Many of you have asked how I became a faster runner. In 2012, I beat my 5K PR (current PR 20:24 – 2013), beat my half marathon PR (current PR 1:34 — March 2014), 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.) 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, 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 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 with me at my ripe old age of 28. 🙂
What have you done to increase your speed? Which of these do you think would help you the most?