Ultimately the goal of any runner who wants to hit a competitive goal, from breaking a 2 hour half marathon to nailing a sub-15 minute 5k, will have to work on having quicker feet. Running faster is hard work and can sometimes become frustrating. Here are four key elements to becoming a speedier runner and hitting your next racing goal.
Form. Running faster than you currently do is hard work. It’s even harder if your elbows are swinging way out, you’re heel striking or breaking at the hip. Developing proper posture, a mid-foot landing and solid turnover can be the first step in running faster. Having good form should be the base of any quality program and since we all move a little bit differently, it’s a good idea to get together with a coach for a gait analysis before making any drastic changes.
Turnover. Moving your feet faster, increasing cadence and stopping overstriding will help two things. First it can decrease your risk of injury. Increased turnover can help stop heel striking, meaning your foot spends less time on the ground, and it’s hard to get injured in the air. Second, it can make you faster and more efficient. Elite distance runners have an average cadence or step rate of 180 steps per minute reaching upwards to 220spm in elite sprint races while less experienced runners can hover around 165. Getting out there with a metronome to help you find your current beat then trying to stay on it as you increase the speed for several 100M striders is a great way to start upping your turnover and get used to running faster.
Power. The more power you put into the ground with each step, the more will be returned to your legs for the next one. Strength training is the best way to build power. Exercises like box jumps and jump rope mimic the muscle needs you have when running. Sit-ups and push-ups are great for posture and mid-line stability. Sprinting up hills and squatting under loads (with supervision) will build legs that are ready to race.
Practice. To run fast, you have to run faster. If you want to run a 2 hour half marathon, 9:09/mile pace, you’ll need to spend some time training faster. Building VO2Max, improving form and increasing turnover all come from getting out there and pushing yourself hard. Interval and tempo sessions are the best way to work on these things and need to be included in each week’s training plan.
Find a coach to help you get started and you’ll be running faster by the end of this training cycle.