ARMY ACFT | How to Improve Your 2-Mile Run

Are you seeking how to improve your army ACFT 2 mile run time? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I served over 20 years on active duty. So, understand the APFT and ACFT 2-mile run mechanics. In addition, have run 9:27 for the distance and 2:19:35 for the marathon. No, these times didn’t happen overnight. That being said, what I discuss in this post will help speed up your progress.

Remember, it isn’t about the volume of mileage you are doing as much as it is the quality. I have known many Soldiers who never ran as fast as they wanted. Why? Well, they simply were not training specifically enough. The goal here is to improve your body’s lactate tolerance. So, you are teaching the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream. The faster you are running the more lactic acid is produced.

How you handle it will determine how long you sustain your goal race pace. Pacing issues is a common problem I have seen far too many Soldiers making. For example, if your goal is to run under 12 minutes for the 2 mile hitting the first mile in 5:25 is not the answer. You will go into oxygen debt and pay for it in those last 4 laps.

Army ACFT 2 Mile Run Time

So, you have to be more strategic in how you set up your training. A major issue I have seen with many Soldiers is unit PT is simply not set up properly. Yes, we are very good at flipping tires, doing low crawls and push ups.

The facts are you don’t build cardiovascular stamina by doing running once or twice a week during unit PT. I have seen a lot of Soldiers who are forced into doing mandatory anaerobic training without first laying a strong aerobic base first. Running once or twice a week does not equate to great Army ACFT 2 mile run times. Again, it is a personal choice whether you want to be average, good or great over 8 laps. My hope is that this post will help you become great implementing top strategies the best runners use.

How badly do you want to succeed over the 2-mile distance? Have you considered yourself not much of a runner in the past? My question to you is how much effort do you commit to running fast over the Army ACFT 2 mile distance? I can promise you that running once or twice per week is not sufficient. You have to be willing to run at least 4 times a week to make significant gains.

I have been running for over 30 years. So, I don’t sugarcoat my advice. You are either fully committed to improving or you are lukewarm. We have three choices in this life and that is we can be average, good or great. It is a personal choice only you can make.

Why is the 2-Mile Run in the ACFT?

The Army ACFT 2MR is stated to be conducted to determine the Soldier’s aerobic endurance. It is really an anaerobic test to see how strong your cardiovascular system is. Remember, the 2-mile is a highly anaerobic, not aerobic event. The event is only 8 laps around the track. The marathon is a highly aerobic (with oxygen) event. So, you have more time to make and correct mistakes you make in the marathon versus the 2-mile run.

Army ACFT
MAJ(ret.)Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place at the 2007 California International Marathon

The Army ACFT involves several events that are highly anaerobic in nature. Yes, you do still need to be in great aerobic shape as well. That being said, you have to have both endurance as well as stamina to run a fast 2-mile time.

The world record for men was set by Daniel Komen of Kenya who ran 7:58.61. Komen is the only man in history to have ever broken the 8 minute 2-mile barrier.

The world record for women is 8:58 by Ethiopian Meseret Defar. Defar is the only female to have ever broken the 9 minute 2-mile barrier. Yes, these athletes are insanely talented but also extremely disciplined.

We, as Americans, are very soft. We have fast food and have far too many other distractions that keep us from being as good as we could be.

How Do I Train for ACFT 2 Miles?

Run More

One of the single best ways to get better over 2 miles is to start running more mileage each week. No, running once or twice per week with your unit is not enough. Again, is your aim to be average or great? Is it to drop several minutes off of your Army ACFT 2MR time? If so, you are going to have to do more than what your platoon does. Yes, I spent some time doing “mandatory morning PT”. I hated it. One, we spent damn near most of the time just counting exercises.

Wasted time which could have been spent running. Of course, I get the team bonding and reasoning behind the instruction. That being said, I was a runner since the age of 15 and far before I enlisted into the Army at the age of 25. So, morning PT was not conducive, in my opinion, to running fast over 2 miles. Soldiers are putting in a few miles during the week but not enough. I was running a minimum of 6 days a week and usually 7.

So, I ran faster than most Soldiers due to my consistent mileage I was putting in. Once of the best things you can do is study what the best middle to long distance runners are doing. You will get similar results. You have to build a strong foundation of easy, aerobic mileage before you start doing sprints and faster runs.

Build a Strong Aerobic Base

The problem I saw many Soldiers and their platoon leadership making is running too fast too soon. I also saw far too many Soldiers falling out of formation. Military PT is great as it pertains to team training. That being said, the 2-mile run requires more than just repetitive counting exercises during warm-up and cool-down. Soldiers are disciplined and motivated individuals. So, we know how to work hard. My goal with this post and the resources here at RunDreamAchieve is to help you to start working smarter.

Have you had pacing issues in the past during your 2-mile run? If so, the time to start working on improving this starts today. Mandatory morning PT is not sufficient. Yes, you will still get a great strength workout working out with your platoon in the morning. That being said, running is going to require more work than you are currently putting in.

