Half Marathon Q: How Do I Get Faster?

Expert answers to your most pressing concerns—posted every Friday between now and race day: April 3, 2011!

MORE.com Health Editors
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Photograph: Myles Dumas

Q: What's the best way to increase my overall speed?

A: “There are three key workouts you need to do to increase your speed for any event, especially a half marathon,” says Neil L. Cook, head coach and program manager for the Asphalt Green Triathlon Club in New York City. Just make sure you have eight weeks of aerobic base running under your belt before you start.

  1. Speed Session: After a good, dynamic warm-up, run fast. Faster than you typically run. Faster than you think you can run! Challenge yourself, but keep the bursts short—100 meters or 30 seconds. These repeats are designed to emphasize fast feet, high heels and keeping your feet off the ground so recover long enough to be able to run the next one fast. Generally this means resting for at least double the time it takes you to complete the sprint. If you're incorporating these bursts into a training run, rest for five to 10 times the time it takes you to do one. Stop the repeats when you feel your form breaking down (for instance, if you begin to shuffle your feet).
  1. Strength Session: Run a hilly route or run a particular hill repeatedly. Always jog back down to recover. Keep running hills until you feel a desire to walk or you complete 12 repeats—that’s the limit. The goal is to build strength so you feel more comfortable running up hills.
  1. Long Run: This should equal the total number of miles you run during the week. For instance, if you run 15 miles Monday through Friday, your weekend long run should not be more than 15 miles. Vary your pace. Sometimes run aerobically, at a conversational pace. Other times divide your long run into 3 or 4 sections and run each section five to 15 seconds faster per mile than the preceding section. Your last mile should always be your fastest. That doesn’t mean sprint at the end, just increase your pace and effort so that you are running somewhat faster.

One last note: “You should work in three- or four-week cycles,” says Cook. “The last week of the cycle is a recovery week. That means no speed work, no hills and no long run. During the other weeks alternate your long run—increase the distance one week, shorten the distance the next. This will give your body a chance to recover and rebound stronger and faster.”

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First Published Fri, 2011-02-11 15:10

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