Lots of people wonder how to run faster, with both weekend warriors and couch-to-pavement runners looking for ways to shed some time and get through a workout faster. But it’s not something a person can just do by digging deep one day, expecting to see improved splits consistently.
As an avid runner who has completed one full marathon and at least 15 halves, even when I was regularly getting in five miles, 3-4 times each week, I wasn’t able to shave minutes off my total time. While I never allowed it to frustrate me too much — my 7:50/mile pace was just fine with me — I often wondered how to run faster without completely changing up my life.
Was I going to have to eat better? Did I need to hydrate more often before and during runs? Was my body type going to hold me back from maxing out? I saw all these guys with a similar frame around my same age burning up the pavement, so why couldn’t I?
That’s when I decided to mix things up a little bit, break my routine and figure out the best way to better my time — which has led me to a consistent 7:05/mile pace. Since it takes more than just playing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” on repeat to find the motivation to push through a workout, here are some tips that worked for me.
Your Checklist For How To Run Faster
1. Fuel Up
In my situation, I just wasn’t eating enough before a long run to really impact my body. Instead, I was relying on mental strength to get me through those tough routes, hoping I could push my body to its max in order to finish strong. Boy, what a mistake.
If you really want to know how to run faster, do your body a favor by taking care of it with proper fuel. That means getting the right carbohydrates about an hour or so before pounding the pavement, and drinking at least eight, 8 oz. glasses of water for those warmer days. I suggest things like peanut butter sandwiches, pretzels, lightly-salted potato chips and, of course, pasta. Depending on the length of your run, decide what the best amount is for you.
For you runners in extreme heat or humidity, add about four more glasses to your pre-run routine, because you better stay hydrated when you’re losing all that sweat as you deal with the elements.
2. Have The Right Mindset
We’re always our own worst enemies, and, when it comes to working out, it’s a common theme to see people get down on themselves if they just don’t have the energy on a given day. Guys, that’s OK — and completely normal.
Personally speaking, when the weather was 60-something and sunny, the only thing on my mind was to go for a run. It didn’t matter if it was 8 a.m., I knew that, when I had time later in the day, I was getting my workout in. Problem is, my mind didn’t always cooperate with that plan once the time finally came.
If you really want to learn how to run faster, you need your mind and body to be on the same page.
Sure, you’re going to have to push yourself to achieve your goals, but if you’re struggling to find the motivation to even get started — or are nursing an injury and just aren’t physically capable — there’s no shame in taking a day or two off before heading back out there.
3. Attack Those Hills
Now to the real nitty gritty, where you’re on a run and have a choice to make: Do you walk the hill in front of you, lightly jog up it, or attack it with all your will? Assuming you want to run faster, you already know the answer — attack the fuck out of it.
In my experience, I was able to go from that 7:50/mile time I mentioned to a consistent 7:05/mile time by pushing myself when the inclines came. It hurts. It’s miserable. It requires dedication. But if you’re looking for faster mile splits, you can either take the easy route, or you can take the hard one; and it’s going to take grit to accomplish this goal.
Be aware of your own limitations and don’t feel bad if you have to slow down or walk, but, if that does happen, have mini targets in your mind — like visually giving yourself a spot to hit before walking, or pushing yourself to run until the end of a song. That gives you small goals that allow you to build off of.
4. Speed Drills
Nobody likes speed drills. It doesn’t matter if you’re with a couple friends, or in a big group, when it comes to running sprints, it’s never fun. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to run faster, it’s a necessary evil.
This means getting yourself to a nearby track and running 100-meters, 200-meters and even 400-meters as fast as you can. It means getting to a football field and pushing yourself to do the 40-yard dash. It’s increasing the speed on a treadmill every last quarter of a mile. And it’s just sucking it up and making yourself finish strong each time.
Since most of us don’t have a parachute to use for resistance — as worn by pro athletes like Saquon Barkley during workouts — the above suggestions are the best ways to practice speed drills. They’ll build strength in your legs, get your heart pumping and improve overall endurance. And, while you may not immediately see the benefits of sprinting when it comes to shaving seconds or minutes off your mile time on longer runs, it’ll pay dividends over time. Remember, practice, patience and discipline. Just trust the process, guys.
5. Recover Effectively
Your body is a temple, and it needs to be treated as such. It means you should eat the right stuff before running (as mentioned above), but it also means going through the necessary steps to recover as quickly as possible as well.
Following a run, the first thing I typically do is stretch for about five minutes. It allows my body and mind to cool down with some classical music, helping me get back to center the right way.
After that, I usually drink about two, 8 oz. glasses of water, and, when available, eat either a handful of pretzels or potato ships — just to replace some carbs and salt I lost during my run.
Finally, I listen to my body the rest of the night and proceeding days, which gives me the ability to access when, and for how long, I might run next. This is one of the most important things to remember when learning how to run faster, because, if your muscles are sore or achey, you won’t be at your best. Remember, don’t push yourself for the sake of self-competition, because the ultimate goal is progress, and it takes time and discipline in order to see it.
When I started running competitively, I went from a 9:42/mile pace to an 8:20/mile pace to about a 7:55/mile and so on. It took years to achieve that, and, now 17 years later, I’m consistently at that 7:05/pace.
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