Many times people start to run merely as a way to build fitness. Once a strong base of fitness is attained and mileage is increased and sustained, many opt to try their hand in a 5K, 10K or half marathon. There is a special feeling that comes from running in your very first race. Once the competitive juices start to flow and people get a taste for the experience and fellowship running provides, their attention turns to how they can improve their performance. For most the questions are how can I run faster and how can I run stronger?
One way to increase speed, according to Dr. Russell Pate of the University of South Carolina and world class marathon competitor, is by improving endurance. Dr. Pate states the goal is to train your body to cover the distance you intend to race. With speed endurance you learn to run your targeted distance, but to cover that distance at a faster rate. According to running legend Hal Higdon and Dr. Pate, one way to increase your speed endurance is to add regular pace changes to your runs.
Dr. Pate prescribes four paces (in Higden’s book Run Fast) you can adapt to your running program to add variety and increase speed. First are high intensity runs. An example would be three 1-mile repeats at close to the fastest pace you can hold with five minutes rest between repeats. For me this would be a 6:30-6:45 pace when my normal training pace is 8:25 per mile. The second is a medium intensity pace run that is somewhat longer and slower than the high intensity run over a 20 to 60 minute time frame. This is slower than the high intensity pace but still faster that what you would normally train at over a longer distance.
The third pace is a low intensity pace that would increase the length of your run, and slowing down your pace as a form of active recovery. This could be your long weekend run at a relaxing pace. For me I run a 5K pace of 6:30-6:45 per mile (High Intensity) and for this run I may cover 8-15 miles at a 9:30 pace per mile. The fourth pace is rest pace. Here you may run a very short time like 20 minutes at a very slow pace or take the day off completely.
The key to using pace increases effectively is to combine efforts during the week. For me I take a rest day on Friday, do my long slow runs on Saturday and Sunday, run easy on Monday, add a Medium pace run on Tuesday, a low intensity pace run on Wednesday and a high intensity pace run on Thursday. You want to gradually train your body to cover more distance at a faster pace but you must remember to rest and incorporate all paces to do this effectively and to avoid injury. By running faster you also build more muscle which equates to increased strength and endurance.
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.