7 Ways I Increased My Running Speed

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.

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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?

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47 comments // by Teri [a foodie stays fit]



{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Clare @ Fitting It All In January 3, 2013 at

Love this! Motivation for me to push it. I want to PR in my halfs this spring!

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

good luck Clare! You can do it!

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BroccoliHut January 3, 2013 at

Great tips! I’ll definitely have to give treadmill intervals a try–I’d love to flatten my tummy a bit.
I also had never heard that about a woman’s running peak. I’m glad to hear it, as I thought my speedy days were behind me–now I have something to look forward to, perhaps?

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

definitely! I bet you’ll surprise yourself!

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Lauren January 3, 2013 at

I know speed is an area of my running I could afford to work on. Distance is no problem, but it only goes so far (no pun intended). I know the things I need to do, but I always seem to comfortable with my steady, long pace. Time to bust out some intervals. And maybe a new running partner? :)

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Anne January 3, 2013 at

Those are wonderful tips!
#1 did wonders for me, and #5 is very powerful and something I definately can work on!

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

#5 is something I’m constantly working on! Cute gravatar, BTW. :)

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Meghan January 3, 2013 at

Love this! I always thought fast running was something out of my reach, but you make it sound a little more approachable!! I also think #5 is a big one for me and #1 has always intimidated me.

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J @ semplicemente .... J January 3, 2013 at

… Oh my I am 44 yikes past my running prime. :). Great post. For me, I really need to start dealing with the discomfort.

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

You can just find your running prime in something other than speed now 😉

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Sharla January 3, 2013 at

Thank you for these tips. My first 5K was 24:08 and now I want to train for a 1/2. My pace has slowed and I think it’s mainly due to the opposite of 2 & 5 – I gained weight and I haven’t really been pushing myself! Ha! Hoping my new Garmin will be inspiration, but I’m definitely going to start doing some interval training again. Any other tips for increasing mileage?

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

My Garmin really helped inspire me to pick up the pace. For increasing mileage, I found that running with friends helped a lot because I wasn’t so focused on how long I had been out there and just enjoyed my time with them.

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christina January 3, 2013 at

28 must be the magic age, bc I’ve been kicking ass this year too. I attribute my faster speeds to intervals, running more often, half marathon training, and apparently age! :)

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

nice!

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Brittany @ Proteinandpumps January 3, 2013 at

I think running intervals definitely helps! They helped me prepare or my first 5k.

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Ashley January 3, 2013 at

I definitely got faster when I got more and more bored on the treadmill and started doing intervals. And when I learned that I could survive running at an uncomfortable pace. That part was hard. But beating PRs really is such a boost. Not near as fast as you though! My 5k PR is 24:48.

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Michelle @ Eat Move Balance January 4, 2013 at

I agree with you on the intervals. They have always helped me build a bit more speed, and they’re fun when working out on a treadmill!

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kim@hungryhealthygirl January 4, 2013 at

These are such great tips! I really need to start doing some interval training and speed training. I’ve been “enjoying” running for a few months, but it’s time to kick it in gear with a marathon coming up that I’d like to race in.

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Mrs Type A January 4, 2013 at

Interesting tips. I’m far, FAR slower than you (my PR is more than 10 minutes slower than you!) so of course, I’d like to get faster. I’ve ran intervals on the treadmill many times before but it doesn’t seem to make me faster for longer than that interval. When I go to do a longer, more steady run I still have to slow down to my normal pace in order to go for any distance. Maybe if I do it more consistently??

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Rebecca @ cakeinacrockpot January 4, 2013 at

I found that doing intervals regularly, about 2x a week, really helped my speed & stamina. How do you do your interval training? My sessions last 30 min and i generally do 1 min @ easy pace then 1 min “sprint” and repeat. So basically I’ll run at a 10min pace then an 8 min pace and repeat. Or if I’m feeling energetic I might try a faster pace for my sprints.

I hope that helps a little :-)

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

thanks for sharing Rebecca!!

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Rebecca @ cakeinacrockpot January 4, 2013 at

ThiS is a great list! I have also found that running with others and learning to push thru disconfort has helped me immensely with my running (and with other fitness pursuits). Nike got it right with Just Do It, and be open to how far your body will take you!

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Dawn January 4, 2013 at

Thanks for the tips! These are awesome and timely for me right now as I am prepping for May races! I have noticed that intervals on the track and on the hills and stairs, where I push my heart rate up for periods at a time, are what are making me stronger and faster. It certainly makes logical sense that dropping some pounds will increase one’s speed….although I hadn’t thought of that in awhile! Thanks for the post! Happy running in 2013 and thanks for the motivating energy!