Soldiers usually do an easy run broken into pace groups during their normal work week. You may also have an additional run placed in within the week run at faster paces. Perhaps, a fartlek workout where you run slow and fast. Is this enough? Twice per week? Of course, if you want to be average.

Longer Durations Spent at Your Anaerobic Threshold

Your Army ACFT 2-mile run time will drop significantly by doing tempo runs. Tempo runs are spent running at or around 85 to 88 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your anaerobic threshold is the point where lactic acid starts to build up in your blood stream. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past? 1 mile? 3?

I would recommend working to the point where you can run anywhere from 4 to 5 miles at your anaerobic threshold effort. Again, you have to be strategic in how you prepare. I have ACFT 2-mile run training plans here at RunDreamAchieve. In addition, am working on a ACFT 2MR running course to ensure you succeed as a military member.

Pace sustainment is a major problem many Soldiers have. Yes, they may be able to hold their goal race pace for 3 to 5 laps but have problem in the latter laps. Again, we want to get better at lactic acid clearance. Running easy will burn fat but will not improve this capability. Faster running will. Remember, it takes between 21 days to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress load you are placing on the body.

So, the benefits of the training you are putting in today will be seen several weeks from now. Be patient.

Faster Long Runs

Long, slow easy running produces long, slow runners. One tactic I used to lower my 5K down to 14:18 was introducing faster, long runs into my routine. It also helped me to lower my 10 mile time down to 50:54 and marathon from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. So, I know it can help you as well. Remember, you have to first spent about 3 to 4 weeks running easy, aerobic mileage first.

I would recommend adding in strides twice per week during your aerobic base building phase. Strides are too short to build up any significant lactic acid. The secret here is you will have spent several miles or kilometers at sprint paces doing strides. In addition, you can do these on top of your hill workouts, speed training sessions and other running-related training during the week.

Below are some examples of the types of faster, long runs I would recommend for runners seeking to break 13 minutes for the 2-mile distance.

  • 1 mile warm-up, 2 miles@6:45 mile pace, 1 mile easy JOG, 1 mile in 6:10, 1 mile jog cool-down
  • 1 mile warm-up, 4 miles@6:50 mile pace, 1 mile JOG, 1 mile in 6:05, 1 mile jog cool-down

JOG on Easy Days

A major mistake Soldiers make is running too fast on easy days. In addition, running too slow on their planned harder days. How do you know what pace you should be running at? I would recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245. Easy pace, depending on the age of the Soldier, should be around 130-145BPM (beats per minute).

Remember, you get all of the benefits from the rest period, not from the workout itself. Google the word “Supercompensation”. Study that training principle. I can promise you that your Platoon Leader or Sergeant more than likely has never heard of it. Thank me later. So, using the tactics in this post as well as using the Army ACFT 2MR bootcamp course, soon to be released, will help you destroy your previous 2-mile run best.

Yes, you have to stress the energy systems of the body properly and often enough. That being said, you also have to have the same discipline to slow down and jog on your recovery days to adapt.

Speed Development

I recommend doing one vo2 max workout per week. Your vo2 max is your body’s maximum oxygen uptake. You are running between 95 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate at this effort. Also, running to fast you can’t clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Naturally, we need to take breaks between our speed intervals because of this.

The key thing to remember here is the faster you train the easier your Army ACFT 2-mile run pace is going to feel. So, you want to train at significantly faster than your Army 2 mile run race pace. Examples of speed workouts I recommend doing to get faster over 2 miles for someone seeking to break the 10-minute 2-mile barrier are the following.

Reminder, these workouts are to be conducted only after the Soldier has built a strong base of mileage first. You cannot rush fitness. The body always adapts but takes time to do so.

  • 1 mile jog warm-up, 16x400m@73-76 seconds with 60 seconds to 2 minutes rest between reps (more rest when not fit, less rest when very fit), 1 mile cool-down
  • 1 mile jog warm-up, 4x800m@2:22-25 with 60 seconds to 2 minutes rest between reps (more rest when not fit, less rest when very fit, 1 mile jog cool-down
  • Jog warm-up (1 mile), 20x1minute hard/1 min east running at 5:00 mile pace during hard efforts, 7:00 mile pace during easy recoveries, 1 mile jog cool-down
  • 1 mile jog warm-up, 12x300m hill reps (all out up, walk down for recovery), 1 mile jog cool-down

Mental Training

Do you want to distance yourself from the other Soldiers in your platoon? Start implementing mental rehearsal into your routine. I recommend spending 10 to 15 minutes each visualizing yourself succeeding. You have to see yourself achieving what you want in your mind before it will ever occur in reality. I wanted to run under the 2:22:00 marathon barrier while I was still in the Army. A sub 2:22 marathon is 5:25 per mile pace for 26.2 miles.

The problem was in 2002 I was a 2:43:36 marathoner. How does a Soldier go from 6:14 mile pace to 5:25 mile pace? Combining both physical as well as mental preparation into their routine. I ended up holding 5:19 mile pace for 26.2 miles and running 2:19:35 instead. Mental preparation was a major component of how I did it. I also ran 9:46 for 2 miles in high school and 9:27 for 2-miles as a collegiate athlete prior to enlisting into the Army.

