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Running–Speed Tips

March 26, 2012

Hey everyone! It’s Monday again… Aaahhhhh. Haha I am not a fan of Monday just because it’s my longest day of the week! For some reason it just seems worse on a Monday. Anyway, I know I’ve done a lot of running talk with my half-marathon coming up this Sunday, but I’ve gotten several e-mails about running from readers (I LOVE e-mails, keep them coming!) and one in particular asked about increasing speed. I thought it would be fun to share some things that I’ve learned over the past year and a half.

Now, please remember, I am definitely NOT what you’d consider a fast runner, but I have increased my speed since I started running. If you want some great running tips from people I look to, be sure to check out some of my favorite running blogs:


Hungry Runner Girl

Carrots N Cake

Healthy Ashley

Meals and Miles

Run to the Finish


Now, on to speed!

When I signed up for the Susan G. Komen 10K back in August of 2010, I was running max 3 miles at a pace of about 10:15-10:30 min/mile. Now, my average is closer to 8:45-9:15 min/mile, depending on the distance and purpose of my run. Speed has never been a huge thing for me, I’m more about completing further distances, rather than amping up my speed. I have, however, clearly managed to increase a bit!

I think I really started to pay attention to my pace when I was getting closer to running that first 10K race and a friend of mine at law school signed up to run it with me. I was so excited to have someone doing the race with me, but I actually got a bit competitive! She was very tall and could run a lot further than me, and typically a bit faster. Hearing her times made me want to pick it up! My biggest goal at that time was to run at a pace below 10 min/mile. How did I do it? I pushed harder. Simple as that.

yes it does

Whenever I was out on a run I’d be sure to keep checking my phone (I used Map My Run at the time) and if I was slowing down, I’d push myself to go faster, until, eventually, hitting that pace became normal to me.

Now, of course, you have to remember that we all have bad running days. There were definitely days back then when there was no way I was going to make that pace. There are plenty of days now when I just don’t have the energy to keep up a good pace! I ran 6 miles last week on sore legs and in the heat, and I could barely keep my pace below 10 min/mile! It was rough, so don’t be discouraged! 2 days later I ran a 6 mile tempo run with an average pace of 8:34 min/mile!

62718_1459783697070_1307730332_31275048_537778_n   photo (90)

                                   2010                                                                                  2011

I ended up completing that first 10K with an average pace of 9:18 min/mile. I was proud, but wanted to die! One year later I ran in the same race with an average pace of 8:24 min/mile! How did I do it?



Run, run, run

Ahhhh the dreaded speed training! Some people love it, other people hate it. For me, it depends on what kind of speed training I’m doing. If it’s based off my training plan, I usually hate it. If it’s based off my mood and creativity, I LOVE it.


Training Plan Speed Runs:

Tempo Runs are runs where you warm up, then you run at your “goal pace” for a race for a few miles, and then cool down. On my training plan, these are usually 6 miles, so I do 1 mile warm up, 4 miles at “goal pace” and then 1 mile cool down.

Speedwork runs are runs where you sprint certain distances, and then jog in between. These are usually based on meters, but end up being quarter mile, half mile or full mile sprints. On my running plan, it will tell me to run 6 miles, with 4 miles at a certain pace, and half mile jogs in between.



“Speed play, or "fartlek" in Swedish (the concept originated in Sweden), is a free-flowing format in which you run faster for however long (or short) you want to.” (Runners World).

I love fartlek because, well, it has a funny name, but also it’s a fun way to do speed training based on your own rules! I love doing it on the treadmill by starting out with a mile or a half mile at just a jog to warm up, and then I’ll start increasing speeds and throwing in a full on sprint when I feel like it! Many of you are familiar with High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. Basically Fartlek is the same thing!

If you’re outside, you can do things like jog a block, then sprint a block, then walk a block and do that over and over again. Or you can just pick landmarks, like seeing a stop sign in the distance and deciding to sprint to the stop sign and then cool down and jog. There are no rules, just to push yourself! Usually you end up surprising yourself!

I have several HIIT treadmill workouts on my Workouts Page if you’re interested in seeing some that I have done. Usually I’ll do these for 3 or 4 mile runs and I end up with amazing average paces! Incorporating a speed run once a week into your workout routine can really help you build up to your goal pace, just give it a try!

photo (23)

Currently, my speed is just not where I want it. My initial goal for my half marathon was under 2 hours, which I still think I’m capable of. However, when I found out to qualify for a corral in the Chicago marathon you need a time of 1:50:59, I made that my new goal. 9 minute difference? Quite a leap. This means I have to keep a pace of  8:27 min/mile for 13.1 miles. Possible, but not probable based on the slow training and injuries that I’ve had.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure going to try! But I’m also going to not beat myself up about it if I can’t make it. I’ll take a week off, regroup, and then do some fartlek and maybe sign up for another race! And if I do make it, I’ll still take a week off and maybe sign up for another race – although one to run for fun!

"Never give up on something you can't go a day without thinking about."

I hope this has been helpful for you all and please don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments, or send me an e-mail at


Do you have any speed training tips?


What are you working on getting better at in your life?

31 Comments leave one →
  1. fitandfuninthird permalink
    March 26, 2012 7:00 am

    Awesome post! I’m workin on increasing my speed too, and I find that using my iPhone app helps also! It tells me after each mile what my pace was, so I try to speed it up if I’m slacking a bit!

  2. Olivia permalink
    March 26, 2012 7:49 am

    I’m not a runner but I try and do 30 seconds of running on the treadmill every now and then during workouts. One day I hope to be better.

