Take 2:00 Off Your PFT Mile

Recruits run faster during a physical training session.
A drill instructor of Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, instructs recruits to run faster during a physical training session at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Feb. 22, 2016. (Lance Cpl. Angelica Annastas/Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego)

An Army officer emailed me with a goal of dropping two minutes off his mile run pace. This is not a tough goal to achieve if you currently are running a 10-minute mile and have a goal of an eight-minute mile pace. However, as you can imagine, it gets much tougher going from an eight-minute mile pace to six minutes or faster. But going from 10 minutes to eight minutes can be done in less than a few months as long as you are not new to running.

If you are a beginner, you should ramp up distance, pace and intensity over a six- to eight-week period as described in the chart below:

Running Plan I - Beginning Runners

Wk Mon Tues
1 1-2 mile Bike or swim
2 2-3 miles Bike or swim
3* Bike or swim Bike or swim
4 3 miles Bike or swim
5 2 miles 3 miles
6 2-3 miles 3-4 miles
Wk Wed Thurs Fri
1 1-2 mile Bike or swim 1-2 mile
2 2-3 miles Bike or swim 2-3 miles
3* Bike or swim Bike or swim Bike or swim
4 3 miles Bike or swim 3 miles
5 off 4 miles 2 miles
6 off 4-5 miles 2-3 miles

*Do not run during Week 3; bike or swim every day. There is a high risk of injury to beginners.

For more experienced but slower runners, going from a mile pace of 10 minutes to eight minutes is best done with the following recommendations:

Wk Mon Tues Wed
1-4 2 miles 1/4 mile at
goal pace 6-8x's

No Running -
rest or PT

5-8 2 miles 1/4 mile at
goal pace 4-5x's
No Running - rest or
PT, swim, bike
Wk Thurs Fri Saturday
1-4 2 mile timed &
2 miles jog

PACE DAY - 3 miles
of intervals at goal pace

Long run: 4-6 miles
easy pace
5-8 2 miles timed &
2 miles jog
PACE DAY - 4 miles
of intervals at goal pace
Long run: 4-6 miles
easy pace

Here is an explanation of the chart:


Run two miles, but try for as long as you can to run at your goal pace -- chart progress each week on how far you maintained your goal pace. The chart below will help you figure out your goal pace at the intervals recommended in this running plan:

Intervals Goal mile pace: 8:00 Goal mile pace: 7:00 Goal mile pace: 6:00
1/2 mile intervals 4:00 3:30 3:00
1/4 mile intervals 2:00 1:45 1:30
1/8 mile intervals 1:00 52 seconds 45 seconds

To ace the running portion of any PFT, it is most important to learn your pace. Recognize breathing, arm swing, leg stride, foot strikes and create muscle memory of exactly how you should feel when you are running at your goal pace. As you get into better shape, you should feel better throughout the running event.

Note: One day a week, you should push the speed limit and do a series of faster than pace runs:

Six-Week Running Program for the 1.5-2 Mile Timed Run Test

Related Video:



Intervals will help you build your VO2 max and foot speed to learn your goal pace better. On a few of the interval runs, try to run one to two miles at a faster than normal goal pace just to push your limit. After each interval run, walk or slow jog for a recovery for one to two minutes. During the second month, increase your distance but keep the pace the same. Shoot for half-mile intervals at goal pace.

Wednesday -- Day off

Swim or rest. Do your PT exercises today as well as every other day as recommended in any of the PT articles in the article archive and at the Military.com Fitness eBook store.


Two-mile timed run or two-mile jog. Test yourself on Thursday after a day off of running. If your PFT distance is 1.5 miles or three miles, run that distance required for your service's PFT, followed by a jog of the same distance.


Learn your pace. All runs, no matter what the distance, are to be done at your goal pace. Work up to three miles of running for as long as you can at your goal pace. Once you fall off your pace, stop, walk and recover for two minutes and continue running shorter intervals until you reach a total distance of three miles.


Long run Saturday: 4-6 miles easy pace. Have a nice leisurely run at slow moderate pace and stretch well after each running session.

Sunday -- Day off

As you can see, the best way to get better or faster at running is to practice running. This routine is aggressive but doable, and it should take only 20-40 minutes on most weekdays.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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