Pushing the Limit – How Long Does It Take To Run 4 Miles

David Goggins has brought insane running challenges like the 4x4x48 into the spotlight in recent years. And if ultradistances have taught us anything, it’s that humans can push way past mental and physical limits we previously thought imaginable.

But you don’t have to dive straight into 48 miles to push yourself. Starting with something as simple as 4 miles can unveil plenty about your grit and abilities.

So how long should it take to run 4 miles? What can you expect training for and racing the distance? This guide breaks down everything you need to know about pushing your body and mind to new levels over just 4 miles.

How Long It Takes to Run 4 Miles

Let’s kick things off by establishing some baseline paces and times. These will give you an idea of what’s reasonable for a beginner versus an experienced runner.

Average Pace and Times

The average pace for 4 miles falls around 9:30 per mile. This puts the total time to cover 4 miles at about 38 minutes.

However, your speed and finishing time depends greatly on your current fitness level.

Beginner 4 Mile Pace

For newer runners, a common beginner pace is 11:00 per mile. At this speed, you’d complete 4 miles in around 44 minutes.

It’s also very normal as a beginner to mix walking intervals while you build endurance. And there’s no shame in that!

Advanced 4 Mile Pace

More experienced runners typically average closer to 6:45 per mile over 4 miles. This pace brings the total time down to about 27 minutes to finish.

So quite a range! But you can use these paces as goal posts as your fitness improves.

Factors Affecting Your Time

Many variables influence how long it takes someone to run 4 miles. Things like:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Genetics
  • Current fitness level
  • Training specificity
  • Terrain/elevation changes
  • Weather conditions
  • Motivation/mental game

The more you run 4 miles or similar distances, the more you’ll understand how these and other factors impact your times.

Training Fundamentals

Running 4 miles at a pace that pushes your limits requires following some basic training tenets. Let’s overview fundamentals that will help prepare your body to handle the stress.

Mileage Progression

Gradually increasing your weekly and monthly running volume strengthens bones, muscles, connective tissues and more. This allows them to withstand harder 4 mile efforts later on.

A good guideline is to keep your weekly mileage increases at ~10% or less. Your risk of injury soars if you ramp things up too quickly. Patience pays off!

Rest and Recovery

Similarly, listening to your body and taking enough rest days prevents overuse injuries. Make sure to take at least 1-2 rest days per week where you do alternative “cross training” activities we’ll describe soon.

Try to also take 1 rest week every 4-8 weeks where you cut your mileage by 50-75%. This gives your body and mind a reboot.

Periodized Training Cycles

Varying your training focus over set blocks of time maximizes fitness gains too. Below is a simple periodized plan leading up to a 4 mile goal race:

  • Base Phase (6-10 weeks): Higher mileage, aerobic workouts
  • Build Phase (4-8 weeks): Add speedwork, lower mileage
  • Peak Phase (2-4 weeks): Taper to shake fatigue, very specific paced workouts
  • Race Phase: Taper and let fitness shine!

Cross Training Options

While running is great, adding cross training keeps you healthy by working different movement patterns and muscle groups. Here are top cross training choices to supplement your running:

Strength Training

2-3 lifting sessions per week goes a long way. Squats, deadlifts, and single leg moves strengthen running muscles. This helps delay fatigue when pushing hard over 4 miles.

Hill Workouts

Find a good steep hill about 200-400 meters long. Do repeats walking/jogging up for resistance and form work. Downhill running also builds leg speed.

Cycling

Spin classes, road/mountain biking, etc provides aerobic training without the impact stress of running. It also builds leg endurance.

Swimming

An awesome full-body cardio option if you have access to a pool. Develops respiratory muscles and posture too.

Injury Prevention Exercises

Finally, do pelvic/hip, glute, ankle, and core stability exercises 2-3 times per week. These offset muscle imbalances and keep joints happy.

The right blend of cross training makes reaching your 4 mile goals way more achievable!

Gear and Technology

Let’s switch gears (pun intended) and talk about useful running gear and tech that can take your training and race day performances to the next level over 4 miles:

Running Shoes

Having properly fitted, high quality running shoes tops the list. Visit a specialty running store and get your gait analyzed. Expect to replace shoes around every 300-500 miles.

