How To Run Faster

I started running at the start of 2010, and for the next couple of years, I generally ran at the same speed, no matter what distance I ran. I assumed that, with practice, I’d get gradually faster over time, and while this was true at the outset, it plateaued after a few months. Sometimes I’d run faster than other times, but it wasn’t because the distance was shorter, it was just that I happened to run a bit faster that day. I eventually settled down to running at a pace of around 08:30 a mile, give or take 10 seconds either way.

I’ve had a couple of past attempts at running a marathon, although when I say “attempt”, I didn’t actually get to the start line either time. Ill health the first time put paid to my attempt, and the second time it was a combination of burnout and my wife’s time-consuming training for a Moonwalk. I stopped running regularly at the start of April 2012, and started again 2 days after getting my plaster cast off in April 2013. During that year’s break, I ran 11 times in total.

When I started running again a couple of months ago, I couldn’t run more than 2 miles. Pretty pathetic. However, 9 weeks later, I ran 15 miles with ease. And when I say “with ease”, I’m meaning with more ease than I had ever run 15 miles before.

How did I do that?

Well, I finally did what all those training guides told me. Instead of just running at the same pace all the time, instead I did different types of running training. Before, up until April 2012, what I did was a long (more than 6 miles) run on a Sunday, and during the week, I’d do 2 “short” runs (6 miles). So for example, 6 miles on a Tuesday, 6 on a Thursday, 12 on a Sunday. All at the same speed. When I tried to increase the miles on my Sunday runs, it was tough, especially on my legs – major pain, cramp etc, for the last 2 miles at least. Not pleasant at all.

Since I started running regularly again 2 months ago, there’s a couple of things that are different, and the types of running I do is one of them. I still do the long run on a Sunday, although I’m now doing it in the morning – this doesn’t make any difference, incidentally, I just thought I’d mention it. However, it’s the runs during the week that are different.

Instead of ploughing another 6 miles twice during the week, instead I’m doing anywhere from 2.5 to 4 miles for each run, either faster than my Sunday run, or doing something resembling intervals or fartlek. I’ll be honest, I’m probably still not doing the intervals quite right yet, but I’m giving it a go, and I’m reasonably close to it since I’m running faster then slower over and over again.

The speedier runs really are quicker, too. It hasn’t taken me long to make a difference, either – I’ve run 5km now @ 7:38 per mile pace, and today I run a 10km under 50 minutes. That’s a major achievement, as I would normally struggle to get close to 51:30, and would normally be slower than that. But today, I nailed the 10km with 22 seconds to spare, and the 2nd half was into a 19mph headwind too, so it wasn’t an easy run.

It’s not all because of the different running training, mind you. I’m doing a lot of cycling, mainly because I go to work on my bike now. I put in a minimum of 65 miles per week just getting to work and back, and add to that if I go to the shops, play squash, get my haircut etc. But the daily cycling to and from work is making a significant difference too, I feel, because it is making sure that I am having proper exercise 6 days a week.

This therefore makes Saturday my rest day. And I tell you, I need it, too. Each Saturday, I’m usually pretty spent and don’t do a hell of a lot. But considering I’m averaging about 90 miles per week between cycling, running and walking the dogs, I think that day’s rest is just as important as the other 6 days.

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