When we are new to the sport of running, the smallest victories are major accomplishments. This includes things like even getting off the couch to being able to run a 5k without stopping. But the more seasoned we become at running, the better we want to become at it. That means going from feeling like we are jogging to having a faster average pace. But just how do we become a faster runner?
It’s simple: a lot of hard work.
Runners have good runs and bad runs. Even the most elite runners can tell you this. And becoming a faster runner won’t happen overnight. Sometimes a good run can result in some impressive numbers. But it’s consistently keeping a faster pace where the runner can proudly say they run something like a sub 30 5k or an 8: 15-minute mile.
Run Often, But Run Fast
In order to become fast, the runner has to run fast. This sounds obvious, but consistency is key here. It’s good a have a fast training run once a week, but this should be happening every week so that by the end of the month, the runner can start to see results by shaving time off their 5k time, for example.
A great way to start is to run a 5k timing yourself. Then each week do one to two tempo runs, which includes a warm-up, then a pace that is slightly above the comfort level (you can’t talk, but not gasping for air), followed by a cool down. Also add in a fartlek workout at least once a week. Fartlek, which is the Swedish word for speed play, includes sprinting for a short period of time and slowing down a bit to recover. This isn’t structured like with interval training, but rather doing things like running fast to a stop sign and then pulling back to a comfortable pace.
Another way to become a faster runner to is train on hills. A hilly run is a killer for a beginner since it takes more endurance to be able to climb to the top. But after building up a solid base when it comes to running, it’s time to challenge yourself and add the inclines.
Running hills strengthens the runner’s legs. It really works the muscles, and as a result, causes the runner to be faster when on a flat course. Hills calls for more efficient running. It is the equivalent to running sprints on a track, but safer since there is less risk of injury since the body is in proper form when climbing up the hill.
Another great way to become a faster runner is to add in long runs. How long is a long run? This depends on the runner. For some, running 5 or 6 miles is long. Others who are training for a half marathon consider 9 or 10 miles long after training for a few weeks. Marathoners and ultra runners consider anything 16 miles plus to be a long run.
But since we aren’t talking about training, listen to your body and increase your mileage slowly. Pick one a day week for a long run, adding a mile more each week. Try this for a month. Start off with a 4 or 5-mile long run, then add a mile each week. Then do a timed 5k run again and compare the time from the first trial run of the month. Chances are, the runner will be faster.
This is because long runs build stamina and endurance. It strengths the legs and starts conditioning the body to run on tired legs. This makes the runner stronger, and as a result, faster.
It’s also important to strength train to increase the average pace. Running is a full body workout. Runners need a strong core to keep them in proper form. The arms are used to pump back and forth which helps make the runner faster. Strength training helps to have the body stronger. It works out other muscles that aren’t as emphasized when running.
Studies found that powerlifting can improve endurance, and other studies found that plyometric (explosive movements like squat jumps) workouts were linked to more efficient running. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that strength training increases sprint speed, improves race time and running economy.
Just remember that getting faster takes time. Put in the hard work, and the runner will see results.
How To Do Speed Work
Speed work is necessary during runs to become faster. But what does this really mean? Often called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), runners should sprint with race pace for about 400 meters and then recovery for at most 400 meters. Then repeat. The shorter the recovery time, the better the run and thus faster the runner becomes over the course of a few runs this way.
Speed work is made for running on the track. Runners can focus on 100-meters at a time, going full force then pull back to a jog or even walking for two minutes. Runners can spring the straightaways, the straight stretch of the track, then use the curves for their recovery. Start with 6x 100 meters and each week increase to 8 x100 meters, then get ambitious with 8 x 200 meters.
Just be mindful that running fast increases the risk of a potential injury. Make sure that the runner warms up and stretches before to avoid pulling a muscle, cramping or other injuries. It’s also a good idea to first work up a base first, so new runners shouldn’t start with speed work.
Training Program For Speed
The idea is that running with hard effort and thus faster than we are used to during runs makes race day pace feel easier. It creates a faster runner.
A training program for increased speed should include short distance with speed intervals. This improves running economy. This means the amount of oxygen-filled blood pumped through the body increases, and the muscles become better at using it. Because the muscles are oxygenated, the runner becomes more efficient.
