be focused on the ground that’s about 10-20 feet ahead of you. Not only is this proper form, but it is safer as you’ll be able to see what’s coming towards you. 

Try to avoid sticking your head too far forward, as this puts stress on your neck and shoulder muscles. Make sure you’re not leaning forward, hold your head so that your ears are right over the middle of your shoulders.

2. Keep Your Hands at your Waist:

Try to keep your hands at waist level, so that they might lightly brush your hip. Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up to their chest, especially if they get tired. 

This may cause you to feel even more tired, as you’ll start to feel a tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck, should you continue to hold your arms too high. Make sure to keep your arms and hands as relaxed as possible, avoid clenching fists for this very reason! 

3. Avoid Swinging Your Arms:

Avoid side-to-side arm swinging when you can, if your arms cross over your chest, then you’re more likely to slouch, which means you will start to breathe insufficiently. Inefficient or shallow breath can lead to side stitches or cramps in your abs. 

When runners are too tired or tense, their hands tend to start moving towards their shoulders, shortening the distance between the upper arm and forearm. If you notice this happening, allow your arms to drop to your side and shake them out.

Reposition them at a 90-degree angle, with your shoulders back and relaxed.

4. Relax Your Shoulders:

Staying on the topic of avoiding tension, you will run faster when your shoulders are more relaxed. Rounding the shoulders too far forward can create tightening in the chest and may restrict your breathing. However, if your shoulders are back, your airways will not be restricted and you will be able to breathe without any issues. 

Periodically check on your shoulders to make sure they have stayed relaxed. If you can feel any tension, you should slowly roll your shoulder blades in order to stretch them. 

5. Check Your Posture:

Keeping your posture straight is vital to maintaining proper running form. Your head should be held up, your back straight and shoulders level. Remember to keep your shoulders under your ears and to maintain a neutral pelvis. 

Make sure that you’re not leaning too far forward or back on your waist. A tendency which some runners develop when they’re tired. Be sure to monitor your posture throughout your run, when we’re tired at the end of a run we have a tendency to slump due to lower back pain. If at any point you feel yourself slouching, poke your chest out to correct this.

6. Don’t Bounce: 

If you bounce when you run, your head and body are moving up and down, a movement which wastes a lot of energy. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when your foot lands, this will lead to a faster chance of becoming fatigued. 

To minimise bouncing, run lightly and try to land softly on your feet. Some experts say that a running cadence of 90, is the turnover rate seen in the most efficient runners. Shortening your stride will lower the chance of bouncing and improve your cadence, which in turn will improve your average running speed. 

For more tips on running form, we’d recommend checking out this article detailing 17 tips that will help to improve and maintain your form.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Running speed diet

We have already discussed the influence of the average running pace by age and gender, but the food you consume can also play a vital role in influencing your overall running speed.

If you are looking to improve your average running pace per mph, then you should consider incorporating different kinds of food into your diet. 

It is always recommended that you talk to a medical professional or a dietitian before making any major changes into your diet. By visiting a professional you will be able to make an optimal diet plan, which will be specifically tailored to your goals. 

If you’re in the market for supplements to help your running, click here for OriGym’s guide into  21 running supplements that will help to fuel your body.


Whilst your dietary plan may be specific to your needs, here is a general list of food and drinks which have been found to hold beneficial properties for runners:

  • Bananas 
  • Peanut Butter
  • Oats
  • Broccoli 
  • Plain Yoghurt 
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Whole Grain Pasta 
  • Potatoes

If you want more information about running snacks, why not check out this article by OriGym on the 13 best running gels to help fuel you.

Workouts for Improving Your Average Running Speed

Beyond just general tips, some of you may want actual workout routines that you can follow to improve your average long-distance running speed. We here at OriGym have you covered, if you want to improve your speed, we recommend the following workouts:

  1. Interval Training:

Running speed per mile image

We have discussed HIIT training within this article before, it includes short periods of pushing yourself with intense bouts of speed, intermixed with short phases of jogging. This ultimately helps to build your endurance, bracing your body for an increased level of speed. 

For further information relating to HIIT training, OriGym has a guide detailing tips and secrets to a successful session of circuit training.

HIIT training can be exhaustive on your body, and may cause some joint-related injuries if you’re not careful. If you want to achieve this safely and successfully, we can recommend doing it in the following way.

Execution:

  • You’re going to want to begin by slowly jogging for 10 minutes. Try to keep this at a relaxed comfortable speed. 
  • Slowly increase this speed and run at a high-intensity pace for 2-5 minutes. 
  • Return to jogging at the same speed, but hold this pace for 2-5 minutes.
  • Return to your bout of high-intensity running and repeat this cycle for 4-6 times.

