How to run faster – Pick up the pace

cropped-IMG_2766.jpgI am now in Week 8 of my Ealing Half Marathon training plan  and I only have 3 weeks to go. I have been building up the miles and tried to be consistent in following my plan. At times, motivation has been difficult, but I am starting to feel and see some gains and feel faster. As the long runs build up, I am not having trouble adding the extra miles and the speed and hill runs are adding strength for maintaining my speed on tempo runs.

Below are some of the points I have noticed over the past weeks and how I have come to feel faster.

Preparation

Good hydration is essential, especially when it is as hot as it has been over the last month or so. Poor hydration can lead to a loss in 30% performance. I have focused on drinking water throughout the day to maintain your fluids and not just chugging a litre when I remember. I have also made sure I have eaten well in advance my evening runs and do not feel too full when I come to run. Eating too close to your run can make you feel heavy and lethargic.

Coffee

Mo Farah swears by it! He has one 20 minutes before a race. Though it has diuretic properties at rest, it enhances endurance during exercise and makes you feel more alert. I am mainly fuelled by tea in the morning, but when I have an evening run or session I slip an expresso in before I go.

Give having an espresso a test drive in the weeks building up to a race to check your sensitivity. Best to avoid the runner’s trots!

Warm up

Warming up is not only good for avoiding injuries but also means you can start running at a good pace and not have to grind through the first 10 minutes. I tend to follow what we do at BMF. A 5 minute warm up of toes flicks, heal flicks, high knees, long lunges, squats and sweeps can have you raring to go.

Strength

Hill sessions are the toughest part of my plan. Sometimes it feels as if I am wading through treacle I am going so slow, but they seem to be having some benefit. They build the strength and endurance in your legs and body improving leg muscle strength and running form.

Long Runs

Keep going with those long runs! This is what builds the endurance base so you can keep pushing when you want to go faster or hold that faster pace. It is not all about pace with these, it is about conditioning and strengthening yourself for the big day. Planning your route is a good tip. I have found myself adding random loops and getting lost when I have headed out without a plan.

Garden Compression socks
Feeling good after one of my long runs!
Speed

Fartlek means “speed play in Swedish”. This is adding periods of faster running within your normal slower running. This is a great way to push yourself in the middle of a run and builds the aerobic and anaerobic systems. I cover this element during BMF Running club sessions, which really get me blowing.

If you want to keep a definite pace, try using a treadmill. Though it does not quite recreate running outdoors, you can set the specific speed you would like to run at. I have previously used a treadmill in the winter to do interval sessions and tempo runs. It is good to know you are running at an exact pace and that you are able to hold it. To try and recreate the outdoors experience – set the treadmill to a slight uphill gradient of 1%.

Competition

Though it is not everyone’s cup of tea, running with others really does spur you on to run faster. We are all a little secretly competitive.

Try one of the many free running clubs Nike Run Club, Midnight Runners, Sweatshop or go the whole hog and join a local running club. Join up with other running friends and head out with them. Go to parkrun. Although it is not a race, there certainly seems to a fairly hot pace at the front end at Bushy Park run with everyone giving it a real go. I find that I run faster or my perceived effort seems higher at parkrun as there is always some to chase or keep up with.

Enter a race. Sign up early. Pay the money and have it in your diary as something to aim for.

Music/Podcasts

Although I don’t race with headphones, when I run on my own I always use headphones. I have had a pair of Sennheiser PMX headphones for years now and swear by them. I listen to dance music for my shorter quicker runs. The music with a higher BPM pushes you on to work harder and you can put in a surge when a great track comes on and you feel pumped. If you are short on music there are plenty of free podcasts on iTunes of well-known DJs mixes. Try Housenation UK, or Above and Beyond. I have started to listen to longer form podcasts such as Rich Roll and Kermode and Mayo Film Review during long runs to keep me company. For other recommendations see here.

Training Plan

Having a training plan has helped massively. I really think it’s the reason I am making progress as I am running 4 times a week and not sporadically going for a run when I have the time or feel like it. Figure out a training plan that is suitable for you, your lifestyle and your goal. Write it out and pin it up in an obvious place in your house. Try a stick to it as much as possible. If you miss the odd run, it’s no biggy! Plans change! You can always move things around to suit your week/weekend.

Training Log

Start to log your runs. Note how far, how fast, how you felt, the route and the weather. Without it, if you are like me, you will forget very quickly when you actually did go running. It is a great way to provide motivation to see how far you have come with your training and what is working and not working. You can notice if you are stuck in a rut and running the same routes week in week out. A log provides emotional investment in your training plan. It can also help avoid injury as you can see where you picked up niggles and shows your training load.

Recovery

Just like hydration at the start of my runs, I have paid further attention to rehydrate following my runs. I try to eat a balanced meal or snack to replenish my energy and aid recovery. It is also important to put your feet up and get some rest (where possible).

LM Beer
A form of hydration, but save it for after the race!

Following my training plan has given me confidence that I am on the right path to having a successful half marathon. There is still some way to go and I am going to continue to be as consistent as I can to maintain my progress and keep making those improvements.

Are you training for an upcoming race? Let me know how it’s going in the comments below.

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