No Pain, No Gain: the art of running faster
You won’t get better at anything in life if you don’t stick at it and push yourself. No one is going to get past playing Baa Baa Black Sheep on the piano unless they attempt something harder, and the same goes for running.
Run without stopping for as long as you can. Run through the burning lungs, dead legs, and stitches, until you absolutely cannot take another step (obviously stop before you collapse into the road, though). Even if you’ve only managed a minute longer than usual, it’s progress.
Some people, once they can run for a certain time or distance, decide to stick at that, but others find that running is actually an enjoyable challenge and want to get better. Once your body becomes used to running for a certain time and distance, going faster or further doesn’t come easily. Thirty minutes seems to be my cut off point: running for half an hour or 5km at a certain pace is enjoyable. Once I get past that point, the run gets a little bit tougher.
There’s no magic solution to being able to run further, you just have to do it. You shouldn’t increase your running distance by any more than 10% every week; you might decide to calculate that ten percent, or just run a further half kilometre or mile each week, it’s up to you. Slowly increasing the mileage means that you’ll improve without feeling like you’re dying. The end of your run might find you struggling, but it won’t be impossible. Remember, run on your own terms and it’ll be achievable.
If you want to run faster, you have to train your body to do so by upping your pace. Instead of attempting to power along for the whole run, go back to doing intervals. Start with small intervals, running faster for one minute and at a natural pace for one minute, gradually increasing the time that you run faster for. Don’t try to run fast for too long to start with- your body needs to get used to the extra work, so try to avoid burning out within ten minutes.
Many athletes incorporate tempo running into their training to get used to maintaining a certain speed over distance. Once the secret of many African athletes’ success, tempo running has become popular the world over in speed training. Unlike running intervals for speed where the pace might be more of a sprint, a tempo pace is described as “comfortably hard”. You should be able to maintain it with some effort. Start with a five minute warm up run, and then run for fifteen minutes at your tempo pace, finishing with a five minute cool down. Again, gradually increase the time that you run at your tempo pace for, and on your normal runs you’ll begin to see a difference.
Running hills is great for your leg and core muscles (trust me, it’s a killer on the way down), even if the very idea of hills makes you want to burn your trainers. Luckily, York has a lot of flat places to run, but a few hills aren’t going to hurt you. Depending on whether you’re running up a hill or a HILL, there are different ways to get through it. A hill is a sloped surface, a HILL feels like running up a long steep flight of stairs. If you’re struggling on a hill, it’s often easier to grit your teeth (assuming they’re not already gritted!) and put your head down. Concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other rather than staring longingly at the top of the hill; you’ll get there faster than you think. Running up a HILL needs more of a “high-knees” technique, thinking of what you’re doing as climbing rather than running, and power up the slope. The faster you go, the sooner it’ll be over.
The saying “no pain, no gain” is so relevant here. When you’re starting to run faster or further, you’ll probably hate yourself and want to give up. Don’t, though. The sense of achievement you’ll get out of it far surpasses any of the pain.
Read the first instalment of Serena's guide to running here