Tackling the Mile: Training Tips and Racing Strategies

In our opinion, there aren’t nearly enough mile races. But it’s a distance every runner should race at least once. Even runners that usually stick to longer distances!

Below, Matt Thull from ThunderDome Running explains how racing the mile benefits long distance runners and provides training and racing tips!

What’s the allure of racing the mile? Why is this distance a great mix of speed and endurance?
Even though a mile race seems short to most distance runners, there are actually more running parts to the race than many runners think. I look at the mile as having three parts and knowing there are those different parts is how the endurance and speed combo comes into play. The length of time for the three parts is different for everyone. The first part is speed and getting out there fast when the gun goes off. Next is the middle of the race – the endurance part once you settle into your “fast” but controlled pace, which for most runners is a bit slower than the fast start. Last is the speed/sprint to the finish part of the race.

How should a person train for a mile race?
The luxury of training for this distance is that there are elements of mile race training already in most runners’ day-to-day training. For example, during long runs, runners get to a certain point where they are actually recruiting fast muscle fibers. If runners do pre- or post-run strides – or even fast-finish workouts – these can help with shorter distance racing. Those areas all produce faster mile race results – without necessarily training specifically for the distance.

Really not a lot needs to change for mile racing in training. A bigger focus is the warmup for the race. It’s crucial to include enough pre-race activity and stretching since there is no messing around once the gun goes off. Runners don’t have 2-3 miles to warmup during the race like they do during long distance races.

What is a good workout to include if a mile race is on your calendar?
When someone who is NOT a miler or short distance racer thinks about workouts, they should have safety nets in them related to the rest periods and fast work. For example, if a runner wants to test out some faster 400m or 200m intervals, make the workout continuous without any standing around rest. For example, run a 400m interval and then jog a short rest time. This helps prevent runners from going too fast. Or if there is a 3-4 mile continuous run, include a couple of 90 second surges spaced throughout the run. In that case, too, runners cannot get going too fast since there is no standing rest.

It seems like as the distances get shorter, the warmup becomes more important. What type of warmup do you recommend before a mile race?
Runners should finish with a faster warmup for a mile race. If you normally run two miles for a warmup, speed up during the second mile. It should be brisk. And the active warmup stretching and strides should easily be at least 15-20 minutes of focus, compared to what sometimes happens at 5k and 10k races where runners get caught standing around too long doing not a lot of warmup prep.

What about race strategy – how should a runner approach a mile race?
No matter what each individual’s pace or goal is in a mile, there have to be different pace parts and efforts. If you say you are going to race hard from the gun to the finish of a mile race, you miss out on the shorter focused parts that will result in a faster race.

What type of shoes do you recommend? Are regular shoes okay or should runners opt for lighter flats or trainers?
Most runners should NOT change up their regular training shoes to a lighter pair for a mile race unless they are used to a lighter workout or racing pair of shoes. Light racing flats work great but at the same time runners are moving much faster than they normally do so the extra cushion of a regular training shoe is safer. The best of both worlds are shoes that have extra cushion but are super light. Like the New Balance Fresh Foam, some of the Nike Lunar models or the HOKA shoes.

Why is it beneficial for even longer distance runners to consider racing the mile?
Too many times marathon and half marathon runners fall into the trap of running slower, more relaxed training mileage because they don’t think they are “fast.” Just having a fun mile race on the schedule can hopefully shift the focus and shake things up a bit to more stride/safe leg turnover work, faster finish long runs, or doing a proper warmup. All of which will also help the longer distance work.

Thanks for chatting with us, Coach Thull! If you’re interested in improving your speed, ThunderDome Running can help. Visit thunderdomerunning.com to learn more about coaching options.

If you’re ready to put your speed to the test, consider these upcoming events:

Best of luck!

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Get to Know More MKE Neighborhoods During June Fun Runs

Looking for a fun way to get your miles in while socializing with other runners? During June, the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival continues its series of Thursday evening social runs leading up to race weekend. The runs start at 6pm and run through October 22. The runs will be 3-5 miles in length and take place in various locations around the city.

Below are the June social run dates and locations. We’ll post info about the July, August, September and October social runs as the dates get closer.