To start, the runner should do one speed session a week and then two per 10-days.
A training program for speed should include the one high-intensity interval run, and “easy” pace run and a long run. Do the speed run on the track, trail or road, or on hills.
For trail or road running, run an easy pace then pick up the pace for 20 to 30 seconds and then pull back to recovery and repeat. Another method is to run easy for two minutes, then run at a medium pace for a minute, and fast pace for 30 seconds. This strategy prevents a running pace rut, increasing heart rate and building stamina.
For hills, run moderately up a hill and repeat. Aim to have 20-second climbs.
5k Training Schedule For Speed
For intermediate runners increasing speed for a faster 5k finish time is possible in as short as eight weeks. Following a running schedule like one created by Hal Higdon consists of five days of runs and two rest days.
A week of training includes an easy 3-mile run, followed by either an interval run or tempo run, which is at a pace that is 25 to 30-seconds slower than 5k race pace. Then comes another 3 miles easy run with a rest day after. Resume again with either a 3, 4 or 5-mile fast run depending on which week, with the longer mileage associated with later weeks. The final run of the week is a long run that ranges from 5 to 7 miles depending on the week.
This program also includes a 5k test on the fourth week to test progress as well as a 5k on the final week with the conclusion of the program.
Another strategy is to combine running with HIIT workouts to build speed, power, and strength. This includes running 1 minute at an easy pace with 1 minute of sprinting for a total of 10 minutes. Immediately after start with 10 push-ups and 50 jumping jacks. Repeat this 4 times. Then plank for 60 seconds. This is the first round.
For found two, shorten the run times to 30-second of easy pace and 30-seconds of sprints for ten minutes. Then do HIIT moves like high knees and jump squats in 4 times repeats, and a 60-second plank.
The final third round goes back to a 1:1 runs for ten minutes. Finish up with different moves like mountain climbers and sit-ups, and end with a plank.
Another way to increase speed is to add speed drills to a run. Add speed drills at the end of an easy run. Do not do these during a long run because there is no energy left to push faster when needing to go the distance.
Speed drills consist of moves that focus on form. These are exaggerated movements that increase the range of motion and help to make the feet move quicker. Incorporate moves like butt kicks, high knees, and straight-leg shuffles to the end of a run.
The Right Gear
Thick and heavy running shoes can weigh a speed chaser down. That’s why those who are competitive and looking to become the fastest runner they can be should look into lightweight running gear. Start with the right shoes. The best lightweight running shoes include the New Balance Zante V2, the Hoka One One Cavu and the Adidas Adizero Boston.
Along with lightweight running sneakers, the runner also needs breathable socks like the Accelerate Running Socks that are made in part by organic merino wool for temperature control and chafing prevention. These socks also assist in preventing injuries like plantar fasciitis thanks to its compression-fit.
Other lightweight gear includes moisture-wicking running apparel that is airy and breathable. Depending on the weather, runners might also need to invest in a lightweight running jacket and moisture-wicking running hat.
Remember that it takes time with consistent running to increase speed. Combining long runs with interval sprints and running hills all contributes to becoming a faster runner. Follow a training program to keep track and plan runs in advance.
- 7 Ways You Can Run Faster in Your Next Race, Jason Fitzgerald, Active.
- What’s the Difference Between Fartlek, Tempo, and Interval Runs?, Jenny Hadfield, Runner’s World.
- Want To Run Fast? Run Uphill, Marc Bloom, Runner’s World.
- Can Strength Training (Really) Make You a Faster Runner?, Jason R. Karp, Ph.D., Active
- 3 Interval Training Workouts for Speed, Cindy Kuzma, Active
- Track Workout Tips: Intervals, Repeats, Ladders, and Learning Track Terms, Lauren Keating, RunnerClick
- 5 Speed Workouts Every New Runner Should Try, Jennifer Van Allen, Runner’s World
- 10-Week Training Program To Boost Your Speed, Eric Orton, Women’s Running
- SPEED WORK FOR MARATHONERS, Greg McMillan, McMillan Running
- 5K Training: Intermediate, Hal Higdon, Hal Higdon
- Killer Full-Body HIIT Workout, Running On Real Food
- How to Run Faster – Top 7 Speed Drills, Runner’s Blueprint