We all want to know how to run faster and longer.
In fact, it’s a common goal for a lot of runners, whether you’re training for a 5k or a marathon.
Learning to maintain your speed on a long run takes time and practice. It’s all about being consistent in your training and blending a variety of different training techniques to really see benefits.
You may struggle to maintain a consistent speed on your run, or you may find your speed dips up and down during your run.
If so then these may be signs that you need to switch up your training routine and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
The good news is there are simple tips on how to run faster and for longer without getting tired. These simple strategies will help you run faster and longer.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- How to run faster
- How to run faster and longer: 8 ways to pick up your speed
- Risks to avoid when training to run faster and longer
- What’s the difference between running by effort and running by pace?
- How to run faster and longer: 4 training secrets
- 3 sample speed workouts to help you run faster for longer
Let’s get going!
How to run faster
In order to run faster, you need to be experimenting with different speeds during training.
This means adding variety and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone on a regular basis.
Many runners get comfortable with distance running (i.e. the long run).
They just focus on building their mileage on endurance runs.
Whilst distance running is great for improving your stamina and endurance, it’s not so great for improving speed.
Instead, you should focus on mixing your endurance runs with speed training and workouts that involve explosive movement.
Building strong and healthy habits off the running track is also a surefire way to help you increase your speed.
In this guide we’ve got 8 tips to run faster and longer as well as 4 training secrets.
At the end of this guide you’ll also find 3 sample workouts.
How to run faster and longer: 8 ways to pick up your speed
#1 Warm up before your run
When aiming to run at a certain speed, your body needs to be warmed up and ready to go.
A proper warm up fires up your muscles and is proven to reduce the risk of injury as well as get you physically and mentally prepared for the run ahead.
The warm up should be done at least 10 to 15 minutes before your run.
The aim of the warm up is to prime your body and mind for the run, while allowing you enough time to recover before the run starts.
It’s good idea to include some light jogging and some dynamic stretches before your run to get your muscles and joints ready for the run.
Related: How to warm up before a run
#2 Work on your running form
Proper running form is all about running efficiently and more economically so you put less stress on your muscles and joints.
In turn, this will allow you to run faster and reduce the risk of injury.
Check out my guide on head to toe running form for more information.
The warm up is a great opportunity to practice some running drills and strides so you can really nail your form.
Here are some recommended running drills:
- Butt kicks
- High knees
- A-skips and B-skips
- Carioca drill
- Straight-leg bounds
- Forward lunge
- Quick feet
Strides are short bursts of running at an accelerated speed. They are easy to include in your training plan as they can be done before a run as part of a warm up, in the middle of a run, or at the end of a run.
Here’s how to include strides in your warm up:
- Start with a jog
- After a few seconds, build to about 95% of your maximum speed and maintain this speed for about 10 seconds
- After the 10 seconds, gradually slow to a stop.
One stride should take you about 25-30 seconds depending on your running ability.
#3 Speed train
Whilst those long runs are great to increase your stamina and endurance, speed training is what helps you run faster and build your speed and power.
It also makes you fitter and makes you comfortable at all speeds, which will ultimately prepare you to run faster for longer.
Speed training can take many forms of speed sessions, but they all have the same goal of helping you to build your speed and make you a faster and more powerful runner.
These sessions include:
- Interval training
- Tempo running
- Fartlek training
Interval training is basically a training method that combines periods of short, intense bursts of speed with slow recovery periods of mild activity like walking or jogging.
If practiced regularly as part of a structured training plan, interval training can help to improve your speed, strength and endurance as a runner.
A tempo run, also known as a ‘threshold’ run, is a pace about 25 to 30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace. It is designed to be a challenging pace, but not so much that you’re full out sprinting.
You should be able to hold a tempo run for roughly 20 minutes without running out of gas.
‘Fartlek’ is a Swedish term for ‘speed play’ and is essentially a blend of distance running and interval training.
Fartlek training involves continuous running with periods of faster running mixed with periods of easy running. As such, it’s a great way to improve your speed and endurance in one session.
