Running Faster

Navigational Art
Navigational Art by Colleen Yorke. 2015.
How do I get faster?  Chances are most of us are running over the same roads or on the same treadmill at the same speed every day, engaging the same set of muscles every time.  In order to get faster, however, our metronomic muscle memory will need stimulation.  Steve, a sub-seven pacer,  told me that the key to running faster is to run as fast as we can for however long we can.  Here are some suggestions what we can do to increase our speed: 

(1)  Strides: After one or two of our runs during the week, we accelerate for 15-20 seconds on a flat stretch of road.  As we approach our top speed, we gradually decelerate back down to a jog, repeating this four to six times, taking a minute or two between repeats to catch our breath and get ready to go again.   (Note: The strides should not be all-out sprints but short accelerations.  Primarily we should focus on running 'fluidly, ' getting up on our toes and lifting our knees a little more than we ordinarily would while covering ground quickly and comfortably.)  

(2) Fartlek: Swedish for “speed play” – is a series of faster pickups with a recovery interval in between to be done once a week. The length and speed of the pickups, as well as the recovery intervals, is totally up to us. For this,  we pick an object in the distance - a telephone pole, parked car etc - and run towards it faster than we normally would.  When we reach our chosen destination or start feeling fatigued, we fall back to a light jog or even walk until we recover and then repeat the process all the way home.  

(3) Hill Repeats:  Running up a hill forces us to get up on our forefoot, lift our knees, and drive our arms to propel ourselves forward.  We should aim to run tall and plant our feet under our center of gravity while taking short, quick, powerful strides.  This workout engages lower legs, hamstrings, hip flexors, core, and lower back when running uphill—it is essentially weight lifting for our legs.  We get fit—fast!  

(4) Track work:  We should introduce weekly track workouts into our training schedule only after strides have become regular routine and we’ve had some fartlek workouts and hill sessions.  Ideally, we warm up with a mile or two of easy jogging and then perform a set of four to six strides before we set out to two to three miles’ worth of intervals ranging from 200 meters (1/2 a lap of the track) to one mile (four laps) and run them at our goal 5K race pace or even a few seconds per mile faster.  

To run faster we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.