Rotate two different models to reduce injury risk too.

Tracking Devices

GPS watches, fitness trackers, and running apps log key stats like distance, pace, splits, elevation and more. Many sync data automatically to platforms like Strava too.

This data lets you precisely quantify your fitness. Tracking shows if you need to push harder or dial things back during workouts and races.

Safety Gear

Especially for early morning or evening runs, invest in gear that keeps you visible. LED armbands, headlamps, reflective vests, and blinking tail lights on your shorts or shirt help drivers see you.

Staying safe means you’ll confidently push past former limits knowing cars and bikes will spot you on road shoulders.

Fueling Your Runs

You’ll quickly learn that having proper nutrition and hydration around key sessions makes or breaks your 4 mile performances. Here are fueling best practices:

Hydration Tips

  • Sip about 5-10 oz of water every 15-20 minutes the 1-2 hours before your run
  • Take 2-3 gulps every couple minutes mid-run if it’s hot out
  • Weigh yourself pre and post-run – try to minimize losses over 2% body weight
  • For runs over ~40 minutes, consider sports drinks for electrolytes

Best Pre-Run Foods

Eat light, high carb and lower fiber foods that digest easily 1-2 hours before running. Things like:

  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain toast with honey or jam
  • Rice cakes with nut butter
  • Low-fiber cereal
  • Sports gels (for races)

Post-Run Recovery Nutrition

Refuel depleted glycogen stores quickly within 20-30 minutes after finishing runs over 45-60 minutes. Combining carbs + protein accelerates recovery too:

  • Chocolate milk
  • Greek yogurt with berries/granola
  • Tofu veggie stir fry over rice
  • Veggie & hummus wrap
  • Smoothies

Following smart fueling principles gives your mind and muscles the raw materials needed to thrive over 4 grueling miles.

Pushing Your Limits With Challenges

Once you establish a baseline fitness over 4 miles, upping the ante with creative challenges adds extra motivation. Plus, it prepares you for potentially insane future goals like ultramarathons!

Let’s overview a popular 4 mile based challenge and how you can integrate ultra training techniques into your program.

The (In)Famous 4x4x48

This brutal challenge invented by David Goggins involves running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 total hours.

That’s 12 rounds covering 48 total miles. Talk about a suffer fest!

While completing 4x4x48 straight is extremely difficult, you can scale things based on current ability:

  • Run 4 miles 6 times over 24 hours instead of 12 times
  • Do 3 miles every 3 hours for 36 total hours
  • Make your own custom version!

Ultramarathon Training Connections

Interestingly, the 4x4x48 challenge essentially mimics ultramarathon demands. Think hundred milers and beyond.

You need lots of slow, aerobic mileage to build an endurance base. But you also must do heat and hill training that prepares muscles and mind to keep moving on minimal sleep.

So if you love pushing through this 4 mile challenge format, consider lifting your ambitions to 50 or 100 mile ultra distances down the road!

Physical and Mental Preparation

Make no mistake – while the 4x4x48 requires a solid level of fitness, succeeding comes down largely to mental fortitude. Here are tips:

Physical

  • Train running on tired legs
  • Practice faster turnover strides
  • Strength train 2x per week

Mental

  • Meditate daily
  • Try visualization and mantras
  • Break runs into smaller chunks

Support

  • Have friends and family cheer you on during challenging periods
  • Ask them to assist with nutrition/gear needs

Race Strategy

  • Plan 4 mile route(s) in advance
  • Map out pace goals per segment
  • Expect low periods and walk when needed

Committing to smart physical and mental preparation gives you every opportunity to push past former excuses and limitations.

You got this! Now get after it.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this guide gave you lots of useful info on benchmark paces for 4 miles along with training, gear, fueling, and challenge tips that’ll help you crush new PRs.

Just remember that you alone control your effort and perceived limits – so be patient yet consistently push yourself every day. The breakthroughs will come with time and smart execution.

Now pull up your shorts, lace your shoes tight, and hit those roads my friend! 4 miles awaits…

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