Mile Runs Gain Popularity in Road Racing

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Medtronic TC1 Mile / USATF 1 Mile Road Championships

Photo by Competitive Image

If you want to run a short road race, you’ll likely search for an area 5K: an iconic distance, but one that means little to most Americans who grew up using miles instead of kilometers as a unit of measurement. If a new movement has its way, though, you’ll soon have more chances to run less than 3.1 miles.

Bring Back the Mile began three and a half years ago in order to increase interest both in the running community and across the general population in the mile as a race unto itself: a goal that uniquely caters to the American system of measurement, says BBTM founder Ryan Lamppa.

“The mile is deeply embedded in our culture,” Lamppa says. “We think and speak in miles. It’s still something runners talk about and want to achieve.”


According to Lamppa, roughly 25 brand new road miles appear every year, with around 800 currently in existence across the country, including the PR Mile in Darien on June 20, the State Street Mile in Rockford on Aug. 1 and the Fling Mile in Naperville on Sept. 7. While these races may not be as ubiquitous as standard road race distances such as the 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon, Lamppa says they have more meaning to the general public.

“If you told someone, ‘I ran a 5K this weekend,’ and they asked for your time, and you say ‘21:00,’ they’re probably not going to figure out your per-mile pace,” Lamppa says. “If you told them you ran a mile and said you ran 6:30, they’re going to have a much better idea of how good you are as a runner based on the fact that they probably ran a mile in P.E. or in track.”

Aside from familiarity, the mile also represents an attainable goal for many individuals, Lamppa says. While a 5K may seem like too great of a challenge for some, a mile requires less training and less time, making it a good introduction to both fitness and running.

“Part of our goal is to get people out the door,” Lamppa says. “If you want to train harder, great, but doing that eight to 15 minutes a day [to run a mile] is all that most people need for their fitness level.”

For those who do regularly run, a mile race provides an opportunity to test your fitness and speed in a different way compared to other races. While races tend to be small—Lamppa says most events draw between a couple hundred and 1,000 runners—they present fewer logistical challenges, making organization easier on an event director.

“It doesn’t take up a lot of real estate for closing roads and the like,” Lamppa says. “If you have a u-shaped course, that is almost near perfect in that it’s going to have minimal impact as far as closing roads.”

Beyond road racing, BBTM also hopes to spark a resurgence in mile racing at the high school level. Currently, all states but Massachusetts hold 1600-meter races rather than mile races, which are 1609.34 meters. The 1600, Lamppa argues, doesn’t hold the historic significance of the mile or the international significance of the 1500.

“There’s no Roger Bannister moment, no Jim Ryun moment [in the mile],” Lamppa says. “The 1600 will never have that history.”

To learn more about Bring Back the Mile, visit bringbackthemile.com.