#4 Practice pacing
When training for a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon, it’s important to practice pacing.
Pacing, or more precisely your running pace, is essentially how fast you’re running.
It is typically expressed as the average amount of time it takes for you to run one mile (or a kilometre) during a longer run.
For example, if you complete a 10k in 45 minutes, your running pace equals pace 7.15 minutes per mile or 4.30 minutes per kilometre.
The best way to calculate your pace is to use a running pace calculator.
A pace calculator determines your speed for any given distance by using any two of the following three variables: pace, time or distance.
The aim is to run at this speed, or at least close enough to this speed, during training so you get used to it ahead of race day.
Related: How to pace your run
#5 Strength train
As mentioned at the start of this guide, strength training is a great way to help you speed up and it’s an essential part of any well-rounded training plan.
Strength training is essentially a type of exercise that specialises in the use of resistance to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles and bone density.
Resistance could be in the form of your own bodyweight or weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls.
Strength training for runners is important because it helps you build stronger muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. This in turn lowers your risk of injury.
More importantly, it improves your speed and power!
#6 Train your brain
You know the feeling: you’re in the middle or nearing the end of your race and everything seems to be hurting.
Instead of pushing a little harder through those crucial miles, you slow down in an attempt to make the final miles a little more bearable.
The struggle to continue versus a mounting desire to stop is a feeling I’m sure all runners have experienced at one time or another, no matter the race distance.
Fatigue, in its many forms, and effort are linked. When you start to feel tired, this adversely affects your psychological state, which in turn affects the amount of effort you put into the race.
Running is a mental game as much as it is physical, so it’s important to train your brain to overcome some of those mental barriers that could stop you in your tracks.
Your body is a lot more capable than you think!
Here are some mental tips for those long runs:
- Give yourself a pep talk. Positive self-talk can go a long way to help you run faster for longer, boost your confidence and self-esteem.
- Break up your run. Break up longer distances into smaller distances to make them more manageable. For example, if you’re running 20 miles, think of it instead as 4 x 5 mile runs.
- Think of the post-run reward. Whether it’s a hot cup of coffee or a hot shower, think of the post-run reward and this will motivate you to get through the run.
- Practice visualisation. Many professional athletes use visualisation to help them succeed. Picture yourself crossing the finish line and visualise your goal race time displayed on your watchface.
Related: 6 mental tips for long runs
#7 Join a running club
There’s only so much you can do or motivate yourself to do when you run alone. Many runners’ training transformed when they joined a running or athletics club.
The key is to find a club that matches your running experience and goals.
Before you join, it’s worth having a chat with a running coach from the club to see how they can help you. You may also want to join a trial session to see if it’s for you.
Many clubs offer a range of sessions aimed at different ability levels.
If your goal is to run faster for longer, then you’ll want to join a club that offers all types of training, not just the easy and long and steady runs.
Do your research online and check out local running groups in your area. RunTogether is a great website to find local running groups.
You may also want to research local athletics clubs if you want to step up your training even further.
The advice and expertise of a qualified running coach is invaluable. They will also be able to advise on a suitable training plans as well as things like nutrition and recovery.
Related: How to keep running fun
#8 Be consistent
Consistency is very much key when it comes to being able to run faster for longer.
All those miles and pacing during training will pay off in the long term!
The idea is that you should see gradual and incremental improvements over time, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t see any immediate improvement.
In order to be consistent, you have to commit to your training plan. Although this doesn’t mean you have to run every single day of the week, far from it.
Rest and recovery days are as important as the running itself, so ensure you take time to recover in between runs.
Risks to avoid when training to run faster and longer
When you train to improve your running performance – that is increasing your pace over longer distances – you are more at risk of overexertion and training overload.
It becomes a fine balance between the right amounts of exercise and recovery.
A well-rounded training plan will help you find the right balance, but the key to avoid overexertion and overtraining is to listen to your body.
If you’re new to running, then always follow this simple rule: volume over intensity.
In other words, focus on building your endurance and stamina first before improving your speed.
Related: How to run an 8 minute mile
What’s the difference between running by effort and running by pace?
