Race to the Top: How to Run Harder and Faster than Ever

As a runner, a lot of the advice you get revolves around increasing your fitness levels, building your endurance or taking care of your own wellbeing, but there’s more to running wellness than going far or beating your personal best. When you were at school, did you run for your health or a personal sense of achievement? Of course not – it was a race! While some people run for the love of running or beating their own personal bests, there are others for whom speed and competition are key in the enjoyment of running. If you’re one of the latter, we’ve rounded up some top tips to put a bit more fire in your running shoes:


1. Run the race: According to Runner and writer Dr. George Sheehan, ‘The difference between a jogger and a runner is a race-entry blank,’ so make the switch and get running!


2. Get Up to Speed: ‘Three half-mile repeats on the track at 5-K race pace with a short recovery jog in between shouldn’t scare anyone away – and it will improve your speed,’ notes 1972 Olympic Marathon Champion Frank Shorter.


3. Work on Quality: Ken Sparks, PhD, top masters marathoner, notes, ‘Quality counts, if you want to stay fast. Don’t do all your workouts in the comfort zone.’


4. Stay in Control: ‘Run your own race at an even pace,’ advises Marty Liquori, running commentator and former world-class miler. ‘Consider the course, the temperature, the weather, and most importantly, your current level of fitness.’


5. Don’t Follow the Leader: Arthur Lydiard, Olympic coach from New Zealand, warns, ‘The idea that you can’t lose contact with the leaders has cut more throats than it has saved.’


6. Make a Pass: ‘Passing competitors always gives you a lift,’ says Libbie Hickman, world-class marathoner. ‘It probably has a physical effect, too, because you get a surge of adrenaline.’


7. Move On: Steve Scott, coach and US record holder in the mile, recommends, ‘If you have a bad workout or run a bad race, allow yourself exactly one hour to stew about it – then move on.’


8. Patience is a Virtue: Runner, writer and coach Marc Bloom explains you should ‘expect to put in six to 10 successful track workouts before you begin to see some payoff in your races.’


9. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse: Dr Sheehan comments, ‘If your morning pulse rate is up 10 or more beats above your average, then you haven’t recovered from the previous day’s training. Take time off or back off until it returns to normal.’


10. Favour Fartlek: Mixing it up is key to getting the best results, and Bill Dellinger, former University of Oregon coach and 1964 Olympic 5000 bronze medal winner, believes Fartlek is the best way to do it. Dellinger enthuses, ‘Fartlek training can help you build strength and endurance, learn race pace, and practice race tactics all in a single workout.’


11. Double-Tie the Knot: ‘I double-knot my shoe laces,’ runner and coach Hal Higdon details. ‘It’s a pain untying your shoes afterwards – particularly if you get them wet – but so is stopping in the middle of a race to tie them.’


12. Keep the Ritual: Ted Corbitt, ultrarunner and 1952 Olympic marathoner, urges, ‘Once you find a warm-up routine that works, repeat it as habitually as possible.’ For a possible warm-up routine, Mark Plaatjes, 1993 World Championships marathon winner, recommends, ‘At most, jog easily for 15 minutes before a race. Then stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and lower back. With about 15 minutes to go, maybe do a few strides. But no more-you’ll warm up plenty in the early going.’

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