Question of the week: How can I get faster?
Answer: The magic question that we all want the answer to, right? I bet every coach has a different answer. And I'll admit minimal experience in this category.
However, in my opinion, nothing makes you faster than endurance. If you are consistently running 3 miles a day and racing 5ks, if you up one of your runs to 4, then 5, then maybe even 6 miles, you will likely become speedier when racing only 3. For longer distances, this might just be increasing the number of miles per week, but only IF your body can handle it without injury. Almost all of my gained speed has come via endurance and flat out getting the miles in (yes, I'm not super speedy, but in the course of 15 months, I've gone from 11:50 min/mile to 9:52 min/mile for a half marathon). Let me add in, though, that you will see the greatest speed improvements in your first 18 months and then the improvements will slow.
Other ways to get faster is speedwork. There are lots of different methods of speedwork, but for beginners, I would say the three easiest to add to your routine (only once a week) would be hills, pace runs, or fartleks. Hills is exactly what it sounds like... run up a hill, walk or jog down the hill, and repeat. Pace runs are runs done at the goal pace for the goal event. In other words, if you want to run a half marathon at 10 min/mile, you might do a mid-week run with a 1 mile slow warm-up, 4 miles at 10 min/mile, and then a 1 mile slow cooldown. This is just a random example, and may or may not apply to you. Fartleks are a favorite for beginners. They are unstructured interval workouts. You do a nice easy warm-up, then intervals with recovery. These intervals may be "sprint to the next mailbox" or "run hard until I get to the end of the block", etc. In between these, you do a slow recovery jog, then go again. As always, your mileage and the number of repeats will vary. There are of course other ways to do speedwork and, I'm sure, many varying opinions on the matter.
For beginners, though, I think the focus should be on building the mileage... if you have extra weeks to add in some race-specific speedwork, then that's just a bonus!
Tip of the week: On the opposite end from the question of the week... if you are having trouble increasing the length of your long run, slow down! Many of us have some pre-conceived notion of how fast we should be going in order to be considered "running". Whether you are running 14 min/mile or 6 min/mile, you are running. Don't be afraid of pulling back and slowing down to get in that extra distance. And you might be surprised... once you know you can do it, mentally, you'll be prepared to go that distance more and more often and you'll naturally be able to start upping your pace. So slow down and break through that mental barrier!!!
Motivational Quote of the Week: