The most common question I’m asked (and I find myself asking), is ‘how do I run faster?’
It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie runner, a seasoned strider or even a professional athlete. Everyone wants to up their pace a bit.
Why bother to run faster?
A good question to be asking. With so much enjoyment in running a comfortable and leisurely pace, why would runners want to increase their speed? There are many reasons which I have included below.
All of these reasons are from personal experience and from chatting to runner friends, some of which are professional athletes.
Set a new personal best
The most common reason, setting a personal best is a feeling of great pride and accomplishment for a runner. Those who do a weekly parkrun will understand how personal best a powerful motivator is to get faster.
One week, you might get a 5K time of 22 minutes and feel chuffed with yourself. A new personal best has been achieved. However, something inside you says you can do better than that. Inside, you know you can run faster. You promise yourself to get faster next week and set a new personal best.
And that is why runners want to be faster. To set a personal best for a specific distance or course, then crush it next time around.
Achieve a time goal
Some runners want to be quicker because they have a set goal in mind. Running a 5K under 20 minutes, a half-marathon under 1:45, or a marathon under 4 hours 30 minutes.
If you have a goal in mind and you’re running too slow, you will be motivated to get quicker. This was my main reason for increasing my speed when I ran my first half-marathon. I wanted a time quicker than 1:40, and found my pace wasn’t up to scratch.
I knew I could do better and started working to achieve my goal. Without the goal in my head, I don’t think I would have been as motivated to run quicker.
Goals vary from person to person but make no mistake they are a powerful motivator to increasing speed.
Finish a race in a better position
If you take part in races, amateur or professional, it’s only natural to want to finish in the best position possible. If you’re coming 200th in a field of 250 runners at your local parkrun, you might be motivated to run quicker for a better finishing position.
For instance, you could set yourself the goal of coming in the top 100. This might take a couple months, but it will certainly be achievable. Running to finish closer to the front of the pack is why some runners want to get faster.
Achieve a fitness goal
If you run at a faster pace, you’re going to be fitter and burn more calories. It’s simple as that. Some want to run quickly to achieve their fitness goal.
Running quicker means your body will develop better anaerobic endurance, and it will get better at pumping blood around the body. Your leg muscles, core and back will be more toned. You will lose weight, and then maintain a healthy weight (as long as you have a good diet).
Fitness goals vary. Some want to run a certain distance in a set time, others want to lose a specific amount of weight, whilst body conscious runners focus on getting a toned figure. Whatever your fitness goal, running quicker can help you achieve it.
Seeing more of the world
This is one of my biggest reasons for wanting to run faster. Running can take you to some amazing places and allow you to see beautiful sights. Whether your pacing along a quiet riverbed, exploring nature on a trail run, by the seaside, natural locations make running extra special.
The faster you can run, the more of the world you can see. When I go running on holiday, in a different city, or somewhere different than usual, I try and run quickly so I can see as much as I can. Some of my best running memories come from being able to travel quickly, like exploring quiet districts in Prague on a sunny morning or running along the British coast.
Running quicker means you can see more of the world, a strong motivator to get your pace on.
Without further ado, here are 23 top tips to run faster
1. Work on your form
It doesn’t matter how determined you are, without good form it will be difficult to run faster. The key to running fast is nailing proper running technique. Keep your upper body tall and relaxed, hit the ground with your mid-foot landing under the hip, swing your arms forward and backwards (don’t go side to side, it doesn’t help) and look forward.
Nailing good form takes practice, so don’t worry if you’re not perfect right away. Ask a friend or coach to watch you run and provide some feedback on your form. Alternatively, ask someone to record you running so you can make a self-assessment on your form. It’s handy to record yourself running, it can open your eyes to a tonne of issues.
I thought I was running as gracefully as Mo Farah or the Brownlee brothers, but after watching a recorded clip of my technique I was horrified. Not only was I slamming the ground with each strike, but my arms also went side to side and my head was looking down to the ground. What a running disaster.
Luckily, I used the footage to make a self-diagnosis of poor running form which I worked on. Now my running style is more refined, and I find it easier to get through runs quicker. Work on good form, be a quicker runner.
2. Eat a proper diet
Ever heard the phrase, ‘you are what you eat?’ It’s completely true, what you put inside you will reflect on how you perform when running. Junk food, like fast food and sweets, is high in sugar and processed ingredients.
