Feats of human speed and agility have been one of humanity’s biggest fascinations throughout human history.
Since the ancient Olympic games we have wondered at the human body’s ability to move with grace and power, and little has changed in the thousands of years since.
While much has changed, our fascination with physical fitness hasn’t waned!
Our ability as runners is believed to be descended from our prehistoric need to be able to chase prey during the pre-agricultural ages when man still hunted for his food.
Scientists believe that while humans weren’t the quickest runners of these times, we had the unique ability to outrun almost any other animal, and it was this endurance that would allow us to exhaust our prey and hunt successfully.
The combination of endurance and relative speed is something that the human body is almost unique in being able to deliver, however, in the modern age our interests lean more and more towards demonstrable improvements in speed, especially as we are now able to track our progress like never before.
Fitness trackers, running apps, and pace charts are all useful tools for tracking your speed while running, however, these can also be misleading as there are many factors that affect running speed and they are almost always slightly different each time you run.
In this guide, we’re going to give you an idea of how fast the average person can run, as well as some key information about what factors affect running speed, and what you can do to improve your running speed.
How fast can humans run?
The first place to look is at the world records held by the fastest human runners of the day.
Usain Bolt holds the record for the fastest man in the world over 100 meters, and he managed to complete this distance in only 9.58 seconds, which is a speed of nearly 45KPH.
The fastest female over 100 meters is Florence Griffith-Joyner who has held the record for 30 years, with a time of 10.49 seconds, not very far behind Usain Bolt at all!
But these are what are known as outliers, extreme examples set by some of the most gifted and unique human beings in history, a combination of physical attributes and disciplined training that most human beings can never hope to obtain.
For a more general, long-distance type of running the average speed for men is thought to be 8MPH, and for women, 6.5 MPH, a far cry from the blistering pace of sprinters over short distances.
This type of speed is however more akin to how humans are predisposed to run, covering great distances with incredible endurance.
Average Mile Time for Runners
A good way to determine how fast the average person can run is to look at average timings for running a mile.
For a person who is a non-competitive runner but in relatively decent shape, a one-mile run will usually take around 10 minutes on average.
Someone who is totally new to running will take between 12 and 15 minutes, while elite runners can run a mile in under 5 minutes on average.
This indicates just how variable the different speeds are.
In general, the average running speed for a human being is 10 miles per hour at a relatively steady pace.
What Factors Affect Your Speed?
There are many factors that affect your speed, and in this section, we’re going to highlight these so you have a better idea of what is contributing to and getting in the way of your progress.
Improper footwear for running will have a huge impact on your running speed. A good pair of running shoes will give you traction and comfort, protecting your body from the repeated heavy impact of your footfalls on the floor, allowing you to push harder without suffering from pain that will slow you down.
Running shoes often have supportive soles and are breathable too to help keep you cool while you’re running.
While clothing doesn’t have as much of an impact as footwear it can play a part. Modern compression socks, compression shorts, and compression shirts can help support your muscles and prevent injury as well as assisting performance and preventing lactic acid build-up, all of which will help improve your performance and keep you cooler, helping you to push harder.
Your weight will play a part in your speed, as generally the heavier you are the slower you’ll be.
Even if you’re all muscle, there is a point of diminishing returns where too much muscle reduces mobility and flexibility which will slow you down.
This is the reason why most runners are lean and relatively small. Sprinters are slightly different but that’s because their running style is more explosive and requires more power, i.e more muscle.
Cardiovascular endurance is one of the biggest factors and will determine how long you can run continuously. This is something that can be improved, and also get worse depending on your level of physical activity day to day.
The mentality is a huge factor in being able to run fast, and they often say that the mind almost always quits before the body.
In short, this means that people are more likely to quit than they are to physically exhaust themselves, so having a tough mind and good willpower will enable you to push harder for longer.
What Can You Do to Run Faster?
The biggest thing you can do to improve your speed is to increase your cardiovascular endurance and power.
Do this by running regularly, and mixing in spring training or interval training to develop your anaerobic fitness as well as your aerobic endurance.
Hill sprints are a great way to build muscle and speed over shorter distances and can also massively improve your recovery time.