How to run faster – from couch potato to podium.


Most people, once they start jogging or running, reach a point where they want to learn to run faster, especially if they are relatively young, so let me tell you my own story.

In my mid twenties I was practically a vegetable. Weighing just 7 stones, I had spent the previous 7 or 8 years systematically destroying my body and mind with a 40 a day cigarette habit, drinking round the clock and hardly bothering to eat. If I ate it was usually chocolate bars or junk food.

Within a couple of years I was a very good club runner, running 5.10- 5.20 second mile pace, winning local fun runs and placing well in serious road races. I ran a 1hr 13 min half marathon, sub 33 minutes for 10k and sub 16mins for 5k. I wouldn’t describe myself as a natural born runner having short legs. So how did I manage it?

I gave up smoking, went for long walks and then started jogging. I started doing fun runs then joined a club (a very important move) and got access to tougher competition internally and externally. I raced as often as I could – sometimes 4 times a week, over different distances from 1000 metres up to 15 miles. Once I even did a 10 mile race in the morning, jumped in my car and drive to the other side of London for a cross country final. There’s nothing that trains you to race faster better than racing faster!

My training regime when not racing so frequently? I did a long run of up to 2-3 hours once a week, a short interval session (for example 12 x 1 minute flat out with 1 minute recoveries) and a longer interval session of 1000-1500 metres repetitions, done maybe 4-6 times, with equal distance jog recoveries. Once you’re confident you can complete the distance, racing and doing those kind of intervals are the best way to get faster, but do take enough easy or rest days in between (something It took me a long time to learn).

There are many other ways to improve – proper nutrition and sleep, lack of stress, strength and conditioning gym work etc. However, the best training is always that which is specific to your goal, whatever that is. If you want to race faster, you have to condition your body gradually to the discomfort of running faster and there is a kind of pleasure in pushing yourself into the red zone, knowing that you are fulfilling your body’s true potential. So, if speed is your aim, cut out the pointless steady state miles in the middle heart rate zone because these are just hindering recovery for the hard sessions.

Just my own experience for what it’s worth, for those who are interested.

David 07504439555.

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