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Average Human Running Speed: Broken Down Age-wise

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If you are a frequent runner, you must be familiar with the struggle to maintain pace or even increase speeds. No, this is not just something that new runners in the community face but it can happen anytime during your running journey to fitness and well being. Do not worry if this has not come up as a concern for you as it could sooner or later. Best to know the facts, figure what your pace is, and maybe even how to improve your running for future. Read on in this article to find out about the average human running speed, how fast can humans run in theory, average human walking speed, and more. A lot of training routines do not incorporate how to increase speed and pace efficiently. Most can leave you exhausted and without any improvement in speed or other aspects of your running. Read on to find out which of these exercises you should try out to improve speed and overall pace.

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Average Human Running Speed & Boston Marathon Benchmarking

The influx of great runners in the Olympics has made everyone wonder how fast can a human run? The top speed recorded up till now is 27.8 mph or 44.72 km/hr by none other than Usain Bolt, having run 100 meters in just 9.58 seconds! However, scientists say that the human running speed can actually, in theory, reach to 45 km/h maximum that is 27.97 miles. Now, you might be thinking, how fast can the average human run? This is a debated topic due to numerous opinions on what an average human being's speed is, but according to the records, it is in the range of 10 to 15 miles per hour. It is assumed that the average was taken from humans at the peak of their running days.

Boston Marathon Benchmarking

No matter what the statistics say, you need to remember that every individual differs from the next. There are factors such as body type, age, gender, fitness and more that can also determine your speed. These conditions are not the same for everyone which is why you do not need to pay attention to what is considered to be the average human running speed.

Marathon running is a good way to determine average human running speed as it is for long distances and requires everyone to be at a certain fitness level.  We decided to look at the qualifying times required for different age-groups for the Boston marathon and then work out the speed required to complete 42 km or 26.2 miles of a full marathon.  Boston Marathon was taken as a benchmark as it is the marathon of marathons, where participants take part from the world over which sort of averages out the factors.  

The below chart plots the speed required as per qualifying times of different age brackets in the two genders and this can be a good indicator of what should an average human running speed be in kilometers per hour (km/h) and miles per hour (mph).

Age Group Men's Time Km/h Mph Women's Time Km/h Mph
18-34 3hrs 5mins 00sec 13.62 8.46 3hrs 35min 00sec 11.72 7.28
35-39 3hrs 10 mins 00sec 13.26 8.23 3hrs 40min 00sec 11.45 7.11
40-44 3hrs 15 mins 00sec 12.92 8.02 3hrs 45min 00sec 11.02 6.95
45-49 3hrs 25mins 00sec 12.29 7.63 3hrs 55min 00sec 10.72 6.66
50-54 3hrs 30mins 00sec 12.00 7.45 4hrs 00min 00sec 10.05 6.52
55-59 3hrs 40mins 00sec 11.45 7.11 4hrs 10min 00sec 10.08 6.26
60-64 3hrs 55mins 00sec 10.72 6.66 4hrs 25min 00sec 9.5 5.9
65-69 4hrs 10mins 00sec 10.08 6.26 4hrs 40min 00sec 9.00 5.59
70-74 4hrs 25mins 00sec 9.5 5.9 4hrs 55min 00sec 8.54 5.3
75-79 4hrs. 40mins 00sec 9.00 5.59 5hrs 10min 00sec 8.12 5.04
80 and above 4hrs. 55mins 00sec 8.54 5.3 5hrs 25min 00sec 7.75 4.81

How to improve your running speed?

Now that you have a fair idea of what to aim for as per your age and gender, you need a plan of how to reach there.  Many people are very comfortable with just jogging. This helps them to maintain a steady pace and moderate speed. Runners who like to run jog and take their time with their runs may not have the best time scores for long distance runs or short distance ones. This is all alright, as long as it corresponds to their specific goals and liking.

If you do not set your target towards improving your speed or pace but your average jogging speed makes you comfortable, then that is more than fine. Everyone jogs once in a while, even the professional runners. It allows you to lose weight without draining you completely and you can do it every day.

Fast running or speed training can be terribly exhausting for a runner and must be practiced in lesser amounts than jogging. The only time you should make a change is when you are getting bored with the same old routine or you would like to increase your running speed or time. Runners training for a marathon could also benefit from speed training and can increase their average running speed. This change can be implemented moderately to fit into your existing regime and to better suit your running speed and capability.

