Learn How To Run Faster
The eternal question of every runner is ‘how do I run faster?’
And it’s an interesting one, because although we know we’re not going to be winning the London Marathon or breaking records for the 10k, there’s a part of us that still wants to know ‘what am I capable of?’
Let’s face it, most of us would continue running even if we knew for a fact that we were never going to get any quicker.
But there’s a certain joy in pursuing something, and nobody can take that away from us!
3 Principles Of Faster Running
A few years ago I decided that I wanted to run a marathon under 3 hours, but with the constraint that I would only run twice a week.
This restriction forced me to focus on the training and support that was going to most efficiently lead to faster running. And although it’s not necessary to limit your running frequency so drastically, the principles I adopted will serve you well if you apply them to your own training.
Principle #1: Find Your Threshold
Go to any race and within the first few miles you’ll begin to see bodies scattering the verges and pavements, as over-enthusiastic runners stretch out cramping hamstrings and stop to catch their breath.
Maybe you’ve even been there before yourself. You hit a pace you feel you can hold, but after a few minutes of increasing discomfort the pain gets to severe and you’re forced to slow down.
Inside your body, your cells are furiously trying to keep up with the demand you’re placing on them, and in the process they’re producing copious amounts of lactic acid. This isn’t a problem at first, as you are more than capable of handling a bit of lactic.
But the longer you hold this frantic pace the quicker you produce the lactic by-product, and eventually it begins to accumulate in your blood with potentially hilarious consequences to the casual observer.
The solution to this embarrassing problem is either a) don’t go out so fast (sensible advice) or b) spend time before your next race working on your lactic threshold.
Threshold running isn’t especially pleasant, but if you want to get faster I promise you won’t find a more efficient training system to get you there.
Try to hold around 8-8.5 out of 10 on a 1-10 intensity scale, where you’re just about able to say 3 or 4 words at a time (without swearing) for a few minutes before dropping down to a recovery jog and then repeating the process 3 or 4 times over.
Build in a few weeks of this and your PBs won’t know what’s hit them.
Principle #2: Talk to yourself… but don’t listen
One of the things that separates elite runners from us mere mortals (along with their superior genetics and bulletproof work ethic etc.) is their ability to tolerate discomfort.
You probably already noticed that the faster you run the more it hurts. And when the pain picks up so do the voices in your head that say ‘slow down and it won’t hurt any more!’.
Yes, it’s perfectly normal to have a full blown argument raging inside your head to accompany you when you run!
One thing is for certain: you will have moments of doubt when you’re pushing yourself. You’ll try to bargain with yourself, try to justify your imminent decision to slow down.
You’ll wonder why you’re doing this, and possibly even throw in a few reminders that you’re not cut out for this ‘running faster’ business.
Anticipate this. Acknowledge that the voice will pipe up because it’s there to try and keep you safe. But instead of listening to yourself, decide in advance to talk to yourself.
Mantras, affirmations, or even just a set of responses to answer the questions you know you’ll be asked can offset can buy you time in the faster running zone.
In training, these stolen seconds of extra pace practice will translate to greater physiological returns when you eventually grind to a welcome halt and rest.
Training isn’t all about ‘no pain, no gain’.
But most of us will quit mentally long before we’re physically out of gas.
Set your intentions ahead of time and commit to building a strong mind as well as a strong body.
Principle #3: Get Strong
Most runners run because they love to run. But faster running requires a stronger body, and you can’t build that just by running.
Adding in some kind of body conditioning routine to your schedule will pay dividends over time in two important ways.
Firstly it’s going to help keep you clear of annoying, unnecessary niggles and injuries which means fewer missed training days.
Secondly, your increased strength is going to help you power up hills and move your legs faster for longer. It will also help you to maintain a strong posture right through the dying embers of the race when everybody around you is bent double and pounding into ground with every step.
You don’t have to commit to hours in the gym to reap the benefits. Short, sharp body weight circuits can have a positive impact. You can do these as stand alone workouts, after a training run, or slip in ultra-short (e.g. 5-10 minute) workouts first thing in the morning to prime your body for the day.
“It’s not the distance that hurts, it’s the pace”
– George Anderson
If you’re looking for a structured approach to becoming a faster runner without having to run every day or put in monstrous miles each week, take a look at my Intelligent Running programs.
These 3-run-a-week schedules formarathon, half marathon and 10k have helped hundreds of runners get faster over the last few years.
If you’re unsure where to start with your body conditioning, take a look at my free 14 day core training program the Plankathon.
I also have a collection of short, sharp workout programs that would be a great starting point if you’re looking at a more rounded approach to body conditioning
You may have noticed that the inner voice we spoke about earlier doesn’t just show up when you’re running. For some people it’s a constant and unwelcome companion which can be frustrating and impact on your enjoyment of life.
Learning how to understand this internal dialogue and manage your thoughts so they don’t control your actions is central to long term behaviour change.
This is one of the most common areas that I work on with my private coaching clients. To find out more about the way I work, take a look at this page.