minutes per mile blog

tips for becoming a faster runner

Good morning! I’ve received a few emails lately asking about training plans and whatnot (spring race season is upon us, guys!) so I thought I’d take a break from street furniture and sunrise photos today to talk about SPEED. If you’re looking to pick up the pace, here’s what’s helped me become a faster runner over the years. (Keyword = YEARS. This stuff does not happen overnight!)

  1. Go to the track. Obviously, you’re not going to get faster until you start trying to run faster! When I ran my first marathon in 2009, I had no idea what I was doing and trained by simply running longer and longer distances at the same pace. I finished in 4:00. As I was training for my second marathon, I tried swapping out one regular run for one track workout a week. And then I finished my second marathon in 3:40. Related: Average length of a track workout, Rest periods during track workoutsCruise-interval track workoutsamerican_discovery_trail_marathon_colorado
  2. Change it up. One track workout a week will get you far, but if you’re serious about getting speedier, you’ll probably have to throw in some other tough workouts in your weekly training plan, too. When I was training for my last few marathons, I aimed for 2-3 hard/fast runs a week (with a one easy/rest/recovery week thrown in every five weeks or so). A peak training week would look something like this: Sunday off, easy run, or cross train; Monday 6-8 mile tempo or fartlek run; Tuesday easy run; Wednesday mid-week long run with a fast finish/striders at the end; Thursday track; Friday off, easy run, or cross train; Saturday long run. Those weekday speed workouts were tough (especially by Thursday, when I had to run on tired legs), but they definitely paid off! Related: TLT runs, strider workouts, hill workouts.0917150640
  3. Sign up for short races. This is something I definitely don’t do enough — but I wish I did! I know that I can push myself pretty hard during a solo track workout or tempo run around town, but nothing gets my feet moving like a real race :). When I had a running coach he encouraged me to sign up for a number of 5ks, 10ks, and one-milers to boost my speed. purity_dairy_dash 10k 2015
  4. Cross train. It seems silly to think that not running  can make you a faster runner, but it’s true! Somehow I seem to run less and less each training cycle and cross train more and more. And then my race times improve. I have no idea how it all works but I just know it’s true. For the past few training cycles I’ve been to the gym 1-3 times a week and focused mostly on Pilates-like exercises that target my core, glutes, and hips. Related: TRX for runners, yoga and running, strength exercises, bosu ball exercisesbosu_russian_twist
  5. Make fast friends. I think this is my favorite fast tactic of late! Since I moved to Nashville I made two really good running buddies who happen to be juuuust a little bit speedier than me. When I finish a run with Lizzie or Katie I’m always surprised to see my Garmin results — I must really like these girls because otherwise there’s no way I’d keep up with them. Having fast friends lets you push the pace without even realizing it because you’re having fun and chatting away. 0815150739_Burst04

And that’s all I’ve got! Bonus tip #6 is to go easy on yourself and have fun. Because really, life is too short to stress over your Strava account 😉

  • What’s one tip you’d give to runners trying to get faster? (Bonus tip #7 from me would be to relocate to a hilly city like Nashville)
  • Slowest race time? Fastest? (Slowest marathon is 4:00 in 2009; fastest is 3:20 in 2015)
  • Least favorite race distance (I hate 10ks!)

14 thoughts on “tips for becoming a faster runner

  1. I definately want to get faster and I want to break 4 hours for the marathon! I just set a PR in the half (1:58) on Sunday, and I hope to beat that at my Leipers Fork race in June. I think I’m going to try out some of these tips-thanks!

  2. Great tips! I’m currently training for a half marathon and have four runs scheduled a week (and 2-3 cross training) and am trying to decide if I should switch out one of the runs for cross training. I’ve done better in half marathons just running 3 times a week, but I’m trying to boost speed and my 4th run is speed work. Always a balance to try and figure out what works best! I also need to sign up for shorter races! I’ve never done a 10k–kind of intimidated by it.

    • do the 10k! i recommend the purity dairy dash — it’s flat, cheap, and really fun. :). i’d stick to 4 days a week of running, maybe — but go at that speed work with everything you have!

  3. This is great! I also ran my first marathon a little over four hours, and then after staying rigid with my track and tempo workouts, took off nearly 25 minutes from my first marathon time. Speed work is hard but it makes all the difference!

  4. I totally agree about moving to Nashville! I moved almost 2 years ago and training w/ fleet feet & Run 4 Others has helped me find good running friends and it has helped me so much. Some have even paced me to my PR’s! I also do 1 speed workout, long run, spinning, a class one day and then brisk/moderate run on Thursdays! I modeled some
    Fleet feet spring stuff w/ your friend Katie!

  5. Mary, are you on Strava? I’d love to give you kudos!! Ha. I find it helps me stay competitive to go after segments. I’d agree that some take it too far though.

    • i am! just request to follow me (mary_lambkin). i don’t really update it or add any notes, but it syncs with my garmin

  6. 1. Definitely get to the track or , if it’s too much on your body, alternate track week with tempo week. You can’t run fast if you are injured!

    2. 24:08 – 5k (June 2013); 21:42 5k (Sept 2015)

    3. 10k and I have one on Saturday😬