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 earning quicker feet. With my current long term goal to break a 1:30 half marathon a ways away and a 20-minute 5k a little closer (this year?), I definitely spend time working on running faster. Here are my four key elements of training to get faster.
Form. Running fast 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 quick turnover were the first things I worked on to start getting faster. Better form immediately made a positive difference and that’s what I spend time every day doing things to make sure it stays solid. Mobility and drills specific to my body’s needs on that day, where I’m sore, what was tight on my last run, etc., all add up to a quality default running form.
Turnover. When I used to run on the gym treadmill, I’d notice a difference between what was happening when I was warming up and what happened when I was working hard. Turned out it was the change in my turnover rate when running faster that caused these changes. When my stride rate increased my heel striking stopped, my posture improved and my hips opened up. Learning how to maintain a stride rate of roughly 180 steps per minute was a challenge and I use at least one workout each week to keep improving because it lowers my risk of injury, makes me more efficient and a faster runner whose head doesn’t bob on the treadmill anymore.
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. I owe Crossfit a lot of credit for helping me become a stronger, more powerful and efficient athlete. Deadlifting, squatting, box jumping and hammering away at those double unders have undoubtedly made me faster.
Practice. To run fast, you have to run faster. If I want to hit that 1:30 half marathon, I need to spend some time running faster than the required 6:50/mile pace. I’m not built for top end speed but I still spend one workout a week chipping away at it. Building my VO2Max, increasing my turnover even if only for one mile at a time and getting comfortable at higher speeds all add up to my running faster.
How do you work on running faster? Speed work, strength work or both?