Running Fast

I still remember having this epiphany.. in order to run fast, you have to practice running fast.  It took me more than a year into my running career to realize this basic truth.  At the time, I subscribed to the theory that if I could run 6 miles at my average pace, I ought to be able to run 3 miles fast.  Right?

I really thought speed would just show up if I kept plugging away at the miles.  In fairness, I did make some gains in my average pace by just plugging away at the junk miles, but once I hit 10:00 minute miles, I was pretty much stuck.  I’ve often said that I could run 10:00 minute miles forever, but stringing together three 8:00 minute miles would kill me. 

I actually adore track work.  I ran the 100m and 100 hurdles in high school and loved running fast for a short distance.  I hated the mile warm up and whined whenever the sprinters were sent out on “long” runs of 2-3 miles. 

My first half marathon was the first time I followed a real training program.  I used the beginner half marathon plan on Cool Running.  This was my first introduction to speed work since I’d started running again, and I loved it.  (Also, if you’re looking for a beginner training plan for the half, I had really good luck with this one.)

In Cambridge, I lived just over a mile from a gorgeous local track.  My run to the track was the warm up, and then I’d do my intervals.  My “active recovery” may have included hyperventilating while hanging onto the water fountain, instead of jogging a slow lap, but I still found myself getting faster.  I liked running fast for the short distances; it was way easier to put up with burning lungs for 400 or 800m than for miles and miles.  I totally ignored the suggested paces, since at the time my 5k pace was probably a 9:00/mile, and I was pushing through 97 second quarters. 

At the half marathon, I ended up blowing my anticipated finish time (2:30) out of the water, and running an unbelievable (to me) 2:05:10 in that race.  I attribute a lot of that improvement to speed work, and training to run fast instead of just piling up the junk miles.  I set my PRs in both the 5K (25:07) and the 10k (52:36) shortly after that race.

I’ve been frustrated with my last two half marathon times.  While I’m thrilled to be running the distance pain free again, I know I have a sub 2 hour half marathon in me.  I guess it’s time I relearned the lesson about having to train fast to run fast.  Good thing I like all those sprint intervals Smile


Do you do speed training?


Running Fast — 9 Comments

  1. Soooo true. When I first started running, hitting my mileage made me slightly faster, but it wasn’t until I started doing tempo runs, fartleks, and progression runs that I was making noticable leaps & bounds in my pace. Race-day adrenaline does help a bit, but you do have to train fast to run fast!

    • Do you have a favorite type of speed work, or a workout that you think really helps you the most? I love intervals and progression runs, but definitely have a harder time with pure tempos.

  2. I have a love-hate relationship with the track. For some reason I get REALLY nervous before track workouts, but once I do a couple of intervals, I realize I’m totally fine. It’s like I am afraid the world is going to end if I don’t hit my target times (which is ridiculous).
    But I completely agree…speed work makes a HUGE difference in race times!

    • I usually get nervous right around the third interval, when I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to hold on. Probably people get nervous because the goal isn’t just completion. Go run X miles is an easy enough workout, and you get to check the box on completing. Go run X intervals at a specific pace, however, has more boxes to check for success. But, I feel way better when I hit pace on an interval workout than when I just complete a GA run!

  3. I am stuck at my running pace of about 10min/mile, recently, I’ve been able to do 3-4 miles at 9:30ish and I’m thrilled, but I know this does not translate into a longer distance, and I’m kinda stressed about my pace to a point that I don’t want my run keeper to announce my time/distance/pace anymore, However, I do want to get faster, I really do!! I have a very unconventional running schedule, I only run twice a week, a short run like 3-5 miles, and then a longer run for 7-12 miles. Anything ore than that I’ll dread!! I’m really thinking about doing some interval trainings, I’m really afraid of them because I know they are painful!!!!

    • In your case, fartleks might be a good answer. They generally don’t have prescribed distances or paces, so there’s no pressure to hit a specific time. I personally don’t prefer fartletks because I’m a numbers geek, and they are harder to quantify, but I know some people love them. Maybe during your shorter run, throw in a pickup or two every mile where you run faster to some point (a lot of people use telephone poles, I like stop signs for the mental cue, and because I’m a dork). I also like to do 100m or so of strides or a sprint after some workouts to really wake my legs up and shake them out. If you’ve never trained for speed before, even just adding a little bit into your workouts should have a difference. Speed training doesn’t have to be painful to be effective. Good luck!

  4. I was just thinking the other day about how slow I’ve gotten (and how my endurance has gone down) with running. Tonight, I planned on two treadmill miles and decided to break them out into “sprint” intervals instead (at my dream pace of 8:50ish). Not only did I hit my mileage quickly, I felt much better at the end and left room for sprinting. Speed work not only makes you faster, but it makes you feel really good about yourself in the end.

  5. I did speed work (800’s) this morning for the first time in ages. In the beginning, I hated every minute of it and swore never to do it again, but towards the end, I kinda liked it. But it’s left me so exhausted today. It’s been so long since I’ve done any speed work, I can’t remember if this is normal.

  6. Pingback: 5K Training | Boston to Berkeley

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