Ask Stew: What Running and Rucking Paces Do You Recommend for Various Military Jobs?

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Paratroopers assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade participate in a 12-mile ruck march during Expert Infantryman Badge on Caserma Del Din. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Henry Villarama)

Running or rucking in the military should not be a surprise to anyone preparing to join. In fact, you will be glad you are a good runner, as it will be helpful with all physical fitness tests and the follow-on military training you must attend as you prepare for your profession within the military.

From basic training or boot camp to more advanced-level training on the special ops side of the military, the pace at which you run and ruck matters, depending on your job. Here is a question from a young man preparing to serve with hopes of finishing Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection.

Hey Stew: Do you have recommendations on the pace I need to get my runs (and rucks) down to for various timed events? Should I be able to run a six-minute mile pace for every distance? What about rucking pace and weight? What do you recommend for longer runs and rucks? I want to be prepared to hang with the best runners, but I also want to be logical with how to train.

Thanks, Roger.

Roger -- great question. There are a few different paces you need to know to be a competitive special ops-level student. The list below are recommendations made to be an average to above average runner for any job in the military:

In the conventional side of the military, there is still a need to run well, but that also depends on the job you select as your specialty. For instance, if you are in the Army or Marine Corps infantry, being a capable runner and a durable load bearer are both important.

Many soldiers and Marines are top-notch runners and can max the run, a six-minute mile, and ruck 50-pound backpacks faster than a 10-minute mile. However, jobs less physically demanding do not necessitate any expert level in these events, and, to be truthful, any above-average running pace is largely dependent on the individual's physical abilities.

There are many conventional troops in the military that are excellent runners and physical fitness test takers, but if the job does not require it, it is largely achieved through their own efforts and initiative in training regularly.

On the conventional side, depending on your age, a good running pace to master is a seven- to eight-minute mile, and if you are required to ruck, power walking with a load at 14-15 minutes per mile is sufficient.

If you are seeking to serve in any special ops program, the need to achieve a higher level of running, rucking and even swimming in some cases is needed. In fact, being a cardio machine for all three methods of travel is very important to your success during training and beyond.

Consider the following running paces for special ops fitness tests:

  • 1.5-mile run: A six-minute mile or nine-minute, 1.5-mile timed run is pretty much standard in most special ops programs that use this distance as part of their cardio endurance assessment. (Navy/Air Force)
  • 2-mile run: A six-minute mile or a 12-minute, two-mile timed run is also an above-average score for special ops-level runners preparing or taking competitive fitness tests to get selected. However, times up to 13 minutes are still considered good for this test.
  • 3-mile run: The Marines and Air Force Special Warfare officer candidates have a three-mile event, and this one requires more time running to max. The six-minute mile is still the gold standard for the three-mile timed run to score an 18-minute run time. However, 19 minutes is still acceptable, though just know there will be many applicants capable of 18 minutes or faster.
  • 4-6 miles or more: Anything in this range, the ability to maintain the above six-minute pace is very difficult for the average special ops candidate. Only a few in the class will pull this pace and distance during selection.

    A seven-minute mile pace is still above average for timed runs like the four-mile run at SEAL training or the five-mile run at Ranger School. The minimum standard for both is an eight-minute mile, and you want to be as far away from the minimum standards as possible when striving to be part of the 20%-50% that graduate the various special ops training programs.

Rucking: My advice on rucking is to determine a strategy for success. You should experiment with three different paces. A fast-walking pace with a ruck should reach the minimum standard of a 15-minute mile pace. However, a power walking stride should push about a 13- to 14-minute pace, with moderate weight of 50 pounds.

There should be a fast-paced shuffle method you master. There will also be times when your pace needs to be faster and in the nine- to 10-minute per mile range to meet the competitive standards. Some of these rucking events take three to four hours or more, so understanding a strategy to get you from A to B without being too slow or starting out too fast and burning out is the key to pacing yourself during these events.

The key to preparation is to practice the two paces you need to achieve in both short and longer distance events. Focus on the shorter, faster paces if the timing is urgent to achieve a certain score to get accepted into a program. Then, slow the pace for longer runs and build up the mileage volume over time to get to your desired pace and distance.

Learning a fast pace and a sustainable pace will help you with the many running and rucking opportunities in your future journey, so take enough time to prepare adequately.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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