How can I run faster? This is a question I am asked regularly. It is also something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I have ran faster in the past, and I know what I need to do to improve, so whilst I start the journey to improve my speed I thought I would share my tips. As always I share this caution, these are my tips based on my experience, nothing more. If you find this helpful then share with your friends, please also add any other tips in the comments to help others. If you don’t, then don’t read it again… simples.
Firstly speed is relative
When I say I’m not that fast I sometimes get funny looks, or told that I am. I am running better, stronger and more consistently than I ever have, but I’m slower, and there are many reasons for this (mostly because I haven’t been doing most of the below for about 5 years). It doesn’t matter where you are starting out from, how fast you run now, there is always going to be someone faster than you. Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to the best version of you.
Know your target distance
When thinking about running faster it is worth considering what distance you are aiming for. It is true that whatever distance you are aiming for it will have a positive impact on other distances. For example if training hard to run a 10k, your 5k and half marathon times are likely to improve. This is why many people find themselves getting PB’s across a range of distances. However, it is worth considering your main target and tailor your training accordingly. If wanting to get fast at 5k you will be doing shorter speed sessions. If training to improve your marathon you might use a 5k as your speed session, but will be running further. You want to adjust the speed and intensity according to the distances you are aiming for. The training Usain does for 100 or 200 metres will be very different than Mo for 5k and 10k. Mo’s training for the marathon will now be very different, and Dean will approach his 100 mile races differently.
Yes, it may sound obvious, but to run faster, you need to run faster. I find running shorter but intense sessions really help your speed. If your body is used to the intensity for shorter distances, the speed then feels more manageable when you get to race day and run slower for longer sustained periods. I am a fan of fartlek (speed play) and found this very easy on the treadmill. I have not done much track but this is a good way to do intervals or fartlek. Just remember the shorter the distance the faster you can push. You can get benefit from running at race pace, but if trying to increase your speed then choose shorter distances and go as hard as you can for that distance. I often like picking 5k and just pushing as hard as I can. This may mean you risk slowing towards the end, but it’s all part of your improvement.
If you want to run faster then get comfortable with the distance. This leads back to knowing what distance you are aiming for. As you get used to running longer distances this helps improve your speed for shorter distances. It makes sense if you think about it, if you are regularly running half marathons, then the 10k distance will feel more comfortable, so go and push yourself. One long run a week is perfect, but separate your long run and shorter fast runs. I keep my short runs fast and intense, but my long runs slow and steady.
Run more often
When you start running it is easier to make gains, whether that is running faster or further. Running at that pace gets easier but if you want to continue improving then it gets harder. To keep making improvements you will need to keep pushing harder; the faster you get the harder it will be to get faster. To #pickupthepace after your initial gains you will need to run more often. It is true what people say, you get out what you put in. You will notice that the faster a runner is, in general, the more miles they will be running each week. Putting more miles in sees results. Mix it up with your long runs, shorter intense runs and some tempo runs.
Especially before race day, don’t forget to REST. It may not feel like it at times, but a key part of improving is resting. You need to give yourself time to recover tired muscles. This is why you taper when it comes to race day, to ensure that your body is prepared to deliver. Give yourself a chance in training to recover, take rest days, rest weeks… don’t worry about losing progress, this is all part of the plan.
It was only a matter of time before I mentioned pacing right? But it’s true, when you get to race day a key to going faster is to get your Pace right. I have wrote a blog about “Getting your Pace right” which you can read HERE. The best way is to keep a steady pace. In training it may feel hard to run at race pace but on race day you will find the pace easier. At the start of a race you risk going off to fast, remember one question: “can I keep going at this pace until the end?” If the answer is yes, maybe you can go a bit faster, if the answer is no, then perhaps slow down, if the answer is maybe, then this sounds about right. When pushing to your limits there will always be an element of doubt.
Run with a Pacer
If you have a specific target and there is a Pacer to match, then let them worry about the pace. They are there to motivate you and keep the pace steady, so these are often a great help in races.
You want to run faster? Then prepare for discomfort. Getting your Pace right will help avoid this, but if pushing yourself it will likely feel hard. It is different depending on the distance, the longer distance will tire your muscles, the shorter distances will be intense and are going to be hard, it is going to hurt. Keep pushing to the finish line.
On race day just remember your training. Remember what your are capable of. When your mind starts telling you to slow down, when you think you can’t do it, remember your body is more capable than you give yourself credit for. Your mind will give up before your body. Have confidence and go and do it.