These unhealthy foods are difficult to digest, are bad for your health, increase the risk of disease, and can make you overweight. Because of the unnecessarily high sugar content in fatty foods, your blood sugar often spikes after eating something sugary only to quickly crash. This leaves you tired, groggy and unmotivated. Not a recipe for quick running, by any stretch of the imagination.
Eat whole grains and complex carbohydrates before a run, which provide you with long-lasting energy without the crash. A source of energy you can depend on for a constant and controlled supply of glycogen (muscle fuel) to power a quicker run.
For more information on the best foods to eat before a 5K, check out the following article:
3. Get familiar with your cadence
Running cadence is the total number of strides you take per minute. Most everyday runners have a cadence of 160-170 steps per minute, whilst elite runners tend to have 180 step and upwards cadences.
Having a quicker cadence means you will run faster. Runners with higher cadences keep their feet close to the round with short, soft and quick strides. A quick and easy way to measure your cadence is to run for a minute, count the number of times one-foot hits the ground, then multiply it by two. You now have your running cadence.
When you have your magic number, work on increasing your cadence so you can run more efficiently and naturally you will become quicker. It can be difficult at first and takes some work, but it’s manageable. Once you’re aware of your cadence, you can focus on improving it to up your pace and become a more efficient runner.
4. Increase your overall strength
Studies have shown that runners who do strength training run faster. Lifting weights, doing resistance exercises, and working on building muscle, can make you a quicker runner. When you become stronger, your body becomes more efficient at using fuel during physical activity, which results in lowered race times.
Great exercises for runners to increase their strength include lunges, squats, and sit-ups. Not only will your body be toned and more defined, but it will also distribute fuel to the muscles better making it easier to up the pace for a longer time.
Remember, don’t overdo it by lifting weights and doing exercises like there’s no tomorrow. That will result in disaster, like an injury. Ouch. Instead, pace yourself and gradually introduce yourself to strength training. You’ll be less likely of getting an injury, and you’ll be a quicker runner.
5. Add a weekly speed session to your training
Incorporating a weekly speed session to your running schedule will make you a faster runner. A weekly dose of speed in your workouts can increase your fitness threshold, get your body used to quicker paces, and allow you to maintain speed.
If all your runs are relaxed, light and done at a speed that simply isn’t challenging, you won’t develop a quick pace. It’s simple as that. That’s why a speed session is vital.
Go for a run on a familiar route, ideally no more than 5K. Run at a quick pace, above what you’re comfortable with, for 1 minute straight. Power walk for a minute to recover, then repeat for at least 7 reps. This develops your speed efficiently.
If you can, try and measure what your personal quick pace is with a running watch. This way you will know what pace is right and challenging for you.
It will be tough at first, but it will soon get easier. When you get quicker and find a certain pace easier to maintain, increase either your pace or the time (to 1 minute 30). Doing this exercise conditions your body to hold a quicker speed for longer.
It will be hard work, I’m not going to lie. When I started doing this, I felt knackered when stumbling into my front door. It was all worth it though when I started blitzing my personal bests at the 5K and half-marathon. If you put in the work with speed sessions, you will get the result you’re looking for. The result, of course, will be a faster runner.
6. Make sleep a priority
This is a tip you will enjoy. Who doesn’t love their sleep? There’s a correlation between decent sleep, and faster running, so make sure you get your shut-eye.
Sleeping properly means your body is restored and ready for action, and it’s particularly important after a run. When you sleep, your body repairs itself and gets it ready for the next round of exercise and general day to day activities. Not sleeping enough, or well, is a recipe for disaster which won’t just hinder your chances of running faster. It will reduce your quality of life too. Not good.
We’re all guilty of staying up later than we should to watch EastEnders, scroll through social media, watch a film, walk the dog or do a crossword puzzle, from time to time. However, make sure you prioritise your sleep. It’s a proven way to help your body repair itself properly and leaves you feeling well rested and ready to run on training days.
So how much sleep do you need? Everyone is different. Some need 6 hours, whilst others need 9. You know better than anyone else what works for you. If you’re not sure, try going to bed and waking at different times until you wake up feeling well rested and ready to take on the day. Make a note the times, and how long you slept, and make this a habit in your sleep-wake routine. Before bed make sure you turn off your phone, set the alarm, and then get some shut eye. It’s essential for quicker running.