June 4
Nomad World Pub
1401 East Brady Street, Milwaukee

June 11
Astor Hotel – Hosted by Momentum of Milwaukee
924 East Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee

June 18
Fleet Feet Brookfield
17550 West Bluemound Frontage Road, Brookfield

June 25
Lake Park – Hosted by Milwaukee Running Group
Lake Park, Milwaukee

Who’s planning to join for one – or all – of these runs?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Thursday Social Runs Feature Milwaukee Neighborhoods

Looking for a fun way to get your miles in while socializing with other runners? The PNC Milwaukee Running Festival is hosting a series of Thursday evening social runs leading up to race weekend. The runs start at 6pm, starting on May 7 and run through October 22. The runs will be 3-5 miles in length and take place in various locations around the city.

Below are the May social run dates and locations. We’ll post about June, July, August, September and October social runs as the dates get closer. You can also view the full calendar on the race website.

May 7
Holey Moley Donuts
316 North Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee

May 14
Performance Running Outfitters – Cookie Run
4533 North Oakland Avenue, Shorewood

May 21
PNC Bank
5499 South 76th Street, Greendale

May 28
Fleet Feet Sports – Thrill Run (scavenger hunt)
17550 West Bluemound Frontage Road, Brookfield

Who’s planning to join for one – or all – of these runs?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

From the Beginning: How the Milwaukee Running Festival Got Its Start

By now, you’ve all heard about – and have likely already registered for – the Milwaukee Running Festival, the inaugural event being held Oct. 30-Nov. 1. But did you know initial ideas for the three-day event were actually conceived back in 2006 – nearly a decade ago?!

Below, Chris Ponteri, Executive Director of Milwaukee Marathon Inc., tells us more about how the upcoming festival came to be.


When and how did you get the idea of bringing a big-city race to Milwaukee?
The first time I ran what I would call a “big city” marathon was the San Francisco Marathon in 2006, and that is when I thought to myself “why doesn’t Milwaukee have an event like this?” I had run the Lakefront Marathon several times and, even though it is a first-class event, it lacks the “big city” pizzazz and really doesn’t capture the culture of our city at all. There are very few spectators and most people in Milwaukee have never heard of it or don’t know when it’s happening. I felt like Milwaukee needed to have an event like a marathon to showcase what a special city we have.

What about the idea appealed to you?
You can do some unique things with a 26.2-mile city course and there are also some neat ways to involve the entire community. Really, these are community events that are a reflection of our city. This event will definitely be a celebration of the City of Milwaukee.

What were some of the first steps toward making it happen?
Interestingly, I had wanted to start small and use the roads and parkways in the South Shore/Bay View area the first year (this idea later was the genesis of the Lake Michigan Trail Marathon). However, when I sent a courtesy email to the president of the Badgerland Striders about my plan, he responded in such a rude way that it motivated me to go big. So I started thinking about what it would take do a large-scale Milwaukee Marathon, and realized that I had the skills, experience and team to do it. The first person I approached was former Lakefront Marathon race director Kris Hinrichs, and when she said would support the idea, I knew it had a chance. She has many contacts in city government and throughout the Milwaukee area, and those have proven to be invaluable to me. Another key early partnering was with Hanson Dodge (the ad agency). They took a chance on me, coming on as a sponsor before I even had an event, and helped with the branding, which gave us a lot of credibility.

What can you tell us a bit about the planning that goes into a major event like this one?
Where do I begin? Let’s just say that my organizational skills are being tested every day. There are so many details – both major and minor – to worry about. For example, just today I have spent some time working on our Elite Runner and Athletes With Disabilities programs, meeting with a potential sponsor and printing out return address labels. The work is interesting, rewarding and challenging, but it requires a lot of list-making and other organization skills. I can’t think of the last night where I didn’t wake up at some point and think about a detail that needed to be addressed.

What type of feedback did you get from others along the way?
Almost everybody has welcomed this event with wide open arms. The most common reaction I get from people in the running community is “it’s about time Milwaukee has an event like this”.

What barriers have you had to overcome?
I can think of at least three times where I was close to giving up. I have received threats from individuals who were trying to protect their own events (I will leave out the details). One powerful alderman told me three times that he was against our idea before I eventually won his support. And then, as I’m sure many remember, there was the issue with Alderman Wade in front of the Public Works Committee that made national news when he scolded me for not being inclusive. Even though I didn’t care for his method of attack, I did take his concerns to heart and have used them to make the event better. He has since become a big supporter of what we are doing. We were also threatened with a lawsuit if we used the name Milwaukee Marathon so rather than risk going to court before our first event even took place, we changed the name to the Milwaukee Running Festival.