Mental training is one of the most overlooked components of running succeed. Soldiers rarely, if ever, use it, respectfully. The best times to do this is when you first get up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. So, see yourself crossing that finish line with your goal time on the clock.

Longer Long Runs

Remember, it isn’t just about faster long runs but spending longer periods of time on your feet as well. What has been the longest long run you have done preparing for your 2-mile AFCT event? 5 miles? 7? I would recommend working to a point where you can do 8 to 10 miles. The longer you run and build that aerobic strength the easier that 2 mile run is going to feel.

Again, the average Soldier will not put in the extra work. I mean that with all due respect. Running is not fun for most. That being said, it is not fun for most because they simply don’t devote sufficient time to make it so. People that are great at what they do are that way for a reason. They will do the work that most others are unwilling to do.

Again, if you stress the body adequately and properly you will get significant results. What happens if you run too slow too often during the week? Well, you will be in great physical shape but not superior anaerobic racing shape. There is a major difference between the two. The longer you can spend running the easier that 2 mile run is going to feel. Remember, consistency is key. Also, training at, near and far below your goal Army 2MR goal time.

Commit to Long Range Goals

Soldiers already know how to do this. I mean your running goals. Have you never ran a 10K or are considering running your first marathon? Do you have as your goal to make it to the Army World Class Athlete Program (www.armywcap.com) unit? If so, I hope that the ideas and strategies will help you get there. There are many Soldiers who have heard about the All-Army Team.

There are far fewer who know about the Army WCAP unit I had the opportunity to be a part of from 2007 to 2010. No, it is not easy to get accepted into. You will need to obtain a USA Track and Field national ranking in order to gain acceptance. Of course, Soldiers have different goals. Perhaps yours is to lose weight and drop 2 minutes off of your Army ACFT 2-mile run time.

Write down your goals. The majority of athletes do not do this. Hold yourself accountable and remind yourself daily of what you are training your legs to do. Again, to run fast over 2 miles you have do more than what the average Soldier is doing. Sadly, not enough. You can change that using these strategies.

How Do I Prepare for the 2-Mile Army Run?

I would recommend focusing on a 16-week build up. I have 2-mile training plans here that range from 8 to 16 weeks in length. My recommendation is longer rather than a shorter build up. The reason is that you don’t want to rush the process. We usually have our Army ACFT tests twice per year if you are on active duty like I was. Of course, if you are in the Army National Guard or Reserves, depending on your unit, you may only do one once per year.

Remember, it takes between 21 days to 4 weeks for your body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on it. So, you don’t want to jump into doing anaerobic sprint workouts before you have first build a strong aerobic build up. Yes, a lot of times Soldiers don’t have a choice. Let’s face it, it is mandatory morning PT most of you are dealing with. So, you don’t have a say in the workouts you want to do. It is the job of your platoon leader and/or sergeant to orchestrate that for you.

The good news is you do have control of the running you put in during lunch or after work. So, make use of that time accordingly. Again, you are not reading this post written by your “average Joe”. I don’t write that to sound cocky. I, too, have been humbled by runners too and have been outrun by some of the world’s top runners. What I recommend is studying why the best runners make it look so easy. I have given you some clues in this post. You are more than welcome to visit the about page if you would like to know more about my military and athletic background.

Focus on Personal Development

Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there each week to help both military as well as civilians get to the next level in their running. One of the best things you can do to improve your run time is listen to those who have done what you are aiming to do. Also, you can speed up your learning by duplicating the tactics used by the top runners.

No, I didn’t get to the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) overnight. I enlisted into the Army in 2002 and didn’t become a member of the unit until 2007. So, I had many setbacks along the way. What kept me going was much like why you are seeking excellence, goals. I wanted to see what I was capable of and I was willing to do the work. You wouldn’t have read this far if you wanted to be average.

Closing Thoughts

So, I hope that this post has given you some additional tactics to add to your toolkit. It is a brief overview of the much more in-depth topics I cover in the Army ACFT 2MR bootcamp course, soon to be released. Make sure you are hydrating well during your long run on the weekends. In addition, during the week. You will most certainly need to focus on this if you are in hot and humid conditions. I spent three years at Fort Sam Houston. So, understand this well.

Of course, you can make use of the treadmill during extremely hot conditions. Yes, you more than likely will have to do this during lunch or after work. Again, most Soldiers don’t have the luxury of doing PT on their own. So, make use of your time accordingly. Remember, keep the treadmill incline on 1% to equal running outdoors. Don’t try running through an injury. My recommendation is to consider pool running to ensure you have no impact on your joints.

Get plenty of sleep and fully commit to this and you will start dropping significant time off of your AFCT Army 2 mile run time. Lastly, make use of the resources available to you here at RunDreamAchieve. I have painstakingly taken time to build courses and plans to help Soldiers as well as civilians get to the next level with their running.

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