Before we dig into the training secrets and tips on how to run faster and longer, it’s important you understand the difference between effort running and pace running.
Running by effort
- You let your perceived effort be your guide.
- You don’t worry about the time it takes to do an interval or segment of the run.
- Uses a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the slowest, 10 being the most difficult)
Running by pace
- You have a plan for what time you want to hit for each segment of your run.
- Most beneficial if you have a specified time goal in mind for an upcoming race or event.
- Uses a time per mile or kilometre to measure your pace.
Related: How to pace your run
How to run faster and longer: 4 training secrets
Here are 4 training secrets to run faster and longer:
#1 Set effective running goals
Achieving your goals is all the more easier when you set effective and realistic running goals for yourself.
Many runners overestimate their abilities when it comes to their running performance.
As a result, they end up feeling frustrated, unmotivated and disappointed when they don’t meet those goals.
When setting goals, follow the S.M.A.R.T principle and ensure you set goals that are Specific, Measured, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
#2 Customise your efforts
Whilst it’s a sensible idea to follow a training plan, it doesn’t mean that you cannot customize your training and the efforts within the plan to make them more applicable to you and your training.
Aim to include workouts in the plan that you enjoy doing, and more importantly, will test you in all the right ways.
For example, if you enjoy doing Fartlek training, then include it in your training.
#3 Progress your runs in a measured way
Any decent training plan will account for progression throughout the duration of the plan.
The principle of progression states that as your body adapts to your new exercise routine, you have to change it up.
This can mean gradually increasing the weight, duration, or intensity of your training in order to see growth
In the running sense, it means gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your runs each week so that your body becomes stronger.
The general advice is that the training load should only be increased by max 10% each week.
#4 Switch up efforts
To get the most out of your training and enhance your performance, you need to have a good variety of runs and sessions within your training plan.
By adding variety into your training, you will help your body build endurance, strength, speed and more.
It will also help your body tap into different energy systems which can help you improve on any training deficits, and more importantly, increase the enjoyment that you get out of training.
After all, no one wants to be stuck with a stale training schedule!
So what does this mean on a day to day level?
- Get used to running at different paces. Running at the same pace week in week out will not promote any gains in performance. Include runs at an easy, steady and quick pace to really see the benefits.
- Vary your long runs. Think about doing shorter runs on weeks with more intense speed training to assist recovery, and longer runs on weeks where you haven’t done as much work.
- Vary your speed training. Get into the habit of alternating speed training like intervals and tempo running, as well as the occasional hill repeats. These will develop all the relevant energy systems for use in performance.
- Vary your mileage. Mileage shouldn’t be pre-determined. It’s good to have alternating higher and lower weeks of mileage to help with recovery and adaptation.
- Vary the terrain. If you run on the road most of the time, you’ll benefit from getting a mixture of trail work occasionally. Trail running helps to improve your strength, balance and coordination. It also utilizes muscles that you don’t use that often when road running.
3 sample speed workouts to help you run faster and longer
Here are three sample speed workouts to help you run faster and longer.
#1 The Fartlek workout
- Warm up for 15 minutes
- Jog for 2 minutes at an easy pace
- Run for 7 minutes at a moderate to hard pace
- Jog for 3 minutes at an easy pace
- Run for 3 minutes at a hard pace
- Jog for 5 minutes
- Cool down for 5 minutes
#2 The tempo workout
- Warm up for 15 minutes
- Start with a 10 minute easy run
- Complete a 20 minute tempo run
- End with a 10 minute easy run
- Cool down for 5 minutes
#3 The interval workout
- Find a flat, straight piece of land
- Warm up for 15 minutes
- Run for 400m at a moderate to hard pace
- Take 1 minute to recover in between each interval
- Repeat 4 times
- Cool down for 5 minutes
- Mental resilience when running: A guide for beginner female runners - December 2, 2023
- Fuelling your run: A female runner’s guide to nutrition and running performance - November 29, 2023
- Running on a busy schedule: 10 tips for time-strapped women - November 28, 2023