What was your reaction when the event was finally approved?
I don’t think I have really had a chance to celebrate yet. The approval process was so drawn out and incremental that it has taken awhile to sink in. I finally felt like it was official when I went to the City of Milwaukee’s annual birthday celebration last month and both the Mayor and Common Council President were eager to tell me how excited they were to be a part of the event.

How did your background in race planning and race directing help with getting the Milwaukee Running Festival off the ground?
First, it gave me some credibility since I could say I have directed other races in the Milwaukee area. Second, and more importantly, my past race directing experiences have given me so many great connections, which was vital to assembling a first-class team like I have done. We have a real “who’s who” from the Milwaukee running community on our team, and all are dedicated to making this a world-class running event.

Thanks for chatting with us, Chris! If you’re interested in learning more about the story behind the Milwaukee Running Festival, Chris is speaking at the upcoming Milwaukee Running Expo on Saturday, April 11 at 11:30am at Fleet Feet Brookfield.

To learn more about the Milwaukee Running Festival, or to register for one of the races, visit MilwaukeeRunningFestival.com.

If you’re already signed up for a Milwaukee Running Festival race, which distance are you doing?

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Milwaukee Running Festival Announces PNC As Title Sponsor

Big news, MKE – earlier today, Milwaukee Marathon Inc. announced PNC will be the title sponsor for the 2015 inaugural running festival. The event will now be named PNC Milwaukee Running Festival.

“With PNC as the title sponsor, the Milwaukee Running Festival has cleared another hurdle in bringing this unique event to life,” said Chris Ponteri, Executive Director of Milwaukee Marathon Inc. “We believe the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival will become the premier running event in the state of Wisconsin.”

“We recognize the tremendous impact this event will have on the city and its many diverse neighborhoods,” said Chris Goller, Regional President for PNC Wisconsin. “PNC Is committed to supporting the economic growth and well-being of Milwaukee. We look forward to the excitement, tourism and competitive spirit this race will bring to the city.”

Under the multi-year sponsorship agreement, PNC will retain naming rights and provide financial and promotional support. PNC will also offer wellness incentives to its employees for participating in the event.

The PNC Milwaukee Running Festival is the first marathon and half marathon race to be held exclusively within the city of Milwaukee. The event will also include a 5k and 1-mile race.

For more information about the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival, visit www.milwaukeerunningfestival.com.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

Introducing … The Milwaukee Running Festival!

Today is a great day for the MKE running community. For all of you that have been saying our city needs a major marathon … that day is here!

ScreenHunter_33 Nov. 12 11.05

Today, Chris Ponteri, Executive Director of Milwaukee Marathon, Inc., announced the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival. The 2015 event will take place Oct. 30-Nov. 1 and will include a marathon, half marathon, 5K and one-mile race. All races will be staged entirely within the city of Milwaukee and the marathon will be the first to be routed entirely through the city of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and landmarks.

“We’re excited to be able to showcase the neighborhoods and landmarks that make Milwaukee such a vibrant place to live,” said Ponteri. “This event will attract people from all over the country and offers a unique experience to runners of all ages, experience levels and abilities.”

Milwaukee’s Summerfest grounds will serve as the start and finish area for the marathon and half marathon. Along the way, runners will travel through Milwaukee neighborhoods, including Downer Avenue, Brady Street, Brewers’ Hill/Commerce Street, East Town, West Town, Sherman Park, Walker’s Point, the Third Ward and others. The proposed route also passes a host of landmarks, including Miller Park, the Harley-Davidson Museum, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University and The Milwaukee Art Museum. The 5K and one-mile races will be staged in downtown Milwaukee.

The event will benefit more than just local runners – Ponteri believes the festival will have a significant positive economic impact on the city. “In cities such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis, the combination of a marathon and half marathon has led to significant economic benefits,” Ponteri said. “Studies have shown that the economic impact of a marathon alone is $800 per participant. Depending on the total number of participants, the Milwaukee Running Festival’s economic impact on the city of Milwaukee and area businesses should easily run into the millions of dollars.”

Milwaukee Running Festival is also putting a major emphasis on charitable partnerships, with a goal of contributing $250,000 to partner charities during its inaugural year. Charities that are approved as partners will receive assistance with fundraising and recruitment efforts.

Online registration for Milwaukee Running Festival opens December 8. To learn more about the event, you can connect here:

Website: http://www.milwaukeerunningfestival.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MkeRunFest

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MkeRunFest

So there you have it – the latest on the newest MKE race!

Runners: What are your thoughts on the news? And who’s excited to sign up for one – or maybe two or three – of the race distances? Tell us everything and more 🙂

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!