    • March 26, 2012 9:23 am

      don’t just hope, do it!!! Run for 1 minute! Or try intervals where you run for 30 sec, walk for 1 minute and back and forth. Eventually you’ll build up, you just have to keep challenging yourself!

  3. March 26, 2012 7:52 am

    Ahh, I don’t like speed training very much and I’ve always been in the camp of “train long to run long” but I recently decided that I really want to PR at both the marathon and half marathon distances and the only way I can do that is by speed training. I’m planning on using one of the Advanced Marathon training plans to increase my aerobic threshold so that not only will I be able to run faster but I’ll also be more efficient!

    • March 26, 2012 9:24 am

      good luck! advanced marathon training sounds pretty scary to me, I’m still in the novice and beginner category for that since I’ll be training for my first this summer!

  4. March 26, 2012 7:58 am

    This is a great post! While training for my half, I didn’t do much speed work because I wanted to get a good base down. Now that I know I can physically run 13.1 miles, I am going to incorporate more speed work into my next training plan. I also found that I got faster by just running longer. The higher mileage, the faster I seemed to get. Maybe my body was just getting used to the intensity and became more efficient.

    • March 26, 2012 9:25 am

      For some reason I feel like I’ve gotten slower! Haha I think that’s more due to injuries and what not. But that’s my hope too, to get this half under my belt and then work some more on speed!

  5. March 26, 2012 8:56 am

    Good tips! I didn’t think I would be able to finish my 10K in under an hour, and I did just what you said- I PUSHED HARDER! Now that I’m not training for any races I’m definitely going to start focusing on building up a base and then speeding things up! Thanks for this post 🙂

  6. March 26, 2012 10:35 am

    I would love to amp up my mileage for running. I agree that it’s not so much about speed as long as you make it through your run!

    I also love that you mentioned bad running days. I ran last week and felt great after! The next day, I did the same run and it seemed to take forever!

    • March 26, 2012 12:40 pm

      It definitely changes day to day, no one has all great runs, you just have to push through!

  7. March 26, 2012 12:19 pm

    Great post!! I for sure need to do speed training on MY terms-or else I hate it. Hah 🙂

    • March 26, 2012 12:40 pm

      Haha that’s probably why I like fartlek, I’m such a control freak and don’t like being told what to do!

  8. Justine Duppong permalink
    March 26, 2012 2:56 pm

    I’m more into lifting weights than running (which I never would have imagined when I was younger–I used to think lifting would make me get big instead of in the best shape of my life!!). My goal right now is to squat and deadlift my own weight! So that’s what I’m working on right now–gradually increasing.

    • March 26, 2012 3:00 pm

      oh wow, that’s an awesome goal Justine! I try and do strength training at least 3 days a week, but I’m no where near as strong as you! Awesome!

  9. March 26, 2012 4:37 pm

    I just started doing some weekly speed training in late January (fartlekking and occasionally a tempo run). I don’t enjoy the tempo runs very much but the fartleks are pretty fun! However, so far it doesn’t seem like it’s been helping me that much. In your experience, how long did it take for you to start seeing noticeable results?!?

    • March 26, 2012 5:17 pm

      For me it was really over time. During normal weeks and months I’d have good runs and bad runs, so it’s hard to know. You really see when your pace improves over time (like for me I knocked a minute off my average pace in a year) or at races when you’re pushing your hardest.

  10. March 26, 2012 6:51 pm

    I’m working on increasing my speed too! I love doing speed workouts with a group–I feel like without a group to push me along, I’d hold myself back! I try to do two speed workouts each week and I think it’s helping! Loved this post!

    • March 27, 2012 8:45 am

      Speed work with a group would be great, you have other people to push you and I’m sure some competitiveness gets in there!

  11. March 26, 2012 7:55 pm

    I’ve been running for so long but NEVER tried to get any faster (so I didn’t get any faster) until last year. After I ran a marathon (at a very slow pace :-)) I figured that the only place to go after that was to try and get faster. At the time, I was dreading it because I hated trying to go fast! But once I started pushing myself, it became more fun. Now, I try and work in speed work about once a week. The biggest thing that has worked for me is the same as one of your tips: PUSH YOURSELF!! 🙂

  12. March 26, 2012 9:28 pm

    Woah what an informative post! Loved reading this one 🙂

  13. JoJo permalink
    March 26, 2012 9:55 pm

    I love your quote! It helps when you are training for something big 🙂
    I like building on my training for a special event, it’s motivating than just running everyday to stay fit!

  14. March 26, 2012 10:53 pm

    I love the comfort zone quote! When I ran cross-country in high school, we worked 400’s, then 200’s and finally 100’s into our regular long run workouts. We tracked our times, and with slow recovery periods in between the sprints, worked at speeding up. It was definitely a drawn out process, and there were days I was not feeling it, but being part of a team helped me push through. I was definitely in the best shape ever back then…I don’t do enough speed training now that I run less competitively.

    • March 27, 2012 8:47 am

      Well I’m sure a team would do a lot more speed work than someone running on their own! I think working it in about once a week is a good amount!

  15. March 26, 2012 11:01 pm

    I love this post. I’ve been running for four years and just started putting effort into speed last year. My boyfriend picked up running and really pushed me to have the confidence to go faster. My first half marathon in 2008 was 2:30 and last year I set a PR of 2:10. My goal is to clear 2:00 this year! This post has some great tips!

    • March 27, 2012 8:47 am

      Thank you, Anna! And cutting 20 minutes off your time? That’s awesome! I’m sure you’ll hit the 2 hour mark this year!!!

  16. March 28, 2012 9:40 am

    Found this link on my newsletter this morning and thought it pertinent and informative:

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