Speedy McSpeederson part II

Happy Friday!  What a week this has been ... trial, deposition and other deadlines all happening all at once.  I am ready for the weekend like no one's business.  

I recently read a great article on how to improve your speed as a runner and, in particular, how to improve a marathon time.  I touched on this topic back in March here on the blog.  And frankly, the similarities between the author and me are really pretty freaky: she ran her first marathon around 4:59 (mine was around 4:39) and she just completed her most recent marathon in 3:56 (so did I!).  Here is the link to her article and my thoughts on her recommendations.  

1.  Add Speedwork.

Yes.  I think, above all else, this is the key to getting faster. You teach your body what it feels like to run at a faster pace.  The speedwork is also crucial to a cardio perspective: your body learns how to work hard and then how to function when recovering from that effort.  Sure, you won't be sprinting during a marathon, but the concept works.  I joined a local running club and it has weekly speedwork every Wednesday night.  A coach (incidentally, my Ironman coach!) leads the workout at a local track and it is always well attended.  It is a great motivator: I find that I push myself harder when I am around other people.  That alone is worth the annual $15 dues for the club. If that isn't an option for you, a treadmill is a great place to do speedwork because you can control the belt speed.  Or, you could hit the local track yourself - just search online (Runners World is best) for track workouts.

2.  Log Race Pace Miles.

This is pretty important and somewhat obvious: you need to get used to running at the pace that you want to race.  Cool Running has the *best* pace calculator I have found - I use it all of the time.  You can plug in your information: distance and goal time to get your average pace per mile.  This is what I followed for my marathon training this year.  I knew I needed to run a little faster than 9:09 per mile, so I kept my training runs around 9:02-9:10 per mile.  It's important to understand what that pace feels like so you can get used to it and knock it out on race day.  Remember: if this is a marathon, you will need to sustain it for a few hours.

3.  Up Your Days and Your Mileage.

Yes.  In order to get faster, you need to run more.  You need to run 3-6 days per week and you need to make those runs count.  A long run each weekend, and a handful of other shorter runs, varying between 3 and 7 miles.  At the height of my marathon training this year, I was up to running between 4-6 hours per week and 35-45 miles.  Obviously that is at the peak of training and I don't do that much on a regular basis.  But the increase in running days and miles helps your body get used to running on tired legs.  On that note, I am a huge proponent of the recovery run: I always try to run the day after a long run.  Those runs are hard and demoralizing because they are slooooooow.  But that's the point: you want your legs to learn to function when they are fatigued.  Those last 6 miles of a marathon are all fatigue.  

4.  Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.

Can I get an amen?!?  This, along with tip 1, are my top two.  I had run for ages at a "comfortable" pace: I could breathe easy, I could run easy.  It felt good, but it wasn't hard.  Once I started to push myself into a pace that felt really hard and really uncomfortable, I got faster.  The discomfort lessened and that pace that was once my sprint pace became my new normal.

5.  Never Set Limits.

Yes yes yes.  I always say that running is mostly mental.  Sure, it's physical, too.  But so much of running depends on what you tell yourself, how you handle set-backs, and how you look at challenges.  Never say "I'm going to try to finish the marathon."  As Yoda said, "there is no try.  Do."  Instead, say "I'm going to finish the marathon." Failure is not an option if you don't let it be.  I can't tell you how many times before I thought "Oh, I could never do that" - whether it was a sub 2 hour half-marathon, a sub 4 hour marathon, a triathlon, a half-ironman triathlon, a 5k with a pace in the 7s.  When I changed that conversation from "I could never do that" to "I can absolutely do that", it happened.  It took work and it took a bunch of races or runs where I fell short of my goals, but it eventually happened.  There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- that you cannot do.  Believe that.

I have a couple more tips that were not included in the article.

6.  There is No Off-Season.

If you want to get faster, you have to keep training in the Winter. That means cold, dark runs.  Or treadmill.  I would pretty much rather run anywhere, through any conditions than on the treadmill, so I have a ton of winter running gear that keeps me safe and visible in those conditions. I also treat those runs where the weather is really cold, really windy, really dark, etc. as excellent training runs.  Hey, if I can run 10 miles in 25 degrees and wind, I can run in anything.  It's also important to keep training year round.  If you typically stop running in the Winter, you will lose a ton of fitness when you resume it in more temperate weather.  Don't waste all the hard work you've put in.  Keep on running.

7.  Visualize your Goals and that Finish Line. 

This is an important one for me.  At least once a week (but probably more), I visualize myself crossing the finish line that is most important to me.  This year, it's Ironman Lake Placid.  I've never competed in an Ironman, but I watched the finish lines via live feed this Summer.  I imagine myself in that same spot moments away from a dream and goal attained.  That image inspires me to keep going because I know soon enough, July 27 will be here.

There you go!  A handful of tips on how to get faster.  Do you have any big goal races or times on the horizon? 

See you swoon,


  1. Bookmarking this...for future reference over the next seven months. :)

  2. Thanks for your sharing, get comfortable being uncomfortable is really useful!

  3. Lindissimo o teu look! Adoro a bolsa nesta cor, da um toque de alegria. Lindo o teu blog, vou seguir!