How to Run Fast

Today I wanted to chat a little bit about running fast. [Sorry, it’s a very running-based post…] I am not an expert obviously. I am not even that ‘fast’. Firstly, it’s a tricky thing to really define how fast fast is. Speed is relative. When I first started running I was running 10 minute miles on the treadmill like it was my job. Four times a week, 5 miles, 50 minutes. Done and dusted. It felt tough. But I didn’t push the speed, I just kept going at that pace because that’s what running was to me back then.

Then I changed jobs and lost my lovely little gym at my old work. So I started running outside. Hang on a second! Where’s my speed button?? Where’s my incline button? It all became a little less formalised. Just running, pure and simple. I found I naturally ran faster than my treadmill slog. I was hitting 9 minutes, and 8.30 minutes if I pushed it.

Suddenly I discovered how much I loved running.

Treadmill

But I still ran around 5 miles four times a week. Some days I’d see it as a good workout as I’d hit around 8.30 min/mile average. Some days I’d see as a bad workout (9 mins/mile). And that was that. A tick-box affair if you like.

Since reading blogs, magazines and running with other people I discovered the key to running faster. There’s this special drink you have every morning and night… kidding (damn I wish there was a drink – or cake, I love cake). How do you run faster? You run faster. Simple, right?

Yes but it’s painful, it generally sucks, and I pretty much hate it the entire time.

Here are some of the workouts that you should try and incorporate to increase your running speed:

  • Fartleks
  • Intervals
  • Hill repeats

Last year I dropped my mileage and started running a couple of times a week 2-3 miles with regular bursts of random speed – 100% effort, absolutely blasting it for a short period of time. Then slowing it down to recover for a minute and then repeating. This is fartlek training (Swedish for ‘speed play’ – ha biggest joke ever; that implies it’s fun!)

Dropping from 20ish miles a week to under 10 miles and suddenly my speed on a normal everyday run was boosted. It was amazing.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough. But it’s only tough for short periods.

Since my irksome injury, I’ve lost of a bit of speed as I couldn’t do any effective speed work without causing myself further issues. It’s amazing how quickly you lose speed when you stop trying. Now, however, I’m back in the game and ready to play ball.

Tuesday nights at my running club are the training nights. Usually I only go to the Thursday sessions which are just nice medium runs (6-8miles) at brisk pace. But I know I need someone to yell at me to do some proper training. So this Tuesday were hills repeats.

It was 300m jogging downhill, then 300m sprinting flat-out up hill, then 300m jogging flat, then 300m sprinting flat. We did that entire sequence five times. Doesn’t sound like much, but seriously it killed me. We only worked out for 30 minutes but I was toast.

I kept saying to the girl next to me: surely this is the last one, right??

We also do intervals. This is basically a more formalised version of fartleks, usually on a track. This is when you have an exact distance planned that you sprint flat-out for (e.g. 100m, 200m, 300m, etc.) and then an exact distance or time of recovery (say 800m recovery, or a minute). And you repeat this a certain number of times.

Again, like fartlek is all about a sustained hard effort for a period of time, with a length of recovery. The recovery is just as important as the speed. It allows your body to, well, recover and then be good to go again.

Over time, the speed of which you were flat-out a few weeks ago will feel a bit easier. So you rank up the speed again. The intensity of the speed helps your muscles work more efficiently and gets used to higher speeds.

Basically the aim of these sessions is that they feel hard so you’re normal runs feel easier. And your normal runs become faster.

There are other runs you could incorporate, like tempo runs, but I’ve gone on a fair bit already. I guess you must know by now then when I start talking about running I find it hard to stop! I know running isn’t for everybody but it’s what I live and breathe. I am trying to find more of a balance – reading Kat’s blog helps me see the other side Winking smile Strength is so important for running as well. You need the power in your muscles to allow the speed to happen.

Like I said, I’m not an expert and will never pretend to be, but I hope this has helped anyone who needs it!

If you have any questions, let me know! Or if you have any tips and tricks yourself, please share!

Do you enjoy running? If not, what are you passionate about?

What’s your favourite run? Mine is definitely the ‘long run’. Easy pace, big distance.

What are you up to this weekend? We have a weekend of nothing planned. Bliss.

8 thoughts on “How to Run Fast

  1. Great post- I totally agree to run faster you have to run faster. But that is easier said than done. You are way faster than me, but I have still managed to speed up a lot this past year, and running with other people is what has helped me- first of all with Sweatshop, then with Andy on longer runs, and then with Parkruns too. My favourite run is a long gentle run as I can just get into a rhythm and just enjoy the scenery or my podcast or whatever, but I find that short sharp runs like Parkruns can be super tough but I enjoy those a lot- they give me more of a high after I think as they are tougher so the reward feels greater if that makes sense?
    The only thing I have planned this weekend is barcode scanning at parkrun, and dinner at Andy’s parents on Sunday evening., so a weekend of relaxing 🙂

    • I’ve found running with other people is such a good motivator. It really pushes you more than you would on your own. You can slack off a lot more on your own!
      I love my long run best as well – losing yourself in a nice gentle run with a podcast is definitely a winning scenario. Parkruns are tough but, like you said, good for speed and also working out pacing for racing. I really enjoy the atmosphere and catching up with the regulars.

  2. Nice post. I’m not speedy at all, but I noticed a big difference in my times when I started incorporating speed work. I always run a lot slower than I’m capable of during recovery runs and long runs, but I do a mid distance tempo run where I push the pace once a week, and a short interval session on the treadmill once a week and I noticed a big difference in my speed and endurance. I also noticed I got a lot speedier when I was strength training more. Favourite run has to be the long run, no pressure, just chilling out and getting in the zone! I’m resting up this weekend as I have a half on Monday! Have a great weekend!

    • I think it’s important to have those recovery and slow runs – even just mentally it helps knowing not every run is going to be tough! Tempo runs are tough because at least with intervals it’s over fairly quickly, but tempos seem to go on and on.
      Hope you’re run goes well!

  3. Hmmm how about just running without dying? Can you write up a post for me on that? 😉 Just kidding. I do sprints a lot since I need speed for soccer in short bursts. I love incorporating hill or incline sprints that way I get some resistance!

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