Gotta Run: Getting faster in five steps

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2022

Most of the runners I talk to that are seeking advice want to know one of two things. The first group wants to talk about getting on track and keeping the momentum going. The second group wants to find out how to get faster. During my most competitive years, that was my quest every day. And in a different way, it is still my quest. In those earlier years, I read everything I could and talked to faster and more experienced runners about what worked for them. After more than 40 years of running, here are my suggestions if getting faster is on your mind also.

  • First, to get faster, you have to run fast. Sounds like double speak to many, but by this I mean that your body has to come out of its comfort zone in a portion of training. Usually, the perfect place is to get on the track once a week with a series of intervals. One lap at a time is my favorite, a 400-meter sprint as fast as you can run. If you haven’t tried this before, warm up properly and  do about six of these sprints with a short rest period in between. Then in the weeks ahead, add more reps and shorten the rest period. Try two laps and even four at a time, pushing yourself at the fastest pace to complete the distance.
  • Use your arms. So many runners today are lazy with their arms. Arms are momentum when done right. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and pump them forward, not sideways and hanging down. Many coaches will say things like, “Your running will go as your arms do!”
  • Warm up when you want to run fast, whether it be for the intervals described above or for a race. One client knocked a minute off his 5K time by just including a warm-up that brought some sweat before he went to the start line. Here is what worked best for me: A good warm-up doesn’t have to include a lot of slower running but is much better when it includes a series of sprints. My suggestion is to run steadily for 5 minutes, then mix in a series of 60- to 100-yard sprints. Really pushing the legs fast, but just for 3-4 brief periods with just a slow jog in between. Once completed, jog to the last bathroom break, make any needed clothing changes and hit the start line. The difference is with this pre-race warmup, you won’t be warming up in the first mile. You will be racing it!
  • Make sure you are hydrated, so much so that the last bathroom break is just before the start. If you are hydrated well enough that you your pee is clear, then your cardiovascular system and the rest of the muscles will be ready for peak performance. Plenty of athletes who were ready to do well lost the advantage by not being hydrated.
  • And finally, increase your mileage so that body is not always pushing the pace at its maximum distance. I am one of those old-school runners that believes in a long run at least once a week. Always be able to comfortably run several miles farther than the actual distance that you are racing. A good 5K effort is more likely when preceded by a long run at least double that distance a week before. For me, I always wanted to know in my head that I could run the distance. I always advise running the distance and just a little bit more even when properly preparing to race a half or full marathon. One of my best marathons came several weeks after a 32-mile run, my longest during my marathon racing years.

Friday night is one of the most popular races in Rowan County, the Main Street Challenge 5K in China Grove. The 5K starts at 9pm and is run entirely on Main Street. There is a Tot Trot and Fun Run just ahead of the big event. Look for more information on this and other events at