How to run faster is a crucial part of the running journey. As a runner, you’re always moving on to the next goal. Once you’ve run your first 5K, 10K, or even marathon, you’ll naturally want to increase your speed.
Building up speed offers so many advantages to your training program.
If you’re running to lose weight, running faster will burn more fat and speed the process along.
It also provides a great incentive for training; I’ve spent entire training seasons dedicated to trimming 5 minutes off my half marathon time, or 2 minutes off my 10k time.
Better yet, getting faster will improve the quality of your races.
Having a faster time will qualify you for races that require a minimum speed. If you want to run one of the most famous marathons, the Boston marathon, you’ll need to finish anywhere from 3 hours to 4 hours and 50 minutes (depending on your age bracket).
Many trail marathons and stage races also require qualifying times and levels of fitness. Whether you want to compete in a dream race, or just want to get faster for your own personal sense of accomplishment, this article is for you.
I’ll share with you the most effective drills athletes use to get a faster running pace – here is how to run faster.
What It Takes to Run Faster
Every runner naturally hits a plateau in training at various points of their running career.
Often it’s once we crack a new distance, or become comfortable repeating one specific route or time barrier.
Breaking your body out of it’s learned pace and increasing your speed often requires shocking the system with some high-intensity training modalities.
Your ability to work on speed also depends on what stage you’re at in your running journey.
If you used to run a lot but took a break for some time, you’ll find that your speed comes back pretty quickly.
But if you’re just starting out, your body doesn’t have that same muscle memory. It’s going to take a little longer to get there, and it’s often worth focussing on getting comfortable running longer distances before tackling speed workouts.
The number one key to running faster is consistent training.
No matter where you are in your running career, if you want to get faster quicker, you’ll need to keep your training consistent.
If you decide to dedicate 2 days per week to cross-training, stick to that commitment.
If you set a schedule for your next marathon, don’t let yourself skip days.
The second step to running faster is a solid plan of action.
If you wake up each morning and choose a random workout, you won’t reach your goals as fast as you want to. It’s important to do your research, create a plan, and follow it.
Set a specific time you want to reach.
Having a plan won’t do much good unless you know what time you want to finish.
Either set an average pace per mile you want to hit or set a finishing time for your next race.
It will make a world of difference in your training.
Each of these plans are based on the same principle – set a goal, then engineer your training plan around that goal.
7 Ways to Increase Speed in Your Runs
1. Work on Your Running Form
Your running form has a lot to do with how to run faster. If you move your body in the most efficient way, you’ll pick up the pace right away, even without other cross-training.
- Keep your eyes fixed forward, your chin parallel to the ground, and your torso upright.
- Ensure you’re never tense as you run, especially in your shoulders and arms.
- Pelvic tilt – try not to run with your ass tilted backwards like Donald Duck! Imagine your pelvic area is like a fishbowl that you want to keep level with the floor and not spill any water- tuck it slightly to keep it neutral
- Cadence: Cadence is the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all number, a good target is to aim for a cadence of 180. Read our in-depth guide to running cadence
- Stride: tied closely to cadence, it’s very common for runners to over-stride – especially when trying to run faster. Consciously try to take smaller, more frequent steps – you’ll find you use less energy and can keep going for longer!
If you want to get faster you need explosive power – also known as developing your fast-twitch muscles.
Sprints are the best way to do that.
Related: The Incredible Benefits of Sprinting
They’re actually my number one recommendation when a runner wants to know how to run faster.
They’re also an awesome form of HIIT, which has numerous benefits for your whole body. Here are two sprint workouts that will build some force into your runs.
- During a 45 minute run, take your pace as you normally would – jogging comfortably at a medium pace. In the last 6 minutes of the run, do your sprints. Sprint for 20 seconds out of the minute, then walk the remaining 40. Repeat 4-6 times, then cool down.
- Measure this workout by distance, rather than time. Start out with an easy 2-mile run. Then run ¼ of a mile at a sprint. Rest for 2 minutes. Repeat the sprint 8 times, then cool down for 2-5 minutes.
The muscles you use to run hills are the same ones you use for sprinting. So if you strengthen those muscles, you’ll get the power you need to propel yourself forward in a sprint.
A simple uphill run will always do the trick.
Move up steadily until you get to the top. Run hills of different sizes, increasing your resistance each time.
You can also combine hill runs with sprinting, maximizing your improvement even more. At first, you won’t be able to sprint up a hill, so it’s best to start with 10 seconds at a time.
Sprint until you’ve reached breathlessness, the point where you can barely say a couple of words out loud.
4. Tempo Runs
During tempo runs, you start with a predetermined time and keep your pace steady the whole time.
Where sprinting helps you keep up the cardio and makes you stronger for a burst of speed, tempo runs help you maintain your speed for the duration of a long race.
To do it, time your best 5K running time (per mile). Subtract 20-30 seconds from that. That is your pace for the tempo run. Now try to hold that pace steady for at least 20 minutes.
Very similar to interval training, Fartleks are preferred by most runners because they’re more freestyle.
Why not have as much fun as possible while you’re training?
Running intervals is done by running for an amount of time, then resting for some time (usually by walking or lightly jogging) to recover. With Fartleks, you look for interesting landmarks along the way: a post, a building, or a length of time.
Run until you reach that mark, then rest until you reach a new mark.
Fartleks are a great way to keep you running lively and to stay mindful of your surroundings as you run.
6. Agility Ladder Drills
Agility ladders build muscle, cardio strength, and improve your body’s muscle memory to keep moving quickly – it’s a key step in how to run faster.
You’ll need to buy an agility ladder, which you can find inexpensively on Amazon. With just this one simple piece of equipment, you can work a lot of muscles and really improve your speed.
Here are 2 great agility ladder workouts you can use to maximize your pace:
- Straddle hop: Straddle the entire ladder with both feet. Jump inside the rung of the ladder with both feet. Then move slightly forward as you jump back outside the next rung of the ladder.
Jump through the end of the ladder as fast you can. Turn around and repeat the workout to get back to where you started.
- Lateral shuffle: Move your right foot inside the first rung of the ladder. Follow with the left foot. As the left foot goes inside the rung, move the right foot outside the next rung of the ladder.
Repeat the same move in the next ladder rung, only lead with the left foot this time. Go through the ladder as fast you can, then turn around and repeat back to the beginning.
7. Strength Training
You need to strengthen your muscles if you want to run faster.
The harder those muscles work, the more effort you can put in getting where you need to be instead of straining for the strength to make it happen.
The best plan is to start with bodyweight exercises: pushups, planks, hip bridges, squats, lunges, and Russian twists. Those will stabilize your main muscle groups and prep you for a harder workout.
Then add some weight.
Squats and lunges can be done with a barbell on your shoulder, or dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand.
Deadlifts work your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.
The overhead press works your arms, while side planks with weights work your core.
How to Run Faster By Putting It All Together
If you truly want to learn how to run faster, incorporating strength training is crucial.
So find a rhythm that works for you.
Here are some systems that work for different runners:
Do several 15-minute cross trainings each week. Do the strength training for just 15 minutes before a light 5K run.
When I started doing this, my overall running speed skyrocketed.
Always do a weekly long run, but maintain that speed with 3-4 short and medium runs, prefaced with a quick strength training beforehand.
Replace 2 of your runs with intense cross-training. Choose two of the trainings I’ve listed in this article. Replace 2 of your weekly short runs with a 45-minute strength workout.
Many marathon training plans don’t factor in cross-training days in the schedule. But our plans are fully customizable in a Google spreadsheet. So you can try out a method that works for you and adjust your plan to fit it perfectly.
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