If you combine a lot of jogging and a small amount of fast running into your daily routine, you can create the perfect recipe for speed and pace improvement.

Finding the Right Pace

Before you start with your new routine, you should be aware of certain aspects of your body and find out the amount of pressure and strain you can take. You do not want to push yourself too hard and end up tearing a muscle or spraining an ankle. Always do as much as you can and you will see the benefits of taking it easy instead of a full-blown workout that causes harm.

Fitness Level:

The first thing you need to figure out is your fitness level. You need a well-trained body to amp up your average running pace. This is vital to establish a good speed training plan in place. If you do not train regularly then you should be more cautious about taking big risks and going to hard to achieve the desired speed or pace.

A professional athlete may cover a distance of a mile in five minutes whereas a new runner may take over twelve minutes. The average time of most runners is around seven minutes to complete a mile. By knowing your speed you can determine how much faster you want to go and what acceptable changes your body can take. 

how fast can a human run
Maintain good fitness level for fast pace run

Age and Gender:

The average running speed of a runner also differs on the basis of their age. Their speed will normally peak at the time of early adulthood which is around the age of 18-30. At this age range, one will see the best performance and better fitness levels. As we grow older our body cannot maintain this peak and our performance will slowly decline, it happens to everybody.

 Even the best athletes have to train harder to keep up to their previous times, and after a certain age will retire from it altogether. The average running time differs from that of female runners and for this reason, pro races are divided according to these two factors. This makes the races fair enough and helps runners to achieve their best. 

Distance Pacing:

The pace you are running also depends on the situation at hand. A fast-paced runner can complete a mile in 7 minutes, but if he were to complete 26 miles then he will cover the same distance at a much slower rate. He would be doing this to save his energy and conserve enough to complete more miles efficiently. You must decide your pace and learn the speed training according to your goals and what type of race or distance you are aiming to complete.

human running speed
Distance running for faster speed levels

Safety Tips

When comparing race time with other runners or even with what is considered the average for a runner of your age, you must understand that it all comes down to your body and its ability. The basic structure and dimensions of your body can come into play affecting your speed. The length of your legs, foot type, hip bone structure and other features can determine how fast your body is able to push itself. Training can significantly improve your chances of running at a better speed despite your body structure but keeping a steady pace of improvement can prevent the risk of injury. Weak joints and stiff muscles are common causes of running injuries, For a better running experience, do not increase speed or distance more than ten percent per week. 

Tips to Set the Pace Right

Now that you know your specifics, let’s get into starting to build your pace. From here, once you find the right one for you, start your speed training.

Tip #1. Walking is Just Fine

You know what’s your own ability is and you are aware of the risks of pushing yourself too hard. The average human walking speed is 3.1 mph and the average time to walk a mile is 20 minutes. If you are satisfied with the average walking speed you are currently going at, then there is nothing wrong with staying within your comfort zone. As mentioned earlier, it all depends on your goals, if they are not set to increasing average running speed, then why train to improve them unnecessarily. Jogging or even walking can still burn fat, keep you fit, and meet your requirements in a hassle-free manner.

Tip #2. Keep It Between 5 and 6 MPH

  • The first step is to start running at an easy pace for around 30 minutes. This means that you run around five to six miles an hour, and while running you are able to talk without running out of breath. To know if you are maintaining this pace correctly try singing a song, and if you can go on for a long time then you may need to increase the pace by a little bit.
  • Now that you have established an easy pace, this will be your target for all runs. Run at this pace for thirty minutes and for a few weeks almost every day. If you consistently do this then you can become more fit, training your body to get used to the speed. Also learn to pay more attention to the rate at which you are breathing, tolerate the muscle pain and the post-run burn. 
  • Do not jump to thinking that these runs are not doing anything to improve your speed or to reach your goal. If you want to have good times you will need to start at a steady pace first. When you do feel you are getting used to the runs and feel fitter, you can begin to slowly increase your running speed. To do this, don't increase your speed to your full capacity but add one extra run in the week that is faster than the pace you are currently running at.
  • Next try adding two faster runs per week, however, stick to this and don't try to push yourself more. Keep a gap between these two fast runs in a week to allow your body to recuperate after.
fast running
Pace your speed with right techniques

3 Speed Training Workouts For Beginners

You now have a steady pace to begin your speed training. The top three speed workouts are Fartleks, Tempo runs and Interval runs. Read through them and figure out which speed training you would like to implement into your routine.

