How to Train for Timed Runs (Ask Stew)

 Airman 1st Class Robert Miles (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue)

If you think 1.5 miles is long distance, this article is for you. Or if you need to get better at the 1.5 mile – 2-mile timed run, you can do this week of running workouts. Here is an email that reminds me about my transition from powerlifting/football athlete to joining the military and later Spec Ops prep: Stew, I am preparing to take a run and agility test for a police department in my state. I must run a 1.5 mile in under 15 minutes. I played college football and currently powerlift as a hobby. Distance training is foreign to me and I need to ascertain an idea of what I need to be doing to prep for the test. I know a 15 min 1.5 mile is slow but I am terrible at long distance. The most running I do is 2 x 400 meter sprints. A friend of mine in the Army Q Course told me to run 1 mile and half mile repeats on a treadmill with 2% incline or on a track. He also said I can run 400m and 800m sprints to prepare. I’m basically lost. I can show you how to deadlift 600lbs but I sure can’t show you how to not suck at running. ANY HELP would be welcome. Thank you, Robert H. Robert - funny. I was a powerlifting football player too and once considered 1.5 miles "long distance." Luckily your runs times are much more obtainable (at sub 15 minutes) so this will not take long. You just need to do it and drop the weights for a cycle so you can actually get better at running.  A 600lb deadlift workout in the middle of a running cycle will not help you with either optimal strength or endurance / running. Mix in some calisthenics too to work on your muscle endurance (squats, lunges, steps). Your buddy is not wrong. Running 1 to 1.5 mile runs to get used to them is a way to prepare for the test. Maybe even a day in the week where you progress up to and do a steady 3-4 mile run to build your endurance foundation. But you should work on your goal pace running and have a "sprint" day in there to break up the monotony of running training. Consider this for a Classic Training Week for 1.5 mile Running Tests:


  • Warm-up jog 1/4 mile / light stretch
  • Do 1.5 mile timed run (assessment)

Tuesday: (I prefer using a track with this one)

  • 1/4 mile run at goal pace (2 min)* rest with 1 minute walk - Repeat 6 times
  • 1/2 mile at goal pace (4 min)* rest with 3 minute walk - Repeat 2 times

*(You say you need a 15 minute 1.5 mile run - that is a 5 minute half mile or a 10 minute mile pace - to be blunt that is just a little faster than walking. You can do better than that minimum standard. Shoot for at least an 8 minute mile and go for 12 minute 1.5 mile goal pace during your training). That means running your quarter miles at 2 minutes. Keep your maximum allowable time of 2:30 quarter miles or 5 minute half miles (nothing slower than that). As this workout gets easier – keep the time the same BUT add in 20 squats and 10 lunges (no weight) each set to build your leg endurance/muscle stamina. "Exceeding the Standard IS the Standard" - remember that.


  • Steady pace of running for 15-20 minutes OR if you feel you need a break from running do Bike, elliptical, or rowing workouts that are tough on your lungs and heart.
  • Try Tabata Intervals where you sprint for 20 seconds then rest by going slow for 10 seconds for 10 sets (5 minutes). Do that 3-4 times for a good cardio workout.

Thursday: Run and Leg PT - Sprint Day - Open it up and run hard. Then goal is to build your VO2 max on this day and progress so you need little recovery time as possible over the next several weeks:

  • 1/4 mile as fast as you can, squats 20, lunges 10/leg - Repeat 6-8 times
  • Rest the time it takes you run your 1/4 mile each set (1:1 rest / work ratio)
  • Over the next 5-6 weeks try increasing sets and decreasing rest ratio to 50% of your work time.

Friday - Same as Wednesday or take a mobility day off if needed

  • Do non-impact cardio 5 minutes (bike, elliptical, rower, swim, etc) - Repeat 5 times
  • Foam Roll and stretch 5 minutes

Saturday - Long run day.

  • Try to do two to three 1.5 mile runs back to back with 5-10 minutes rest in between.
  • Stretch well.

Read more at Take 2 minutes of PFT Run. You also should be preparing for the PT test too (pushups, situps, pullups) maybe even obstacle courses that will be done during the police academy.  More ideas – See PFT Bible or Classic Week of PT Hope this helps.

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