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How to calculate running times for various distances

May 24, 2018

The following method is a rough guide to calculating how much time it will take to run a particular distance. This popular method, known as the 4 second rule, gives an idea of the sort of times a runner might achieve in a race. It is useful for anyone whose been following the easy running plan or any plan based on time rather than distance, although the calculation requires at least one measurement of time taken to run a specific distance. To measure a distance on your regular running route use an online route planner.


The 4 second rule works on the basis that as distance increases the runner will have to run more slowly. Each 400m covered adds 4 second to the time so, as an example, if it takes 3 minutes to run 400m the time used for calculations would be 3 minutes 4 seconds.


It can be difficult to find a measured 400m unless you visit the local running track and it may be easier to time a run over a measured mile. Since a mile is around 1600m just divide the time taken to run 1 mile by 4. This gives an approximate base 400m time to use in the calculation.


Running 1 mile in 10 minutes is roughly equivalent to running 400m in 2 minutes 30 seconds. (since 1 mile is approx 1600m and 1600m divided by 4 = 400m). So the base figure for 400m is 2 minutes 30 seconds. To use this to calculate longer distances add 4 seconds to give 2 minutes 34 seconds. Having applied the 4 second rule we can assume every 400m takes 2 minutes 34 seconds to run.


With this example the 5km target would be calculated in the following way: 400m x 12.5 = 5000m (5km). Our 400m time (including the 4 second rule) is 154 seconds or 2 minutes 34 seconds . So 154 seconds x 12.5 = 1925 seconds or 32 minutes 5 seconds. The runner covering one mile in 10 minutes could target 32 minutes 5 seconds for a 5km race.

7 responses to “How to calculate running times for various distances”

  1. VIKAS SHOKEEN says:

    I,m 200,400m runner plz help me ,my next meet after 3week ,my timing 200-22.8,400-49.60
    plz help me

  2. Juan Ortiz says:

    Ex marathoner 3.29 hrs. Knees problems since then (1982). I quit since then. Now at 59 y old. I would like to run again. I started very easy programs as a begginer and they start to bother me again. I ive in Mexico city.
    Please advise.

  3. beginrunning says:

    @Juan – 3.29 was great going! Not sure what to suggest as it depends on what’s causing your knee problems and what steps you’ve taken so far.

    Your knee pain could be caused by a variety of things and best way of identifying the cause would be to visit a physiotherapist. In addition to a diagnosis they’ll also be able to offer therapy that can help ease the symptoms and exercises to correct imbalances. It could be something as simple as the wrong type running shoe or it could be more complicated. With expert advice and treatment you should enjoy pain free running. Good luck

  4. willie says:

    hello ima cross country runner i havent been running for about a 3 1/2 weeks ima due to a minor shin split that is all done with know,
    any recomend mileage on 800 work out i understand base training but not really when to stop the distance? when could speed work start?
    if you could give me a base work out or atleast mileage i should be doing weekly… please and thank you ! 🙂 how much cycling can i include into my week ? mileage perhap or time ?
    pr 5K 18:05 crosscountry pr 17:32 mile 5:20
    triathlete and runner.
    then again thank you very much.
    your time is apperciated:))

  5. beginrunning says:

    @Willie – Don’t think I can be much help here! I expect you’ve addressed the cause of the shin splints so the problem doesn’t recur.

    Recommending a base work out / mileage is tricky since everyone is different, and I know nothing about tri 🙂 However you can start speed work at any time (assuming your injury free) and if your focussing on 5k you could try 18 – 30km weekly. The following variations around the one long, one short tempo and one mid per week might be a place to start:
    Long – Between 9 – 12k
    Short (tempo) – Between 3 – 8k
    Mid – Between 4.5 – 6.
    Can’t suggest anything for cycling though.

  6. saroj khatri says:

    hi, actually i have to run 2 miles in 11 minutes and i am also a smoker but not a heavy smoker.and i have only 20 days more to start the tournament so, could you please give me some suggestions. i will be very happy.thanks

  7. beginrunning says:

    @saroj kharti – 20 days is a short amount of time for big improvements in speed and it depends on how fast you can run 2 miles now. 2 miles in 11 minutes is quite fast and with that target time I expect you’re already familiar with maintaining fast pace over that distance. You should be able to run further than 2 miles and have been doing some slow 3-4 mile runs as part of you routine. You would also need to have included intervals at shorter distances (around half a mile) regularly. Perhaps the important thing is not to overdo any training between now and the tournament to ensure your fresh on the day (i.e. not trained hard the day or two or three before!), to be adequately hydrated before the run and not to go off too fast but stick to your own pace. Smoking is obviously an issue, even if you don’t smoke much. Stopping smoking brings big gains surprisingly quickly. HTH