It is recommended that if you want to see significant signs of improvement within your speed levels, you should practice HIIT training twice a week until you reached your desired speed. 

2. Tempo/Metronome Training

average running speed km image

The goal of tempo/metronome training is to get you to run to a beat at a comfortably hard pace. We have already touched upon metronome training when discussing running cadence, many believe that in order to improve your cadence and speed, you should be taking 180 steps per minute. 

Execution:

  • If using an app, select the desired pace you wish to run at. It may be worth setting small targets if this is something new to you.
  • Run to the beat of the song, planting each foot to floor to whatever tempo you have set the beat at. 
  • Run at this pace for a few minutes, before trying to increase your speed. Note that this may feel strange at first as your body is used to running in a way that you control, whereas you are now applying structure and rules to your workout.
  • If you’re interested in improving your average running speed for 5k races, you’ll want to work up to 10-15 minutes of tempo training.
  • For improving your average running speed for 10k or longer races, you’ll want to achieve 20-30 minutes of tempo running.

Tempo or 'metronome' training is great for identifying weak areas within your movements. Often stronger muscles overpower weak ones when we move quickly, but tempo training can help build eccentric strength, working as a form of injury prevention. It makes sure that our body is working in harmony, allowing us to carry through speed training without hurting ourselves. 

For further information relating to how running with music can help your overall performance, check out this article by OriGym which offers a more detailed analysis of tempo training

3. Hill Training:

Average running speed m/s

As the name suggests, hill training refers to a type of endurance and speed training where you are running up a hill. However, the term hill training is somewhat of a general term, as there are many different methods to practicing this type of training.

However, we are only going to describe the method dubbed ‘Hill Start’. This is the perfect introduction to hill running for new runners, so if you’ve never done it before you won’t have to worry about things being too complicated.

Execution: 

  • Jog for 10 minutes as a warm up, slow down your pace and walk for 2 minutes.
  • From the bottom of a gentle incline, begin to run upward for 5 seconds.
  • Walk back to the bottom, and run up again but this time for 7 seconds.
  • Walk down to the bottom, and run up the hill again for 10 seconds.

Repeat this sequence for as long as it takes you to get to the top of the hill. This type of hill training acts as the perfect introduction for improving your endurance. It is recommended that you repeat this workout every 7-14 days.

Remember when facing new challenges such as hill running, it is always important to put your health and safety first. Click here to read OriGym’s article on preventing injury when hill running

It should be noted that practicing any form of running training everyday may be both beneficial and damaging to your overall performance. For further information relating to daily training, click here for our article on the subject of running everyday

FAQs

What is the average running speed in m/s? 

We have covered the average running speed in many different units of measurements, but if you’re interested in the question 'What is the average running speed in m/s?', the first thing to know is that m/s means meters per second, and that the average human running speed in m/s is lower than you may expect. 

The average human running speed in m/s is typically 5 meters per second. So, if you’re interested in measuring yourself this is average should work as a point of comparison. 

What is the average running speed in km/h?

This unit of measurement measures kilometers per hour, the average running speed in km/h shows the genders influence in full effect. Men typically run at an average of 9.4 kilometers per hour, whilst women run at an average of 8.4 kilometers per hour. 

What is the average running speed on a treadmill? 

Running on a treadmill is very different from running on a road or any other natural environment. For starters, you can control the speed you’re running at, but a lesser known factor that affects your speed is the impact of your feet on the ground. 

OriGym’s guide on the benefits of running on a treadmill can be found here, and will offer you more insight on how this practice is good for your health and fitness regime. 

When you run on a treadmill the impact of your feet on the ground is significantly less damaging to your joints, meaning that you should be able to run faster. But the question still remains - What is the average running speed on a treadmill?

Whilst this question is somewhat subjective, it is recommended that if you want to comfortably jog you should be aiming for an average of anywhere between 4.5 - 5.3mph. Alternatively, if you want to run quickly, you should be aiming for an average speed of anywhere above 5.3mph. 

Before You Go! 

We hope that you have found our article delving into average running speeds to be informative and beneficial to your running journey. Remember, the facts and figures that we have given within this article are based purely on averages collected by studies and previously existing data. 

If for whatever reason you are not reaching these average levels, don’t let it beat you down. Like with any kind of training, set yourself goals and monitor your own work, make your own running average the thing you strive to improve, in whatever way you see fit. 

Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.   

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