Smutty Fitness: Running Faster
Hi Hayley. This weekend I completed my 5th Underwear Affair 10k race in Vancouver and for the first time ever I came in under an hour (under 57 minutes to be exact, 13 minutes faster than last year!). I wasn’t actively trying to go faster than last year; somehow it just worked out that way. I feel like I got a good workout without killing myself but at the same I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t push myself just that little bit harder – under 55 minutes would have been awesome for me! So that is my goal for next year – 55 minutes would be good, 50 would be even better. But...how do I train to run faster? Is it as simple as just running faster? I always feel like if I push myself too fast for too long that I’m going to lose control of my legs and go careening off into the bushes! There must be some way to condition my body to get used to a faster pace. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Running faster is a path that I can honestly say all runners are on. When you first start running it is so easy to improve and without much effort you are taking minutes off of your best times with ease. Each time you go out and run your favourite 5km route or after completing the same race distance multiple times you always finish thinking you could have run that faster.
It becomes a catch 22 because the faster you run the faster you want to run but the harder it is to be able to run faster. For example, take a look at the world’s best sprinters, all of whom are about to compete in London’s 2012 Olympic Summer Games. They have all spent the last 4 years working hour upon hour (we are talking thousands and thousands of training hours) to take off a few hundredths of a second. That is it! 4 years of their lives dedicated to eliminating just a few one hundredths of a second.
So, as you strive to become a faster runner you must understand that you will start having to put in more and experience fewer gains. The 10s of minutes you once could easily shave off of your time will now turn into minutes and then seconds. And you are going to have to start to work twice as hard. Your tempo runs will be run with more intensity (one limiting factor in our ability to improve is how uncomfortable we are able to make ourselves) and you are going to have to become much more specific in your training. You may want to invest in a physiological test, such as a VO2 max test or blood lactate test, so you can be sure you are training in the exact heart rate you need to be training at. Although you probably will be able to reach 50 minutes without too much dedication, if you want to run even faster than that science is going to have to play a role. You will need to spend more time at the track doing fast feel-like-you-are -going-to-careen-into-the-bushes intervals and less time jogging with your girlfriends and you will need to start working on your running technique (you should watch the documentary called The Perfect Runner, it provides a good insight on humans and running). Nutrition will also play a role as the less body fat you will be carrying the faster you will be able to run.
I ran my very first half marathon in a time of 2 hours and 9 minutes and every race I have done since then I have seen an improvement, without having to put in too much effort. Most of my improvements have come with my improved fitness levels over time: knowledge in how to pace myself in my races, in learning how hard I can push myself, an improvement in my technique, an improvement in my strength and flexibility and a decrease in my body fat. I now run a half marathon in 1 hour and 32 minutes but I am finding it so difficult to get my time below 90 minutes. My first marathon I ran in 3 hours and 34 minutes but 3 marathons later I have only seen a drop of 10 minutes. My ultimate marathon goal is 3 hours and 10 minutes and I know that in order for me to get there it will take a lot of hard work and dedication. I was able to drop 10 minutes without any effort at all but to take off another 10 minutes will probably take me years.
Keep running and keep pushing yourself to run faster but understand that it will become harder and start to take longer to see those minutes drop from your finishing time. Check out the book Run Less, Run Faster as you may find it informative on how to increase your intensity. Most importantly, understand that you are now a “runner” and we are constantly striving to go faster so welcome to the club! There is no turning back now.
Attached - Nicole Richie leaving the gym on Sunday.