By learning these speed workouts you can maintain the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles, and improve your oxygen intake as well as utilization by the body. Improving these aspects will help you last longer in a race and reach a better running pace. Again, we advise you to not push too hard. You may not realize it at given time but you might damage your muscles by straining yourself. Follow your routine slowly and at a steady pace, with a little dedication and patience you will go a long way.

Try out these speed workouts to achieve the best results. They are set in a simple level so that you can go easy with your training and not exhaust yourself.

Speed Workout 1: Fartlek

The word ‘Fartlek’ in Swedish means ‘speed play’ and this is one of the easiest and fun ways to add speed to a normal run. To try one out, just start out with a small warm up and then play around with your speed for short periods of time.

Essentially it means you increase your speed by sprinting to a set point ahead of you and then slow down again. Going fast for a short burst is the speed interval and then your subsequent slowing down is the rest interval. There is no set distance for you to keep your speed interval at, it all depends on you.

You can try out running 200 meters for thirty seconds and then keep a rest interval of sixty seconds, or run for a minute and slow down for two minutes, it’s up to you! Just remember that the rest interval should be sufficient for you to recover from the sprint in the speed interval. Cool down after with stretches for around five to ten minutes.

how fast can humans run
Fast paced Fartlek

For more information on this training routine, check out Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running. You can even find more fartlek workouts for various training phases!

Speed Workout 2: Tempo Run

This type of speed training is slightly more structured than the fartlek. You are to run a set distance or time at faster speeds or sprints. This pace can be tough on you but make sure you manage to stick to it and are not strained. The tempo run emphasizes the importance of warming up and cooling down as they are rigidly incorporated into this speed workout. 

To try a tempo run, start with a five to ten minute warm up and move on to running at a fast pace for fifteen minutes, and finally cool down for another five to ten minutes. You can even manage all of this without stopping at all, warm up by slow running for a mile, break into a sprint for two more miles, and then slow down again for another one mile.

Remember that your running pace may be slower in comparison to a fartlek as there is a longer time period and distance involved. Consider the incline, temperature, and other factors before trying to go faster in the challenging portion of this workout. You can slow down your pace if there are other interferences, and do not drain all of your energy in a single workout.

average human speed
Energetic Tempo Workout

What is the Difference Between Threshold and Tempo Runs?

As a runner, you would have heard the terms threshold and tempo runs They are very similar but still different in their working. They revolve around lactic acid, a by-product of the intense workouts where anaerobic metabolism takes place.

  • Threshold runs basically involve a pace where this lactic acid cannot build up and collect in the bloodstream during a workout and rather stays at a stable level.

  • Tempo runs are normally longer than threshold runs and help you adapt to long distance and endurance running. You can probably hold a tempo run for several miles.

Speed Workout 3: Interval Workouts 

This type of training involves intense and short periods of running and then a longer time for recovery. This differs from the tempo run as it pushes you to the limits of your ability for a short span and then allows more than adequate time for you to get back on our feet again. This way, you are running at your fastest and then slowing down to an easy run, jog or walk, depending on how tired you are.

To try this workout, start with a warm-up and then run at your fastest speed for two minutes.

After the time is up you will be out of breath and be trying to slow down, this is where your recovery comes in and you can slow your pace or walking speed for three minutes. The workout incorporates a recovery time to allow you to get up again and get ready for the next intense interval run. After many attempts at practicing this routine, you will finally be able to adapt yourself to this rigorous interval workout and gain strength during your long run.

Summing up

The average human running speed is not a fixed number as not everyone is at the same age group, gender or fitness levels. We showed you what it can be if you were preparing for a full marathon by benchmarking against the requirements for Boston Marathon. Once you have an idea what you can aim for its a matter of starting off, finding your pace, setting your pace and then increasing your speed. 

We hope you manage to improve your pace with the speed training workouts we recommended! Share your best running times with us in the comments below. Let us know if you found any workout exceptionally effective than the rest.

Remember that to go faster you must first take it slow!

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