How to Run Faster for Long Distances

healthy lifestyle fitness sports woman running on road
A woman is running on the road. (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)

Training yourself to run long distances faster can be a tricky endeavor. You want to increase your speed without sacrificing your ability to complete a longer distance. If you don't run enough miles with too much speed work, you risk losing your endurance. If you run too many miles, you risk losing your leg speed. To find a happy medium, combine weekly long runs, speed workouts, tempo runs and easy runs to develop a training schedule that works for you.

Step 1

Run one long run per week to avoid losing your endurance. Start with the longest distance you can run right now. Each week or two, add a mile or two to this distance. If you’re training for a race over 6 miles, increase the distance until you’ve reached 80 to 90 percent of the distance of your goal race. If you’re training to race distances of 6 miles or shorter, increase the distance of your long runs up to a maximum of 8 miles.

Step 2

Plan one interval workout per week to increase your leg turnover. Interval workouts consist of periods of fast running alternating with periods of slower running to allow your heart rate to decrease. If you’re new to interval training, start with four to eight cycles of 30 seconds of fast running followed by a minute of easy running. Increase the distance of your faster intervals each week until you’ve reached a maximum of two or three minutes of fast running per interval -- have double that amount of easy running between repetitions. Always warm up and cool down with five to 10 minutes of easy running when doing interval workouts.

Step 3

Add a tempo run to your schedule every other week once you are able to complete at least 4 miles as your long run. After warming up for 10 minutes at an easy pace, run for 10 to 20 minutes at a pace slightly slower than your 10K race pace. If you’ve never run a 10K, focus on running at about 80 to 85 percent of your all-out sprinting pace. You should be running faster than your easy pace and slower than your pace during interval workouts. Cool down with five to 10 minutes of easy running.

Step 4

If you have more than three days each week available to run, add extra days of easy running to boost your endurance. If your long runs consist of 6 miles or fewer, keep these easy runs to 3 or 4 miles. If you’re running longer distances on your long runs, you can increase the distance of your easy runs up to half the distance of your long run.

Tip

Plan your weekly running so you have at least one easy day between your harder workouts, such as the long run, tempo runs and interval workouts. For instance, if you run your long run on Sunday, plan to run your speed workout on Tuesday or Wednesday and your tempo run on Thursday or Friday. If completing both an interval workout and a tempo run in the same week leaves you fatigued, consider alternating these workouts, performing an interval workout one week and a tempo run the next.

Warning

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new workout routine. Wear proper running shoes to avoid injuries to your feet and legs.

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