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How I’m Running Faster

Sep 4, 2015 | Running | 15 comments


When I first started running a 10 minute mile seemed really fast. I would try to stick to that pace on training runs but often couldn’t keep it up during long runs and races. I finished 3 half marathons in 2.18, 2.17 and 2.15, and ran my first marathon in 4.54.59 – an 11.15 min mile average pace.

I ran the Berlin Marathon last year at an 8.45 min mile pace, and am aiming to run Chicago at an 8.10 min mile.

I read a lot of blogs and know other runners that don’t seem to be experiencing pace increases, some of those are super speedy already, or those that seem to have found a steady pace and stuck with it, which is great if that’s what you want. But I get a lot of readers and friends asking me just how I’m getting speedier, so I thought I’d share a little of my experience.

Firstly, you should know that I am stubborn and really competitive- not ideal or attractive traits in real life, but pretty useful when it comes to marathon training. I don’t give up easily, and have been known to literally give myself a talking to during a training run or race. I think a lot of people are actually held back physically by their mental attitude.

Stop making excuses for why a training run or race didn’t go right. Look at what happened, and work out what went wrong and why. Having to text Kerry with all of my workouts means that unless there’s a really good reason, like injury, then the workout has to be done and done at top effort. I just have to suck it up, work hard and complete the workouts to the best of my ability- no excuses.

Having confidence in yourself, in your ability and in your training is key to success. When someone sets the workouts for me, and believes that I can hit the paces, it gives me the confidence to know that I can achieve them.

How to run faster

It is hard. Really, really hard. But if it wasn’t hard then you wouldn’t see improvements. It’s normal to feel scared or nervous when looking at hard workouts, but they make you stronger- physically and mentally. Yes it’s painful, but the results are worth it. I’ve retched during a tempo run, been sick during Yasso 800s and cried during long runs. You need to be pushing yourself if you want to see your paces drop.

I’m running faster. Sounds simple, but my mile repeats, 400m repeats and Yasso 800s are faster than ever. These shorter distance workouts are great for getting some speed into my training, and not as overwhelming as jumping straight into speedier long runs.

How to run faster

Marathon training is time consuming, especially when you’ve got a specific time goal in mind. I’ve had to say NO to some workouts with friends and to some fun events, either because I had to run (or go to Barre) or because I couldn’t afford to do an unplanned workout that could negatively effect a key workout.

Cut the junk miles– I’m only running 3 times a week, which is working well to avoid burn out, overtraining and injury (hoping niggly knee is no longer going to be an issue although I’m still looking after it).

It’s not just about running, it’s about strengthening your body. Regular Barrecore barre classes have improved my core, as well as upper body strength and, importantly my glutes and quads. A strong core helps stabilise your body, whilst strong arms and legs help propel you forwards!

How to run faster

Find out when the best time of day is for your run, as much as I love running in the morning, I know that for really hard workouts, my body is more prepared to run at the end of the day. I’ve been running a lot in the evening this summer!!

Are you trying to run faster? Or are you concentrating on running longer? Any tips for other runners out there that you’d like to share?


  1. LauraN

    Great advice, I’ve always been a morning runner and this summer it’s not been working so I’ve moved most of my runs to the evening. I know more core work will really help me, I need to focus on that. Mentally it’s been tough this year, no idea why but it has. I know I can run well, I just need my confidence back

  2. Phil Branigan

    You are so right about core strength, so many aspiring runners don’t do enough strength work. I was lucky enough to meet Dr Duncan French the Technical Lead of Strength and Conditioning of the English Institute of Sport and he confirmed that if you concentrate on your resistance training combined with good recovery, you will be a much better runner. You only need to run 2 or 3 times a week with one long run every 1 to 2 weeks to be a confident reasonably paced injury free runner. Over training seems to be the biggest problem most people have when it comes to running and this is just due to lack of confidence in the individuals mind. His top tip for speed? Learn how to run fast downhill.