7. Use a running watch
GPS running watches are fantastic companions for runners, and they can help in your quest to run faster. These stylish watches sit on the wrist and record various data sets whilst you run. Data includes distance, location, speed, elevation, heart rate, and so on.
What makes running watches so important for running faster, is that most of them feature an inbuilt training programme. These programmes help structure a tailored workout specific to your ability, which will help you run faster.
For instance, some watches have a programme which allows you to set a minimum pace per mile. As soon as you run below this pace, it beeps and vibrates to let you know its time to pick up some speed. Having the watch can guide you through speed training and keep you on track to achieving your speed goals.
Additionally, runners can use the data recorded from the watch to adjust their training for speedier runs. If a route laden with hills and steep inclines is holding your pace back drastically, it might be better to opt for an easier and flatter course for the time being. Once you get faster on this course and have increased fitness, then you can return to the more challenging route.
A running GPS watch is a handy tool for runners looking to increase their pace. There are lots of ways to use them, and increasing your speed is just one of them.
For more information on GPS running watches, check out the following articles here:
8. Develop your aerobic system by running more
Running more miles means your body becomes more effective at distributing and using oxygen. Try increasing weekly mileage by 10% each week. For instance, if you’re currently running 15 miles a week, make next week 16.5 miles and so on. Once you up the weekly mileage, your aerobic system will dramatically improve, and your speed will quickly increase.
The power of long runs for aerobic development Adding a long run to your routine is great for upping weekly mileage and is a powerful way to develop your aerobic system. Long runs also improve endurance, meaning you can run for longer at a specific pace.
If your usual running distance is 3 miles, try running 8 miles for your long run. You may run 2 miles, in which case try a 6-mile-long run. The long run doesn’t have to be 100mph, but don’t feel tempted to drop your pace just because of the longer distance. Run more miles on a weekly basis, and you will quickly see the powerful benefit it will have on your speed.
9. Discover the benefits of the treadmill
Using a treadmill to train can be highly effective for increasing momentum, and it ‘something I initially resisted. I loved outside running with all my heart. Discovering new locations in my hometown, exploring hidden trails not usually visible, enjoying runs in the open (whatever the weather).
I was then invited to the gym by a friend and quickly saw the benefits of a treadmill. A huge advantage of the treadmill is you can manipulate the variables exactly as you see fit. You control the speed and the incline, making for a targeted workout.
For instance, a treadmill’s belt can help you with leg turn over so it’s easier to run faster. If you get too comfortable, raise the incline and you’ll be put to the test (which is for the best, trust me). This makes a treadmill game-changing, as you have this power right at your fingertips.
Use a treadmill to create a tailored workout, to increase your speed. Just remember to get on the machine before turning it on. Despite the name of this site safety first, runners second.
10. It might be time to get new running shoes
Your shoes can make a massive impact on your speed. I recently replaced my old and worn running shoes with Asics Phoenix 8 shoes, and my times shot through the roof. Running shoes are designed to help you run as efficiently as possible, and as they become older they lose their functionality.
When you run, your feet constantly pound the floor which wears down a running shoe. If the shoes are worn it will have reduced cushioning, lose some its structural benefits (like helping overpronators), and so on. As a rule of thumb, it’s good to replace them every 400-500 miles.
Some signs you need new running shoes include noticeable wear and tear defects. developing aches and pains, a noticeable reduction in performance, getting blisters out of the blue, and noticing other shoes feel much better.
My old shoes were incredibly worn, and wear giving me aches and pains. After each run, my legs had sharp pains and running became less enjoyable. I changed my shoes, and instantly running is ten times more comfortable and I’m getting quicker speeds.
If you want to run faster, it might be time to replace your running shoes. Some runners are put off by the price tag, but it really is worth making the investment on a new pair.
For more information on running shoes, check out the articles here:
11. Practice proper breathing
How you breathe massively impacts your speed. Understanding how to breathe whilst running at faster speeds takes practice. Once you nail it, your pace will increase. Getting the body to take in oxygen, and distribute it more efficiently around the body, means you will perform better. With less obvious effort.
