How I’m Becoming a Faster Runner

I’ve had a few requests for a post like this, although I definitely don’t think of myself as fast so feel like a bit of a fraud. With that said, my speeds have been improving gradually over the past year.

It has definitely been gradual- when I first started running my splits were usually between 10-10.30min miles. In fact, I prided myself on running very consistent splits. Right now though I’m teaching my body to run faster consistent splits, and am aiming for sub 9min miles for the Berlin marathon in a few months time.

Here’s what I’ve been working on to improve my speed;

No more junk miles 
I’m actually running less often than I have done in previous marathon training cycles, but this time around all of my miles have a purpose. Whether it’s a shake out run to get rid of lactic acid, the classic long run, speed work or a tempo run- there’s a reason behind every mile. I’m also adding additional warm up miles to each run- they were always my slowest mile of each run, so planning in a half or full mile warm up mean that my first real mile is on target pace.

Running with Faster Friends 
I used to be scared and embarrassed to run with friends that were faster than me, worried that I would slow them down and annoy them. I’ve since realised how ridiculous that is, I don’t mind running with friends that are slower than me, so why would the speedy legs mind slowing down to run with me occasionally?! I know that I originally increased my speed a year or so ago after running with friends and talking while we ran, that then translated into running faster when I wasn’t talking!

Cross-Training
I love trying new classes, and recently I am loving taking Boxing classes at my gym. They’re fab for cardio and strength work. I really noticed during the Paris marathon that it was my core that let me down and needed a lot of work. I am concentrating on strengthening my core, through Reformer Pilates classes, as well as exercises at the gym. I’m completing weekly workout sessions that target my arms, legs and back too. Additionally I am loving including walking, hiking, cycling and other cardio activities (like rock climbing) as part of my training.

Speedwork 
Including speed work, including 400m, 800m and KM repeats, at a pace where I feel a little (or a lot) sick at the end is helping a faster pace while out on longer runs feel normal. They are great for building physical and mental strength, plus running without music or other stimulation helps focus on my breathing and pacing.I know these sessions will help me kick the pace for the final 800m of the Berlin marathon.

Mental Strength
Having confidence in yourself is crucial if you want to get faster. You have to believe that you can do it, both in training and during a race. You also have to be aware that it will be painful- a new PB isn’t going to come easily. It’s meant to hurt. If I don’t feel a like vomming when I cross the finish line of a race then I know I wasn’t pushing hard enough. You can’t give up, even if you might not meet your main time goal, you keep pushing to get as close to it as possible. ‘If you think you can or you can’t, you’re right’. After the Paris marathon, where it took a lot of mental strength and determination to keep pushing through the final mile even after I knew that I’d missed my time goal, I feel that I am much more aware of how much mental toughness comes in to play, and know this can be one of my biggest strengths.

Running Faster
Quite simply, I am pushing myself to run faster. Yes it is uncomfortable to run faster, but the more you push yourself, the more your body will get used to running at that speed. I sometimes balk at speeds that I am supposed to run my splits, particularly during a progression run- a 7.30min mile at the end of a 6 mile run is hard, but it’s worth it.

I love getting your emails and am happy to answer any and all questions that I can. My email is charliewatson88@hotmail.co.uk if you want to get in touch or ask questions in the comments section!

12 Comments

  1. 29th July 2014 / 8:41 am

    I need to work on this, I’m going to really try ot get faster for barcelona. I struggle with the mental strength, but you are right it’s easier with others. I’m looking forward to running with you on Sunday speedy!

  2. 29th July 2014 / 8:56 am

    Charlie, this is a great post. I am making an effort to work on all of these things too to get faster – the parts about mentally getting stronger and simply accepting the pain that comes with working harder especially resonates with me. I recently moved to London; will send an email!

  3. 29th July 2014 / 12:41 pm

    I was really looking forward to that post! Thanks for all your precious advice.

    • 11th August 2014 / 7:48 am

      no worries lovely!

  4. 29th July 2014 / 2:56 pm

    Hi Charlie, I found your site today as we started following each other on Twitter.

    Pleased to meet you and I love your blog!

    As a keen runner myself, I found this article great. I totally agree with your comment “To run faster, you must run faster.” It sounds silly but when you’re training, that’s exactly what you need to do. Run a mile slightly faster than you’ve ever done before, then run 1.5 miles and then 2 miles faster than you’ve ever done before. Eating clean and getting miles in the bank will obviously help but ultimately it comes down to trying that little bit harder.

    Great site, I’ll drop by more often. All the best.

    Paul

    • 11th August 2014 / 7:48 am

      Thanks for your lovely comment Paul.

  5. 29th July 2014 / 4:18 pm

    Fantastic post! It really speaks to my own experiences with increasing my speed. I’ve been setting new PRs these past two years by focusing on fewer quality runs (mostly following the Run Less, Run Faster training plans) and incorporating more cross-training and strength training. I used to be a very consistent, comfortable runner. But now I kind of enjoy the challenge of a hard run and like knowing I’m pushing myself to my limits. Lots of luck at the Berlin Marathon — it’s a fast course, so I’m sure you’ll do great!

    • 11th August 2014 / 7:49 am

      Thanks Mandi, I’m really looking forward to Berlin! Love the Run less, run faster approach and certainly one I’d follow in the future.

  6. 29th July 2014 / 10:46 pm

    This is a really good post. I was hoping to have a good training period for Berlin and smash my pb (4.31) which I think is achievable with a half pb of 1.59, and 10k of 53mins. I never seem to have had a great marathon, and with my training being all over the shop thanks to injury, I’m now just aiming to get round Berlin. I can’t do any speedwork right now which is really frustrating, as it definitely is the way to go to get quicker.

    • 11th August 2014 / 7:50 am

      No matter what you will smash Berlin just by turning up… lets organise beers for afterwards!

  7. Anonymous
    30th July 2014 / 3:14 am

    Great Post Charlie! I’m going to start making more of a plan to my runs and get some cross training in. Thank you!

    • 11th August 2014 / 7:50 am

      Thank you! Having a plan for most of your runs will really allow you to make the most of them, but make sure you include some fun runs so you don’t stop loving your runs!