No matter how long you’ve been a runner, where in the pack you finish a race, or what motivates you to head out for a run, most runners have a goal to run faster, longer, or both.
The beauty of running as a sport is that improvements are completely personalized, so you can compete with yourself and make strides towards running faster and longer whether you’re currently a 28-minute 5k runner or trying to break 2:30 in the marathon.
In this guide, we’re going to look at:
- How to build endurance and run longer
- How to run faster and longer by improving your running economy
- 7 sure-fire strategies on how to run faster and longer
Keep reading for the best tips and advice on how to run faster and longer and make your next race a breakthrough PR.
How to Run Faster
Running faster is a matter of increasing your pace, or running speed. Pace is usually expressed as mile time while speed is referenced in miles per hour.
For example, if you’re running an 8-minute pace, you’re running at a pace that covers one mile every eight minutes.
This pace equates to a speed of 7.5 miles per hour because if you maintain the same pace, you can run 7.5 miles in 60 minutes (60 minutes / 8 min/mile).
Speedwork is the primary way to get faster as a runner. There are several types of running workouts that can help you run faster:
Speedwork or Intervals
Speedwork generally involves running for specific intervals of time or distance at or above VO2 max pace (for longer races) or race pace to improve your fitness and train your body to run faster. Most speed workouts are run on a track or measured course, though this is not a requirement.
An example of a speed workout to help you run faster for a 5k is 12 x 400 meters at goal pace with 100 meter recovery after each. To run faster for a marathon, you might do 8 x 1 mile at half marathon pace.
“Fartlek” is a Swedish word for “speed play.” Fartlek workouts involve changing up your running pace during a run. For example, after a 10-minute warmup of easy running, you might throw in 10 x 90 seconds of fast running at 10k pace interspersed with 60 seconds of recovery jogging.
Fartlek workouts are essentially like speed workouts on the track, but they may also be less structured. Some runners, for instance, may choose to use landmarks such as stoplights or road crossings to denote when to switch paces.
Strides can help you run faster by increasing your turnover, or the rate at which your feet hit the ground for each subsequent stride. Your running pace is a product of your stride length and your turnover, so if you cycle from stride to stride faster while maintaining your stride length, you’ll run faster.
Strides are typically run at the end of a workout. They may be anywhere from 50-200 meters or so and should be run at near-maximal speeds. Running at this pace trains your neuromuscular system to handle faster paces in a controlled and coordinated manner.
Hill workouts help you get faster and stronger as a runner. Essentially, they are a hybrid of strength work and speedwork. Running each hill repeat at top speed increases your turnover and power while building leg strength and improving your form.
For maximal effectiveness, attack each hill repeat, and push all the way to the top. Aim for hills that take at least 30 seconds to run up. Jog back down and repeat 8-12 times, depending on your fitness level, hill grade and length, and race goals.
Strength training, also called resistance training, can also help you run faster. Strength training involves performing specific exercises using implements such as dumbbells, barbells, weight training machines, resistance bands, kettlebells, and medicine balls to progressively overload your muscles.
This requires your muscles and connective tissues to adapt to the heavy loads and become stronger and more resilient.
As you build strength, activities like running require less effort and become easier because your muscles are accustomed to heavier loads and higher forces. Strength training can help prevent muscular fatigue when you run, meaning that it can support improved running performance and faster race times.
This is because your stride can be more powerful and your legs can handle faster paces without accumulating metabolic byproducts that cause burning and fatigue.
Examples of strength training exercises for runners include squats, lunges, bridges, and planks.
Strength training also allows you to increase force production by improving neuromuscular recruitment, which can improve your running form and economy. For example, building core strength by performing core exercises like planks can translate to better running form and posture towards the end of the race and a more efficient stride.
How to Run Longer
Running longer is a matter of increasing your aerobic and muscular endurance so that you extend the time to fatigue. Training to run longer is mostly a matter of building your base by increasing the duration of your long runs.
Long runs should typically be run at an easy, conversational pace because the goal is to increase your aerobic capacity. Most running coaches recommend trying to keep your heart rate around 70% of your maximal heart rate during a long run. Long runs increase your stamina and help you run longer in the following ways:
- Strengthening your heart and lungs
- Increasing mitochondrial density in your muscles so that you can produce more ATP (energy) aerobically
- Developing additional capillaries to improve oxygenation of your muscles and tissues, increasing bone density
- Strengthening muscles and connective tissues
- Boosting the concentration of myoglobin in muscles
- Improving your ability to burn fat for energy rather than glycogen, helping prevent glycogen depletion
- Helping improve pacing
- Training your body to use fuel efficiently while running
- Increasing mental resilience
How to Use Long Runs to Help You Run Longer
One long run per week can help you build endurance so that you can run longer. Gradually increase the distance or duration of your long run in a progressive manner. For example, if your current long run is 8 miles, bump up to 9 miles next week, and 10 miles the following week.
Because long runs put a fair amount of stress on the body, it’s important to pull back on the distance or duration every 4 weeks or so. If you run 8 miles, 9 miles, 10 miles, in three subsequent weeks, drop to 8-9 the fourth week to help your body recover.
After the down week, you can bump up to 11 miles as long as your body feels strong and healthy. Of course, it’s always paramount to listen to your body and adjust your training accordingly.
If you run by time instead of distance, increase your long runs by 5-10 minutes per week, depending on your pace and current distance. For example, if your longest run is currently 30 minutes, increase by 5 minutes. On the other hand, if you’re running 90 minutes, it should be fine to progress to 100.
The general rule of thumb is to only increase mileage by a maximum of 10% from one week to the next. Therefore, if you’re averaging 30 miles per week, you shouldn’t run more than 33 miles the following week.
How to Run Faster and Longer
Running faster and longer boils down to improving your running economy, which essentially comes down to how much oxygen you’re consuming to maintain a steady-state, sub-maximal pace.
The better your running economy, the longer you can run at a faster pace. For example, at the same effort level and oxygen consumption, one runner may be running at 8:30 pace, while a runner with better running economy may be able to run at 6:45 pace.
Tempo runs condition your cardiovascular system to deliver and utilize more oxygen at faster speeds, which is essentially reflected in an improvement in your VO2 max (a measure of your aerobic capacity). If you are able to get more oxygen to your working muscles while racing, your muscles can use the oxygen to fuel activity without fatiguing as quickly.
Tempo runs also condition the metabolic system to clear metabolic byproducts and waste at the same rate it is being produced to prevent muscular fatigue and discomfort.
Tempo runs are usually run around 10k or half marathon pace and involve one or several longer intervals, like 2 x 20 minutes at half marathon pace for a marathoner.
Putting It All Together: 7 Strategies On How to Run Faster and Longer
When you put everything together, there are several elements of a well-rounded training program to help you run faster and longer:
- Hill sprints
- Strength training
- Long runs
- Tempo runs
Incorporating these elements into your weekly routine with consistency is the best way to improve and run faster and longer.
Consistency in your training is ultimately the most crucial piece of the puzzle. After all, if you’re not training enough, you aren’t providing your body with the stimulus it needs to advance your fitness. On the other hand, if you overtrain, you risk injury, which will force you to take a break from running altogether.
The best way to be consistent with your running is to follow a well-designed training schedule that progresses you appropriately towards your goals. Listen to your body and make any necessary changes to your workouts according to how you feel.
With dedication, patience, and perseverance, you can absolutely run faster and longer, no matter where you are in your running journey.
Check out some of our training plans here to learn how to run faster and longer!