Use your nose and mouth while inhaling and exhaling to optimise the oxygen supply to the muscles. Don’t just use your mouth to breathe, easier said than done I know. However, it makes such a difference once you practice and get the hang of this.
12. Try some hill training
Doing some hill repeats are fantastic for upping the pace. A hill repeat is where you run at a hill, pushing the pace. Don’t slow down, try to keep a consistent speed until you get to the hill. Once the hill is conquered, take a few minutes to get your breath back then go to the bottom of the hill and do it all again. Repeat at least 2 times, before continuing with your run.
As you get more physically fit, increase the number of reps and find steeper hills to run up. Hill repeats are so effective for increasing your speed because they build muscle strength and boost mental confidence to up the pace too.
Try and do a hill repeat session at least once a week for the best results. Find that hill and get climbing. It will make you a faster runner.
13. Lose weight
Research shows that runners who are a few pounds lighter can run faster than runners who weigh a bit more. It makes sense if you think about. The heavier you are, the more weight there is for your body to move at a fast pace. If you’re particularly heavy, not only will you probably be unfit, but your body will also have a heavy load to transport.
I’m not saying you need to go crazy with this one, some runners don’t even have the weight to lose so it’s not for everyone. If you’re a bit heavier than what is average for your age and height, try to lose a few pounds. You’ll notice a remarkable difference when you’re running.
I know this to be true first hand. After a food and drink intense Christmas last year, I found I put on a few extra pounds and my times suffered slightly as a result. A couple of weeks later I’d lost the weight, and my times went back to normal. Remember to always consult a GP or a healthcare professional before undergoing a weight-loss programme.
14. Try fartlek training
This type of training means you alter your pace during a workout. Alternate between jogs and quick sprints, which will gradually build your speed and stamina.
Try lightly jogging for a minute, before a 20-second sprint, before returning to the 1-minute jog. Eventually, you will get quicker and have more stamina to sprint for longer. Your breathing should be laborious after your sprint, leaving you time to catch your breath and recover during the 1 minute of jogging.
Fartlek training is so effective because it gets your body used to running at different speeds and continually adjusting to different demands. You will be faster in no time when you add fartlek training to the mix.
15. Focus on what’s in front
All too often runners want to increase their speed but spend most of their run looking at the floor. That’s not the way to do it. Looking down at your feet or continually turning your head to check the environment or competition not only wastes precious time, but it also unbalances you and makes you slower.
Instead, concentrate on what’s in front of you. Present your forehead upwards and focus on what’s 10-20 metres in the distance.
Remember, you travel towards whatever you focus on. If you’re in a car and you’re looking around you, rather than directly in front, there’s a good chance you will crash or get into some dangerous situations. Not ideal, and something which is not encouraged in driving lessons. Focus your eyes on where you want to go, look ahead and you will run much faster.
16. Try cross training
When you train for a sport by doing another sport, this is known as cross training. Popular sports that runners cross train with are cycling and swimming (combine them and you have a triathlon). When you cross train you build muscle in other parts of your body which otherwise aren’t reached with running.
For example, swimming develops chest and back muscles which are seldom developed when running. As a result, your body is more muscular and gets better at distributing fuel to the muscles. As a result, you’ll naturally become a better runner and speed will come to you easier.
Also, it’s nice to give your legs a break from the high impact movements in running like striking the ground continuously. Swimming and cycling are low impact and give your joints and bones a nice rest.
I try to go swimming at least once a week, as an example of how often you could dabble in another sport. Cross train to increase your speed.
17. Get caffeinated
Some research suggests a moderate dose of caffeine prior to running makes you slightly faster. It doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s certainly worth experimenting with different amounts of caffeine to see which is right for you.
Coffee is my favourite caffeinated beverage, and I often enjoy a cup of coffee half an hour before a run. It’s important to remember not to overdo it, as you could experience a crash after an initial caffeine high.
Also, bear in mind coffee is a diuretic so it will make you go to the toilet more. If you’re on a long run, without any toilets, it might be better to skip the pre-race coffee and go for a caffeinated energy gel instead mid-run. This will give you some carbohydrates to keep your energy up, and a dose of caffeine to jolt you quicker.
Caffeine is great for increasing speed. It’s a legal performance enhancer, tastes delicious, and is incredibly cheap. What’s not to like about caffeine for quicker running?
