Many of you have asked how I have increased my speed to run faster over the years. In 2012, I beat my 5K PR (current PR 20:24 – 2013), beat my half marathon PR (current PR 1:33 — December 2016), qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2017 with a 3:28 time, placed in my age group at multiple races, and even won a race in the women’s division. (Wow, that boosted my self esteem just typing that out! 🙂
I wouldn’t say I was born naturally fast – I’ve worked hard to reduce my race times (my first half marathon was 1:57 and my first 5K was 25:56) and my training runs were in the 10-11 minute mile range from about age 14-25, until I started to focus on increasing my speed. There are seven factors that I think contributed to my increased speed….they aren’t ranked in order of importance, but if I had to pick just two that I felt were significant impacts on running faster, I’d say #1 and #5.
1. I ran with runners who were much faster than me. A lot of the time, it sucked running with them. I was frustrated that their “easy” pace was killer for me and embarrassed when I had to ask them to slow down or just go on without me. But my ego is such that I worked my butt off to keep up as best I could and, eventually, my easy pace re-calibrated. My easy pace used to be a 9:30 – 10:00 min/mile and now my easy pace for longer runs is around 8:15-8:30 min/mile and for shorter runs, 7:50 – 8:00 min/mile.
2. I lost weight. (nearly 20 pounds from my highest weight) I didn’t really do this on purpose to be honest. I know, I hate it when people say that, but it’s the truth for me. I’ve never been the type who lost weight when stressed (in fact, I usually gain weight when stressed because I dip into emotional eating) but I guess I reached my tipping point for stress – and apparently I lose weight under extreme levels of stress. I do NOT recommend the stress diet. Stress aside, I think that cutting out dairy and wheat and starting yoga also helped with my weight loss.
3. I stopped getting injured. Read how here.
4. I ran intervals (usually on the treadmill). I started running intervals on the treadmill mostly because I kept getting bored on the treadmill. And then I noticed how much my “fast” speed on the treadmill started improving and it motivated me to keep pushing the pace. (Extra Perk: My stomach got really flat after consistent interval training – experts say HIIT burns belly fat and I now believe them.) I don’t do anything formal: just warmed up for about a mile and then started alternating between running fast and recovery. I typically do 30-60 seconds fast and 30-90 seconds recovery. My fast pace varies between 6:20 – 7:30 min/mile and recovery is usually around 8:15 – 8:30 min/mile. I try to increase my speed one notch with each fast interval. Make sense?
5. I learned to deal with discomfort from pushing the pace. I really don’t like discomfort while running. I used to have the motto that I run because I enjoy it and if i push too hard, I won’t enjoy it. And that motto was fine for a time. But then I wanted to get faster and that motto can’t apply when working on speed. I chant mantras in my head (like, “the faster you run, the faster you finish”), imagine how good it feels when I beat my PR, and channel any stress I have into the pain.
6. I felt the high of beating PRs and placing in my age group, which helped with #5.
7. I got older. I’ve read before that women reach their peak in running from about 28-38. It might be a coincidence and I’m not sure of the science behind it, but it seems to be happening.
What have you done to increase your speed? Which of these do you think would help you the most?