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

oooh yeah, stair intervals are killer but SO good!

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Addie Ohrn January 4, 2013 at

I loved this post not because I’m trying to be a fast runner but because I think in general there are just good work out tips in here. I would love to see what one of your treadmill interval training looks like. Maybe you could email me? :)

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Kim 2s4o January 4, 2013 at

Great suggestions! One of my 2013 goals is to PR in a race (not pinpointing what distance) so these are really helpful ideas :)

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

glad they helped! good luck with your PR this year!

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Sadie January 4, 2013 at

You read my mind! One of my fitness goals for the year is to become a faster runner. I’ve been toying with intervals on the treadmill, but after seeing that note on the belly fat, I’ll definitely be more diligent about it!

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Nicole January 5, 2013 at

I agree with #1 for sure. I hate intervals mostly because of #5… So maybe that’s a sign? :) thanks for sharing!

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

haha! :)

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Laura @Fit Running Mama January 5, 2013 at

I totally agree about age making you faster– I’m 32 and I’ve noticed my speed increasing over the years! This is a great post

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Claire @ Health Nut Claire January 5, 2013 at

Great tips! After being a long distance runner all through high school I definitely agree with you. Now if I could just beat my PR’s from high school…oy.

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 6, 2013 at

hahaha. good luck with that! :)

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Gules January 6, 2013 at

when I started running I got discouraged running with people faster than me,but I can see how that can help. I’m just getting back into running ( my last race was 2 years ago) and so I’m going to focus on #2 and #5 for sure. I think I stopped running because I felt I was slow and it wasn’t enjoyable ( bad excuse! ) so these tips are perfect for me as I start my journey again! Thanks!

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 7, 2013 at

good luck as you start again! don’t let being “slow” deter you – everyone’s pace is different. what matters is what feels good and right to you!

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Michelle (The Runner's Plate) January 6, 2013 at

I ran more mileage than I ever have (peaking at 105 miles in a week) and broke all my PRs this summer! (As a disclaimer: I am NOT saying that everyone should do this!) But I do strongly believe in running as many miles as your body can tolerate.

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 7, 2013 at

that’s a good point. sometimes you really do need to up your mileage so your body learns to handle longer distances, higher discomfort and then subsequently improve in all other areas, like speed and efficiency. i still am in awe you ran that much!!

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Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker January 7, 2013 at

Great job with bringing down your times, girl! Your PRs are right around my goals for this year. I definitely think they are within reach. I just need to get used to the discomfort again! Being pregnant made me a baby :)

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 7, 2013 at

haha. I think having a baby would make me a baby. :) Good luck with your PRs!! you and your husband are so motivating at making me want to push myself in running more!

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Norman Cole March 31, 2013 at

If you really want to Increase running speed you should check out the workouts and drills at King Sports Training. They have a bunch of things that can help you become faster, as well as more agile. They have really been a big help to me.

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lauren@golaurengo January 8, 2014 at

This is so helpful, because I feel like running is finally starting to click, after beginning in 2010. Injury after injury and waking up that weight loss is going to be a key component helped me to get back to basics; start watching what I eat, blog to stay committed to the cause, and keep up with my training. Thanks!

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Eva May 11, 2014 at

Hi Teri, thanks for directing me to this post. I can relate to #5. up until now, my mantra has pretty much been “run because you like it”. but now i want to take it more seriously and that requires tougher goals. i think the biggest hurdle will be shifting perspective to channel that competitive edge and learn to run through the discomfort. thanks for the inspiration!

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Teri [a foodie stays fit] May 11, 2014 at

I understand – it was a big shift for me too! Now I have to remind myself that not every run needs to be hard and I should have “just for fun” runs too. :)

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Annie May 21, 2014 at

I love this post, and I’ve come back and re-read it several times! I am not a fast runner – but would like to start shaving some minutes off my PRs – I think #5 is the hardest! It’s so motivating to see my pace decrease, though!

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Harparamjot July 15, 2014 at

Nice will follow.

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Rachel July 16, 2014 at

GREAT post! I am going to be the intervals and running with faster people are the two main things that have attributed to your speed. I did a program a couple of years ago through a sports performance center where I live and everything was based on my hart rate zones, but the jist was I had some run days with intervals, and some where I ran at tempo speed (i.e. the days where you are running with faster people), plus having more rest days (turns out, running less is good!). Congrats! It’s kind of addicting once you realize how much you can improve, isn’t it?!

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Dale Magnin February 9, 2015 at

Did you reach your goals?
I am using your ideas at age 62 (M) to try and regain speed that I lost from casual running. I used to run 2:34. Thanks for your ideas.

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