For more information on energy gels (some of which contain caffeine), check out the following article:
18. Wear light clothing
Wearing lots of layers can weigh you down and affect your time. When it’s race day, take the extra layers off. The less clothing and items on your body, the quicker you’ll be able to move. A quicker time is inevitable, and you’ll feel great when you smash your personal best.
If it’s cold on race day, try to resist the temptation to wear lots of layers. You’ll start the race off nice and toasty, but the extra gear will not only weigh you down.
Even though it’s cold, you’ll soon warm up after a few miles and start sweating loads with all that gear. You will probably overheat and feel extremely uncomfortable. Not ideal. I’ve seen this countless time on race days. I know it will be difficult to start with, but it will be worth it when you’re warm later and running quick miles.
To run faster, strip down and wear light running clothing. A lightweight running jacket, top, pair of shorts or leggings and light shoes will do just fine. Say hello to your quick time, very soon.
19. Try some tempo runs
Tempo runs challenge runners to run at a comfortably hard pace for a consistent prolonged period, say 20-40 minutes straight. It won’t be too quick to burn you out, but you will probably be in some discomfort and experience heavier breathing. Being fast and steady, for such a long time, builds stamina and your muscle strength.
Tempo running is often used for marathon and half-marathon runners, who want to achieve a personal best. They decide what time they would like to get, then work backwards and work out what pace per mile they will need to run at to achieve it. They will then do a long run, matching this pace, to condition their body to run faster.
Come race day, you and your body will be experienced with running at the quicker pace and a personal best will be in the bag. Try tempo runs for faster running.
20. Run with upbeat music
Research has shown, time and time again, that running with upbeat music can make you faster. When there’s a quick beat in your headphones, you’ll naturally want to match is with a quicker running cadence (ground strikes per minute). Everyone enjoys music, so this is a fantastic and positive way to run faster.
One of my greatest enjoyments is running with some of my favourite tunes. I’m a huge lover of music and enjoy a wide variety of bands and artists. Some of my favourites include The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Specials, Madness, Tame Impala, Level 42, The Byrds, The Strypes and The Smiths, to name a few.
Everyone likes different music, so our favourite bands won’t be the same. That’s totally fine, just make sure you run with something you really enjoy and can get into. Make sure it’s upbeat music, with a decent beat you can match your steps too. You’re sure to run quicker in no time.
For my top 10 rock songs for running, and the best 11 headphones for running, check out the following articles:
21. Mix up the terrain during training
Don’t get stuck in a rut and run on the same surface, day in day out of your training. Your body needs variation in terrain to be continuously challenged, forcing it to get stronger and adapt to new situations and environments.
You know how difficult it is when you’re running, and you come across an unexpected hill? At first, you hate the hill. It’s your worst enemy and you reconsider why you started running in the first place. But, when you conquer the hill you feel proud of your achievement and know it’s doing wonders for your fitness and running ability.
Going for a trail once every week, or two weeks is great for building speed. Trail runs feature challenging terrain, which climbs and dips in elevation quickly, and will help condition your bodies physical fitness. When you get back onto a flat road surface, it will be a breeze in comparison to the tricky trail and your running will be better. Mix up the terrain in your training, condition your body and run faster.
22. Take time to stretch
Static stretches (whilst standing still) have been said to increase flexibility in your body, which can lead to better technique. Subsequently, your body will be more agile and comfortable meaning you’ll be able to tackle a personal best challenge better.
I understand its time consuming, and some runners (including myself, in a past life) can’t be bothered to stretch. However, stretching is worth it. Not only is it effective in better strides and a quicker time, but stretching may also prevent running injuries like Achilles Tendinitis. Give daily stretching ago, a quick 5-minute session will do wonders for your running times.
23. Add jump rope to your exercise regime
Boxers do jump rope workouts as part of their routine because it does magic for their agility and speed.
A boxer needs to be quick, light on their feet, and physically fast. Take a leaf out of the book of boxers (I just made that up) and try some jump rope workouts. The high-intensity cardio will get the blood pumping and condition the body for quick movements which will help during a personal best attempt.
The good thing with jump rope is that it’s cheap, easy to do, and can be done anywhere like a park or a friend’s house. Be like Rocky Balboa and jump rope for speedier running.