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How to Run Faster for Long Distances

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.

What constitutes a long distance to a runner is relative. If you're a sprinter, a 10K is a "distance" run, but for a 10K runner, the half- or full marathon becomes a challenging distance. Whatever miles you plan to conquer, though, you want to blast by them faster.

Running faster for long distances requires building your aerobic efficiency and your comfort level of going far at a speedy pace. Your muscles need to be able to sustain pounding for longer periods of time and more repetitions

Long Tempo Runs

Run farther for longer in training. This sounds obvious, but it's a key way to build aerobic endurance, also known as your stamina. These sustained speedy runs are known as tempo runs and are done at a pace slightly faster than your target race pace or at about 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

A long tempo run for a half-marathoner might look like this: Warm up for 1 mile, run 5 or 6 miles a little faster than race pace and cool down for 1 mile. A marathoner's tempo run can last 6 to 8 miles. If a 10K is your distance run, a tempo run of 3 to 4 miles is sufficient.

Read More: Proper Training for Long-Distance Running

Progressive Runs

A progressive run has you run each mile 5 to 10 seconds faster than the previous mile. This builds your ability to endure a faster pace, especially later on in runs.

Such a training run might last between 6 and 10 miles, depending on the distance race you're looking to cover. Start with a modest warm-up mile and progress in speed each subsequent mile, ending at a pace that's 20 to 30 seconds faster than your target race pace.

Finish Fast

Training must teach you to overcome the tendency to slow down at the end of a race. To do this, resist the urge to slow down at the end of a training run. Finish the last 2 to 3 miles of your longer training runs at a pace faster than is comfortable. Aim for a pace that's just 20 to 30 seconds slower than your goal race pace.

For example, if you're training for a half marathon and are doing a 10-mile training run, run the first 8 miles at 60 to 90 seconds slower than your target race pace. Then, in the last 2 miles, pick up your speed.

End with Strides

At the end of a long 15- to 20-mile run, it's tempting to call it a successful training day and head home. But, to teach your legs to be springy and run fast for farther, you need to push them at this time of fatigue. Once your miles are complete, do between six and eight 100-meter strides at a fast pace; rest 30 seconds between each of these sprints. Then, it's time to refuel and recover.

Putting It All Together

It's not realistic to incorporate all of these techniques in every training run, or even to incorporate them all into one week's worth of training. Instead, parse them out during 12 to 20 weeks of training. Each week, plan to do four to six training runs and always give yourself a day of rest and recovery. Each week might look like this:

Run 1: Do either a progressive run or a tempo run as explained above;

Run 2: Perform a track workout that consists of about 45 minutes of 400-, 800- or 1,200-meter speed drills;

Run 3: Run a long distance of 7 to 20 miles, depending on the distance for which you're training. The miles in this long run gradually increase over your weeks of training to teach your body to sustain more time on your feet. Every other week, add the technique of either finishing fast or adding the strides to this long run.

Any other runs during the week should be performed at an easy pace.

Read More: Beginner's Interval Running Workout

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