Happy mid-October, my month for fall “speed drills”. It’s nice to have a break from pounding out miles day after day and focusing on my main running weakness, a general lack of speed. How does one become a faster runner? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Occasional speed tests (5k, 10k, mile, 800s, 5mi). I’m focusing this month on breaking my 5k PR (personal record) as many times as possible. After a few tougher speed runs (one in which I suddenly stepped in a mudhole!), I have broken my PR twice in the past few weeks. Yesterday I ran a 5k in 22:54-that run had gorgeous mile splits of 7:25, 7:25, 7:24, and 7:10 (two negative-split points). Until this 5k, the third mile to the end has been dogging me-just getting tired or running out of air. I’ve been working hard to shorten my strides keeping my feet low to the ground, running faster with less effort, and concentrating on deeper rhythmic breathing.
2. Fartlek, Swedish for “speed play”, varying the pace in small increments with recovery/slower running built in between “speed bursts” as I like to call ’em. I love the fartlek pyramids the best (you don’t have to do pyramidic fartlek but pyramids are great for blowing off steam or busting stress). With regular fartlek, you run a few minutes fast, then recover. With the pyramids, your pace climbs to the top of the pyramid every 1-2 minutes to the top, then you decelerate to a recovery speed (or walk).
3. Slow recovery runs. This is the counter-intuitive part of my post where you will say I’m crazy. Try it. You’ll thank me during your next hard workout.
4. Try this pattern: Hard workout; easy workout, repeat. Try not to have consecutive hard workouts, your legs get too tired. Back-to-back easy workouts are okay, especially if you are recovering from a race or tougher workouts.
Do you know the secret fun part about speed work? You’re done running earlier than your longer runs! What are you going to do with all that extra time?
I’m experimenting with 2-3 speed workouts per week this month (ideally 3). I’m fighting with weird weather through some of this (wind, rain, mud, colder temps, generally adverse running conditions) but have had a few idyllic running days, too. But I’ll keep trying. It seems crazy but I’m trying to get my 5K splits down to my marathon splits I was running when I was 20. Maybe if I get there I will have run off a few years or at least I will no longer look like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch Road Runner! We’ve all had those tough days with speed work, haven’t we?
Signing off to run more like Road Runner! MEEP! MEEP! Whoooooosh!