How to Run Faster and Longer – simple steps to see big gains

Updated: September 2, 2023

September 2, 2023 in Training guides

You might have completed a few races, or you may have run for a little while now and you are looking to get faster or want to be able to run further. In this blog, we will look at how you can do this. I have run 28 miles in training and a 31.13 min 10k, so I have experience running long distances and at speed.

Let me tell you what I have learned with over 20 years of racing and running. Sometimes running may seem super high-tech with huge amounts of data, special shoes, GPS watches. But put simply, it's getting from A to B yourself. Here are some of the steps I have found that can get you running faster or further than ever before.


How to run fast even if you don't think you can

To begin with, "fast" is very personal. What may be an unthinkable time to you may be someone else easy run or vice versa. Remember this and realize that the goals you set are individual and specific for you at the time. It may also be what is fast for you now may not be in a year or twos time.

By following these steps, you will be well on your way to running faster and longer:

Step 1 - Define a goal

As this post is focused on how to run at faster speeds and longer distances. Let's look at a few examples:

  • Example 1 - Run 1 mile in 7 minutes in 6 weeks' time
  • Example 2 - Run 5k in under 20 minutes in 8 weeks’ time
  • Example 3 - Run continually for a half marathon in 8 weeks’ time
  • Example 4 - Run 3 times a week for 4 miles each time

When you set your goal, you must be honest about where you are. For example, if your best 1 mile time is 10 minutes setting yourself the goal of 7 minutes in 4 weeks may be unrealistic.

Having a goal in mind is great, but remember, any improvement should be respected, and you should feel proud of it. Particularly after you have been running for a while, the gains are harder to reach.


Step 2 - Upgrade kit

Have a look at upgrading some of the kit you have currently. Particularly if you have only been running in a basic pair of trainers, have you considered a pair of super shoes if not they could be well worth it for your next race.

If you started running with no specific kit and a pair of old trainers then it's certainly worth looking into the available kit out there, particularly if you want to try and get your 5k time down further for example. 

Step 3 - Optimize training 

Optimize your training plan. If, for example, you have just been running the same route at the same pace and your long runs have stayed the same for the last five weeks, it is time to optimize your training plan based on your goal.

We can break this down by considering where you are now and what you want to achieve.

For example, if you currently run 21 mins for 5k and want to run under 20. You could do a session that will progress from your current pace to your goal pace as we introduce race-specific running pace training.

Number of Reps

Running Time

Running Pace

Recovery time

3

3 minutes

4.12 per/km

6.45 per mile

3 minutes

2

3 minutes

3.58 per/km

6.23 per mile

3 minutes

You are then training very specifically for your event.

Step 4 - Running Technique 

Working on the way you run can be hugely beneficial, You can start running on the treadmill to see your form in the mirror or ask a friend to film you. You should try and land on your midfoot and make sure you have a relaxed arm swing.

Improving your running economy can make you more efficient, and you can save energy which is very important in running. If you are unsure, take a look at some top runners for example Eliud Kipchoge has a fantastic running form.

Many beginners tend to increase their stride length too much when starting, which can cause injury when they try and run faster. Adding some hill training to your schedule really can improve your technique as you need to generate power to run up the hill, and a shorter stride is certainly more efficient when it comes to running up a hill.


Step 5 - Test yourself

You do not have to leave it all the way to your goal race before you test yourself. You can ease your training off and prioritize recovery before completing a time trial effort where you use your race kit and shoes and see how fast you can run. 

This is really useful to understand your current fitness level, you can then tweak your training as necessary or pick another, not key, race you will use for this. Quite a few runners tend to use park runs exactly for this reason.

Step 6 - Adapt your training

If you completed step 5 you will get some idea of how your training is going.

For example,

Your legs may have felt tired, so maybe you are doing too much.

You may have felt you just did not have the leg speed or turnover to run the pace you set yourself. You may add some more speed workouts or shorter strides in your training schedule to combat this. You may even want to see how fast you could run just one mile

 The key point here is being able to adapt from what you learned and how you felt in a race or time trial. Being able to change some detail in your training if needed and going again.