  3. Ab

    Great advice. I think half my problem is confidence and that I’m not massively competitive !! I have an autumn marathon coming up in a month or so… And while I’m taking part without a time goal in mind I have been incorporating a bit of speed work in my training, for the first time really in marathon training! It definitely helps and maybe I will surprise myself, who knows! Thanks Charlie 🙂

  4. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes

    Great advice and the only think I keep leaving out is the strength training. It seems to be the first thing that goes sadly and I need to change that. I AM trying to get speedier which I am, but I know kicking up the strength a notch would really help with that. I’m so time limited with my two young boys that sometimes all I have time for is the run!

  5. Gemma

    It’s reassuring to know that it is quality over quantity – I tried doing a training plan that was six days a week for a half marathon and wound up tired, injured and loathing running. But your advice is useful, and definitely something to implement when I look to go faster next year.

    Hope Chicago goes well for you 🙂

  6. fitnessmomwinecountry

    Charlie great advice. I like the idea of fewer running days. I have been doing Pure Barre for the past year and have already noticed a difference in my running. I am currently training for the Nike Women’s in San Francisco {October} this will be my first “hilly” run so not too much expected time wise, but I know I am stronger because of Barre.

  7. Jenny

    I love this post! I love it because I can relate … I’m going through what you went through so this gives me hope! My first half I finished around 2:45; granted, I was 18 weeks pregnant but I felt slower than a snail. My second half I finished around 2:30 and my third will be next weekend and 4th will be at the end of the month. During training I’ve gotten my average down to mid 9’s but I still want to be faster! I’m hoping I’ll finish one of my half’s closer to 2:00.
    Just like you I’ve been running only 3 days/wk and focusing on strength 2/wk. Most def helps with preventing injury and burnout. And I’ve noticed my runs are more focused which is probably why my times are getting better. One run is a temp run, one is 400m repeats and then a long run.
    I’ve also done hill repeats and 30-20-10 to increase my speed which in all honestly I like much better than 400m repeats and tempo runs.

  8. Emily

    LOVE this post. Although with my first marathon, I actually wanted to slow it down so I could make sure that I avoided any chance of an IT band flare-up. That’s the last thing I need a month away from the race! It’s frustrating since I want to go faster, but I’ll save a goal time for my 2nd marathon. 😀 I just want to finish my first and I’ll be one happy runner lol. 😀

  9. Mary

    I didn’t realise that you once used to run at 10mm pace. That’s quite some improvement you’ve made and gives me something to target one day! I started out at 10mm pace runs but my marathon time is still a long way off that! I’ve added a few mid-length runs at tempo pace to my training this cycle and I find that they have been great at keeping me focused.

  10. Coco

    It is funny how we all want better race times but don’t always realize that it will take hard work – not just plodding along – to get there. A strong core and glutes really helps stave off common running injuries.

  11. has2run

    I have REALLY slowed down in the last year, not by choice, I am one of those “over trainers.” In my mind it makes sense to run everyday, fast as you can, as long as you can. I am sidelined right now with a calf injury because of that mentality. So I am definitely taking heed to this! Have a great weekend..

  12. fionajarrett

    Good to get an insight into someone else’s training when it comes to improving speed & I think you’re totally right – if you want to run faster, you have to put lots of hard work in. I hate speed work but it’s worth the nausea and tears!! Good for you 🙂

  13. Elizabeth Rebecca

    Great guide – we both want to run but we’re starting with brisking walking alternating with jogging to build up our strength.

    Lizzie Dripping

  14. Cantara (@GymbagsGladrags)

    I really admire your dedication! I’m not a runner but I’ve loved following your marathon training, because it shows what you can achieve when you have a plan, focus and determination. That can apply to anything in life, not just running. It’s so important to have a clear goal. Well done on your progress so far and best of luck for Chicago!!

    C xx

  15. Gabrielle @ Marathons and Macarons

    So inspirational! I ran the NYC Marathon in 4:34:40 last year (my first) and reading this makes me confident that someday sub-4 can happen. I’ll be living in London starting next September so London 2017 is on my list. You’re going to crush Chicago!



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