Q+A: I've been running a year - I can't speed up!

Our experts answer real-life questions


Posted: 9 September 2002
by Rob Spedding

Q I’ve been running for just over a year now and can now comfortably train at around 10 minute/mile pace for an hour, which I do three times a week. However, I’ve been doing this for at least six months and don’t seem to be able to get any quicker. I’d like to do some speedwork, but worry that I’m not quick enough yet. Is this the case?

A Absolutely not! Any regular runner can add speedwork to their training schedule and everyone can benefit from it. In fact, you’re now at the ideal stage to incorporate some faster running into your programme. Your three long runs a week will have helped you form an excellent endurance base on which to build, but if you stick to this routine your pace will improve only very slowly, and you risk getting disillusioned.

The key to running faster is running shorter. At the moment you’re probably running about six miles in each session. If you set out to run less, say just two miles or roughly 18 minutes, you’ll find that you actually increase your pace without even trying. So my first step would be to add a shorter run to your weekly programme. You could replace one of your hour-long sessions with one of 20 minutes, or better still add it to your schedule as an extra run. If you have a heart-rate monitor use that. Compare your heart rate from your normal runs to your shorter run. If you’re running faster, your heart rate should be higher.

The next thing to do is to break your short run down into even shorter runs, or intervals, with a rest between each interval to get your breath back! This might make interval sessions sound terrifying, but once you get used to them they’re one of the best ways of getting quicker.

An example of an interval session would be 6 x 400m (or around two minutes) with a couple of minutes to recover between each repetition. Be sure to have a 10-minute warm-up jog first and a similar cool-down afterwards. The best place to run intervals is on a track, but if you don’t have one nearby don’t worry. Find a flat grassy area, where you can run quickly for 90 seconds or so. As you get used to intervals you can start to add extra repetitions, reduce the amount of time you have to recover and increase the distance of each rep. These are guaranteed to make you faster. You can also do a session of random faster bursts within a normal run. It will all help.

One thing to remember, though: the day after any speedwork, have an easy day. Either do a very slow run, or do nothing at all. Following a hard session with another hard session will increase your chances of injury.—Rob Spedding, RW Staff Writer


Previous article
How To Run At Your Ideal Paces
Next article
Words Of Whizz-Dom

beginner speedwork
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

Hi,

I've been running for about 6 months now, and feel it's time to do a bit of speed work.

I usually run about 5k (25 mins for me I'm afraid!) and was wondering if anyone had any ideas for speedwork over this distance.

Thanks.


thanks
Posted: 08/05/2003 at 08:30

Don't put yourself down Darren - 25 mins for 5k is a decent time. Speedwork will make you faster though. The link at the top of this thread will tell you about some good speed sessions to try.

5k is deemed to be long distance so for speedwork training for this distance, longer repetitions are recommended. This might be 4 x 1km (plus recovery in between) at a pace faster than 5 min/km. My favourite sessions are 10-12 x 400m or 6-8 x 800m as this feels like real hard work and yields results pretty quick.

Of course it helps if you have access to a running track but if not, any variation on running faster over shorter distances then repeating after recovery will have the same effect.

Remember to warm up and take any increase in training gradually. I was going to say "take it slowly" but that isn't really appropriate for speedwork!

good luck


Posted: 08/05/2003 at 09:43

I'm glad this has come up. I am currently attempting to get quicker over 5K. My last 5K was 22:09 and my speedwork consists of 8 x 400m at faster than my 5k race pace with 200m jog recovery. Looks like I need to either, increase the number of 400m reps, or decrease the number of reps but increase the length of rep.
Posted: 08/05/2003 at 11:30

The typical advice when it comes to speedwork for distance running is to increase the distance of the interval to anything between 1km and 3km (which were included in the RW marathon schedules for this year).


I'd suggest that 1km (@mile pace) and 1600m (@3km pace) are good distances to acclimatise the body to prolonged periods of increased-pace running. These are tough sessions but hten again, you get out what you put in.
Posted: 08/05/2003 at 14:36

I started running with regular lunchtime run that was about 6k. I found my times really picked up when I started doing weekly longer runs - these were only 10k but at the time that felt like a long way to run. I would combine hard 5k runs, shorter intervals and some longer runs at a steadier pace.
Posted: 08/05/2003 at 14:42

I find that If I do 8 mile run I run easy for 10 mins then 2 mins slow 2 mins fairly fast until the end of the run. My wife has been running for about a year now and her times are coming down by the minutes,but my times are coming down very slowly (mind you I have been running now for 23 yrs).
Posted: 08/05/2003 at 14:49

I think Popsider hit the nail on the head! A combination of short intervals (300 / 400 metre reps) long intervals (1k+) and longer runs are what's required. For example you could do something like this:

Mon: 10 x 400 with 2 min recoveries. Done at a pace which enables you to complete the session.
Tue: easy
Wed: 3 or 4 mile tempo run or long run (alternate from week to week)
Thurs: easy
Fri: 4 or 5 x 1k at 5k pace with 90 sec recoveries
Sat: easy
Sun: rest
Posted: 08/05/2003 at 14:50

HAVE BEEN RUNNING FOR A LITTLE OVER A YEAR NOW. I'M 48 HAVE NEVER DONE MUCH RUNNING PER SAY ALWAYS HAVE BEEN SPORTS MINDED, BASKETBALL MOSTLY NOW NOT ALBE TO PLAY BASEBALL ANY MORE. STARTED RUNNING BECASUE OF WEIGHT GAIN 6' @ 240 I KNOW GOT AWAY FROM ME. BUT HAVE NOW LOST 52 POUNDS STARTED BY WALKING & NOW HAVE PROGRESST TO UNDER AN 8 MIN MILE & I AM THROUGHLY ENJOYING MYSELF. IT TOOK ABOUT 6 MONTHS FOR MY BODY TO GET ADJUSTED THEN THE WEIGHT LOSS STARTED JUST TAKE IT SLOW IT WILL HAPPEN & FIND A BUDDY OR PARTNER WILLING TO RUN WITH YA HELPS A LOT ....EVEN THINKING OF TRING A RACE .....
Posted: 14/02/2006 at 17:29


MB.
I'm working on a bit of a pyramid with speedwork at the moment.

I started with 10x400m, then moved upto 6x600m + 1x400 the following week, 5x800 next week and finally 4x1000 last week.

Over the four weeks I've run all the intervals at the same pace, so the idea was to run the 400s at a pace that I'd like to be able to do my 1000s in, but couldn't do straight away.
I'm now about to head back down the other side of the pyramid retracing my steps back to the 400s and hopefully see a major improvement.

It's working so far anyway.
Posted: 14/02/2006 at 17:50

Have to admit, when I did my 5k PB last year, I never did any speed work at all... PB is 18:37 (abd would've been quicker if I hadn't done a 10k race 3 days before)...

That was months ago, and I've been doing a bit of speed work over the last 5 months... I'm hoping when I do a 5k next month, I should break this time? We'll see... hoping for sub 18 minutes... but we'll see...
Posted: 15/02/2006 at 13:03

I've been running for over 4 years, and have only speeded up VERY slowly (although, admittedly, a bad knee injury set me back along the way).

I just started doing my first ever "speedwork" runs (about 3.5 miles, including 2 half-mile and 4 quarter-mile "speed" intervals) and after only 4 sessions (1 per week) I knocked 1min 20sec off my 10k PB! (53:20, down from 54:40)

I put off ever doing any speedwork, because I thought it would be too "serious", but tbh I don't really mind it - in fact I quite like the "luxury" of the slower, recovery intervals!

THIS REALLY WORKS, PEOPLE! I'm gobsmacked!
Posted: 15/02/2006 at 17:52

I've a half marathon coming up soon (my first) and have been concentrating on ensuring I can cover the distance at a reasonable pace. I'm aiming for sub-2 hours on the day and feel that its achievable as despite having been a bit lazy on the training at times, I've managed 2:05 on a very hilly training run of 21km.

However, at the moment I can only train on a treadmill as I work offshore. My race is in about 3 weeks so I'd like to know if anyone has advice on how I could get my time down a bit without knackering myself prior to the race.

My last 10 days pre-race will be on dry land so I'm planning to put in a bit of distance before then too as I can only manage 10km max on the treadmill before giving up from overheat not exhaustion.

I have tried to run intervals but it is pretty tough on a treadmill..


Posted: 26/05/2009 at 16:48

Andy,

As your race is only 3 weeks away, you are better off not doing anything too short and fast.

One suggestion for a treadmill session:

Warm up and then set the treadmill at 2 hr half marathon pace (10.6 kph)

At the end of the first minute, raise the incline 1 degree whilst keeping the pace the same, at the end of the second minute, raise it another degree, at the end of the third another. At the end of the fourth - rest and recovery, lower the treadmill to flat.

Take 2 minutes easy jog or walk recovery and repeat. Over a couple of weeks you could build up to four repeats. This will give you the same benefit as doing a speed session but will be focused on the pace you intend to race at. It will also keep you within your 10k heat exhaustion limit.

Good luck!


Posted: 26/05/2009 at 18:27

Darren,  I have mentioned in other threads that I have just started to do some proper speed work to try for a sub 1.30 Half. 

Only been doing 1 day a week at present and I have had to make it Monday as it was smashing my legs so much my long runs were suffering BUT and it is a big BUT, My pb for a half was 1.36.00 on a flat half, this sunday I ran 14.5 in 1.36.58 which does not sound like much of an improvement but the course I ran is a real crippler with 3 hills which are around 1 mile in length each, so give it a go as the results are astounding.

All the best

Tails


Posted: 26/05/2009 at 20:08

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.