Step 7 - Additional gains 

Think about other gains you could make in your preparation; you may want to try a coffee or caffeine gel before your race or hard training sessions. I find coffee before a race or session works well.

You may want to start a series of activation exercises before going out on a run, this can get the body reaching a better range of motion for example which can make your stride feel longer and more relaxed.

Step 8 - Stay Motivated

If you are not a member of a running club then think about starting to train with a training partner or join in with a group session if you can, it can be particularly hard to complete some fast sessions on your own.

If it’s just not possible for you then running on the treadmill may help with some of your faster sessions, Sometimes I like to just run hard on the treadmill with some music.

Key considerations for successfully running Faster and Longer

So many other factors can increase your running performance and level, here are some other things you can try to help you run faster and longer.

Weight training is an important component of a successful running program. It can help you achieve your goals while reducing the risk of injury and improving your overall performance. Adding weight training to your running regimen can increase strength in areas important for runners, such as the glutes, core, and hamstrings. This will improve biomechanics and good running form.

Weight training can also help improve speed and endurance. By incorporating exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts into your workout and running routine often, you can build strength in the leg muscles responsible for powering your run. This will give you an extra boost in your stride. Additionally, it can help improve muscle endurance, allowing you to run for longer with less fatigue.


Taking it to the Next Level: How to run Faster and Longer - Bonus

If you have completed the above and are still looking to push on further, it's time to look right into the detail.

There are some different approaches you can take with your training. Try some threshold-based workouts. These have gained in popularity over recent years due to some very high-profile athletes adopting them, and now they are common in most elite training groups. The threshold can be tricky to distinguish and people sometimes call it by a different name.

If you are keen to look into specific training zones, booking a fitness test where the sports scientist can measure your VO2 and threshold zones may be worthwhile. You can then look to use these in your training further.

Alternatives to running Faster and Longer

An alternative would be to get a coach or a specific trainer in the running field.

However, remember, it's great to take some accountability in your training to question things you are unsure about.

You may also stick to your current training plan and gradually increase the volume.

Remember do not increase training volume and intensity simultaneously, you are far more likely to pick up an injury. Focus on one or the other, either adding intensity in the form of speed, hills, weights, or volume in terms of distance run.

Wrapping up and My experience with running Faster and Longer

It will take time to start running faster and longer, generally, you will see a steady progression, but sometimes a breakthrough can happen, and you will see a jump in your best times or how you feel when you run.

Initially starting running training can be tricky as you get used to dealing with the feeling of pushing through barriers and finding out what works for you. But stick at it and the improvements are sure to come.

I think it is of enormous benefit to join a running group or to have some friends you see to run with now and again. This helps keep it fun but also acts as motivation, particularly if the others are of the same level or slightly faster than you. It can be a fantastic way to improve.

Running is a sport where you get rewarded for working hard, but you must also be smart and know when to rest and recover and understand the tools and ways to help you recover for the next workout.

FAQ

How can I run longer at full speed?

When it comes to running, pacing yourself is critical. Full speed is not possible; indeed, as you move up the distances, you should become familiar with "pacing yourself" For example, my best time for 5k is roughly 3 min per km or 4.48 per mile. 

If I tried to run a marathon at that pace now, I would be unable to sustain it and slow considerably.

You have to train for the race you want to do. Specifically, you can work on getting faster running at a distance, but naturally, the shorter the distance, the faster pace you should be able to run.

How do I run longer without getting tired?

Often running longer without getting tired comes down often to pacing but also fuelling your run; if you are looking to run over 90 minutes, for example, you may want to carry some energy gels or bars to take on your run; gels work well as with many you don't need to drink water with.

However, if you are completing your first long run, you may wish to have an electrolyte drink; you could always ask a friend to cycle alongside you. The first time you attempt a distance in training.

Also, building up the distance gradually would be the other top tip. Add a mile to your long run every 3 weeks for example and you will be progressing in a smart way.

About the author 

James

James is an elite distance runner and has also raced triathlon for a number of years. He has a certification in swimming coaching, and a passion to help all athletes succeed in finding a balance within sport and life.