what makes you faster?

There’s a lot of advice on how to be faster. There’s so much that it can actually be overwhelming to figure out what advice to follow.

Here’s a sample of things you can do to run faster:

  • Run slower (the thought being recovery is important and distance is important)
  • Run faster (intervals / tempo / speed workouts)
  • Run hills
  • Strength train
  • Run more (distance, duration, etc)
  • Lose weight
  • Run with a faster cadence
  • Change/improve your running form

So…. in July, I have run at 2 minutes per mile faster than usual without an increase in my perceived effort.I’ve been trying to run faster for a long time and I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck. I feel like I’ve tried everything… but I really haven’t. What’s my secret?

Running slower doesn’t seem like any advice to me, I’m so slow, if I run any slower, I’d be walking, so that one is out for me. Running faster makes sense, but I’ve always struggled to incorporate speed work into outdoor runs and found tempo runs easier to accomplish on the dreaded treadmill.

I don’t live near any hills and hill runs on the treadmill are just torture, so that’s not gonna happen regularly. I’m also really bad about going to the gym, and I have tried strength training in the past and I didn’t seem any noticeable speed gains.

Run more…. ah, I’m struggling to just run what I do now.

Lose weight…. I’ve lost about 20 lbs in the last 18 months, and I don’t think that’s it either. But I can see that if you weigh less it might take less effort to go faster.

That leaves us with the last two. Run with a faster cadence and change/improve your running form. I didn’t really set out to do either of these things, and I don’t think this explains ALL of it, but it is some of it.

I was out for a run earlier this month, and when I came around the corner on to my street for the final stretch, I sprinted the last block to my house. I noticed how different my running form is when I’m going all out versus when I’m at an easy pace. I would almost say if there really is a difference between running and jogging it would have to be form!

On my next run, I decided to try to incorporate more of the form I felt when sprinting into a regular run. I set out to do 10 1-minute intervals with a recovery period in between. What I had observed about my form while sprinting is that I’m more upright, my knees come up higher, my heels kick back farther, and and and… my cadence is faster.

I read an article online that with good running form, your feet should be landing just under your body and that you should be minimizing the time your feet spend on the ground. Trying to put your feet out too far in front, or push off behind you is actually counter-productive. So, while I was practicing my sprinting form (but at a slower speed), I tried to think about keeping my feet on the ground less and moving quickly.

I noticed right away that just trying to maintain this form made me faster. I could not go my usual easy/snail pace. It just didn’t work. And 1 minute was easy. At least it was for the first 8 intervals. By the last 2, I was struggling after ~40 seconds, but that’s ok. I was running out of air, which tells me I need to focus on breathing.

And that brings me to my last point. Breathing.

For the last month or so, I’ve paid more attention (in general) to how I breathe and how breath is connected to everything. Yes, I know, this is very familiar to anyone that’s done yoga. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention all this time in yoga class, or maybe I finally figured it out. Either way, I’ve been working on making sure I breathe more fully and into my diaphragm and not using just my lungs. 

Certainly, I have more work to do both on the breathing and my form, but I’m feeling energized by this unexpected speed burst this month. Let’s hope it helps me in my 10k that’s coming up soon!

–> What makes you run faster?



quick update

I’ve done a poor job of blogging lately. I have lots of updates!

After the scary chest pain during my 1/2 marathon, I went to the doctor. My EKG was perfectly normal, and I’ve been running fine since then. Doc thinks it was likely costochondritis, which as it turns out, I have had before! Now think I will be able to tell the difference in the future for sure, I didn’t think it was my heart, but always better safe than sorry.

I’m running a 10k in less than 2 weeks…. I’m feeling unprepared for the distance (as per my usual!) but I have run 2 minutes per mile faster this month than usual, and that’s mostly easy runs, so I’m psyched! I will have to post about what I’ve done and what I think is helping.

I have some good books to review too, so check back later for that too.

PS. Pineapple + Basil makes a really tasty smoothie.


Capitola half marathon race re-cap

I love the Capitola half marathon, and this was my third year in a row running it. But oh my, this was a bad race day! I feel like everything went wrong. 🙁

To start off, I didn’t sleep well the night before. I kept waking up and my stomach was in knots. I don’t know if it was what I ate for dinner or stress about the race.

I managed to drag myself out of bed around the right time, and continued to have digestive problems. This was not boding well for running 13.1 miles.

Once I got dressed and in the car, I started to feel better. I arrived in Santa Cruz right on schedule (6:30am) only to find my GPS took me the wrong way and the road between me and my preferred parking was blocked (duh, that’s where the start line is!).

I backtracked a few blocks, found a parking lot and got in the (really) long line to pay. Fortunately, I discovered I could pay online using my iPhone, so I skipped out of the line and went back to my car to put my wallet away and make sure I had all my race essentials.

At this point, I was starting to feel anxious again, and in my hurry to get to the start line and meet my friends, I closed the trunk while my keys were in there. OOPS. No time to deal with it, so I headed over to the race area.

It was a little chilly in Santa Cruz this morning but I’d rather run in cold weather than in hot (or even warm) weather. I regretted not having warmer clothes, but I knew once we started running I’d be fine and probably even need to remove a layer.

The race started promptly at 7am and we were off! Runkeeper updates me every 2 minutes with my time, distance and average pace. At 2 minutes, I was at a 10 min/mi pace. OOPS. This is way too fast, and I was going to burn out early for sure if I kept that up.

I tried to slow down, but again at 4 minutes, 6, 8, 10, the average pace was a lot faster than what I wanted. I soon realized that my GPS was a bit off, so I was getting credit for extra mileage… at the one mile marker, I felt like I was on track and running a good pace. Everything was going well and my digestive problems didn’t come back during the race (the one good thing today).

Then around mile 7 I started having chest pain. A stabbing, sharp pain, slightly on the left side. It went away immediately when I stopped running, so I took a short walk break. And it came back immediately when I started running again.

I alternated walking and trying to run for about a mile, and then decided walking was best for my health. Unexplained chest pain can’t be good, and I didn’t want to take any chances.

Since I walked pretty much the entire last 5 miles, no PR today for me. However, the weather was perfect and the location of the Capitola half marathon is absolutely beautiful.

Oh and my brand new bluetooth headphones started acting up. The music kept getting static-y and cutting out. I’m trying to see if Plantronics will send me a new pair, and in the meantime, I updated the firmware. I came across some reviews that the combination of iPhone and Apple watch + running app can some time causes issues with these, and the latest firmware is supposed to help. I guess we’ll see, they are working fine now that I’m home.

Kimmy and Lisa also ran the half and both had a pretty amazing day. Kimmy got an amazeballs PR and I’m so proud of her! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Once we all finished, we headed over to my car to see about retrieving my keys. Turns out my AAA is expired, but they gave me the # of the local towing company. Paying the tow truck guy directly was actually cheaper than a year of AAA and this is the first time I’ve ever actually needed it in decades, so maybe I won’t renew it after all.

Keys recovered, we headed over to Saturn Cafe for some wonderful vegan milkshakes and breakfast burritos. Yum!

Despite everything that went wrong, I still feel it was a good day. I’m happy to have been able to run (even if it was only part of the race), to be outside in such a location place, and to spend time with my good friends. I’m already planning my next half marathon adventure… check back soon for an update on that topic.

QOTD: Have you ever had a bad race? Or just a bad day in general where everything seemed to go wrong?