The Mile Cut-Down



The Mile Cut-Down is one of the best workouts you can do this time of the year. No matter if you’re in the middle of your summer 5K to half marathon road race season, coming back after a break from a spring/early summer peak race or beginning your buildup for your fall races, the Mile Cut-Down fits in perfectly with your goal. You just need to modify the workout based on your needs.

The Details

After a proper warm-up of easy running plus preparatory activities (i.e., drills and strides), you run a mile (or 1600m if you’re using a 400m track). After a recovery jog (details below), you then run a 1200m (3 laps of the track) repeat. Recover, then run an 800m (2 laps) repeat, a 400m repeat (1 lap) and a 200m (1/2 lap) repeat, all with a recovery jog between. Of course, you don’t have to do this workout on a track. You can find a marked road, trail or grass course or even just run for time (e.g., 7:00, 5:30, 3:00, 1:30 and :40, or whatever comes close to your times for the calibrated repeats and type of workout desired — see below).

The Options

As with all workouts like this, you can adjust the key variables (number of sets, pace of repeats and length of recovery jogs) to make the workout fit what you need. Want more strength? Slow the repeat paces and shorten the recovery jogs (and maybe even do two sets). Need more speed? Run the repeats faster and take longer recovery jogs. Dialing in race pace for an upcoming 10K or half marathon? Practice a race pace with each repeat.

For example, if you’re coming back from a break or you’re an endurance-oriented runner (you race better the longer the distance), I recommend that you make the workout more strength-oriented. To do this, run the 1600m at your lactate threshold (around your 1-hour race pace), then increase the pace by 10–15 seconds per mile for each successive repeat. For a 40-minute 10K runner, the workout would be approximately:

1600m at 6:40 pace

1200m at 6:25 pace

800m at 6:10 pace

400m at 5:55 pace

200m at 5:40 pace

Since this is a strength workout for you, the recovery jog is only 1 to 2 minutes between repeats.

If you’re in the middle of your racing season, then the workout would be more speed-oriented. The 1600m repeat would be run at your 30-minute race pace and the pace of each successive repeat would increase by 5 to 10 seconds per mile. For our 40-minute 10K runner, the workout would be approximately:

1600m at 6:20 pace

1200m at 6:10 pace

800m at 6:00 pace

400m at 5:50 pace

200m at 5:30–5:40 pace

Since this is a speed workout for you, the recovery jog is 2 to 4 minutes between repeats.

Let’s say you have a 10K coming up in the next five to 10 days. You could use the workout to dial in race pace. Run the 1600m and the 1200m at your goal 10K race pace, and the 800m and 400m repeats at your 5K race pace. And, no matter what your goal is from the workout, I always like the 200m repeat to be fast, so run it at 80 to 90 percent of your top speed. For a pace-practice workout like this, you would take 2 to 3 minutes between repeats, making sure that you’re recovered enough that you can practice your goal race pace. If you can’t hit your paces, then take more recovery between repeats.

High school runner doing your base building for fall cross country? Perform this workout once every four to six weeks to test your fitness. Note that this isn’t an all-out workout. This is a paced workout to see where you are, so run it like the strength-oriented version described earlier.

Coach’s Notes

If you’re just coming back into training or a high school runner in your summer off-season, run this workout every four to eight weeks as a test of fitness. If you’re in the middle of your race season, then you may want to include this workout every two to four weeks.

One set is plenty for nearly all runners, but if you’re in heavy training mode, you can perform two sets.

Again, you can always adjust workouts to fit your needs. You just need to think a bit about what you’re trying to achieve. Then adjust the variables to get the most from each workout. Pay close attention to how you recover from this workout. This will allow you to modify it to better fit your needs the next time you run it.

For every distance between 800 meters and the marathon, these scientifically-based training plans include your McMillan Calculator training paces integrated, coach’s notes, and access to our prehab routines. Plus, the plans are delivered on a runner-friendly training log platform. Starting at $25.99. Learn more.

Written By Greg McMillan
Called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Runner’s World’s Amby Burfoot, Greg McMillan is renowned for his ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. While getting his graduate degree in Exercise Science he created the ever-popular McMillan Running Calculator – called “The Best Running Calculator” by Outside Magazine. A National Champion runner himself, Greg coaches runners from beginners to Boston Qualifiers (15,000+ and counting!) to Olympians.

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