Try the following:
- Have a solid base. Before you work on picking up the pace, it’s best to have some endurance. Make sure you can run at least 5-6 miles comfortably before worrying about your speed.
- Do speedwork. If you want to race faster, you have to train faster. It sounds simple but it’s true. Doing regular tempo runs and interval runs with speed pick-ups will do wonders for your average pace. After doing speed workouts for a while, your regular pace will begin to feel easier.
- Do speed workouts at an appropriate pace. It’s crucial you do those speed workouts at a good pace for you, though. Do them too fast and you’ll risk injury. Do them too slow and you’ll sell yourself short and you may not see improvements. To learn what your goal pace should be on tempo runs and 800m repeats, plug your most recent race time into a pace calculator and then use the WJR pace coach to make sure you’re on track.
- Increase speed gradually throughout training. Once you find your goal tempo pace, do your runs at that pace for three weeks or so. Then try to increase your tempo pace by 5 seconds per mile. Increase it by another 5 seconds after another few weeks. As you get in better shape throughout training, you should be able to hit faster paces.
- Expect to feel uncomfortable. Here’s the thing – running faster than you’re use to hurts. Speed workouts are not easy by any means. This is why many runners forgo them all together. But if you know going into them that these workouts are uncomfortable, it may be easier for you to complete the challenge. (If you are struggling to hit your target paces or feel an injury coming on, that is not a good kind of hurt, so back off the workout.)
- Lose weight if you are overweight. For every pound you lose, you’ll shave about two seconds off of your mile time. Of course, this is just an average and the formula only works if you’re overweight. Here’s more on how losing weight can make you faster and how to balance training with weight loss.
- Take in enough calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you don’t skimp on calories. Not eating enough can backfire. You’ll sap your energy levels and make it impossible to reach your goal paces. Just make sure you’re fueling up with nutrient-rich foods.
- Be patient. Getting faster takes time – a lot of time. If your race is only a month away, don’t try to cram in speedwork so you can get a PR. Runners new to speed workouts should only do one fast paced run per week (some experienced runners can do two speed workouts per week). It’s best to follow a 12- or 16-week training plan so you have adequate time to get faster.
Written by Jen Matz.