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Train with speed to build speed for races.
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A runner's speed has a lot to do with genetics, but to reach your maximum potential you need to incorporate speed training into your workouts. For the best results use a mixture of different speed workouts to keep your body adapting and to prevent boredom. Incorporate one, two or even three speed workouts into your weekly routine alongside your steady-state training runs.
Strides add quick bursts of speed to your workout, building the fast-twitch muscle fibers that help build speed. At the end of a regular steady-state training run -- performed at a constant pace as opposed to an interval run -- perform a set of four to six strides. To run a stride, run at your top speed for a short burst -- for about 15 to 20 seconds, or around 100 meters. Slow down and jog for a minute or so until you catch your breath between strides. Strides are most beneficial to runners who want to improve their speed because they activate your fast twitch muscle fibers, which you need for a strong kick in a race whether you're a miler or a marathoner.
Track repeats, or interval workouts, train your body to run at faster paces by running fast for short intervals. Intervals can range from 100 meters to a mile. The longer the distance you're training for, the longer your intervals should be. Typical interval workouts include 12 sets of 400-meter repeats, eight sets of 800-meter repeats and four sets of 1-mile repeats. According to CoolRunning.com 400-meter repeats are best for short races of 5 kilometers or less while 800 meter repeats are ideal for 10K racers. Mile repeats are suitable for runners training for the 10K up to the marathon distance. CoolRunning.com explains that you can run your repeats on pace -- meaning at your race pace -- to get a feel for your race pace, or faster than your race pace. Fast repeats can be run about 10 seconds per mile faster than your 5K race pace. Between intervals take a break and walk or jog to catch your breath. CoolRunning.com recommends resting for 30 seconds to three minutes between repeats. You should feel recovered enough to complete the next repeat at the same speed.
The tempo run is a sustained run at a faster pace than your normal training runs. It conditions your body to run fast over an extended period. This makes it especially important for longer distance runners like half-marathoners and marathoners. According to Runner's World, tempo runs "are the single most important workout you can do to improve your speed for any race distance." Start your tempo run with an easy 15-minute warm-up of slow running. Then run for 20 minutes at a pace that's challenging but manageable. This pace should be 30 to 40 seconds per mile slower than your 5K race pace or 15 to 20 seconds slower than your 10K race pace. Finish your workout with a 15-minute cool down of easy jogging.
Fartlek is a Swedish word for speed play. These workouts combine steady-state running with bursts of faster running. Fartlek runs typically are less structured than other speed workouts. After a five-minute workout pick a landmark and run hard until you reach it. Then jog easily until you recover. Repeat this as long as you want, alternating the length of your speed bursts over the course of the workout. Fartlek runs can be customized to fit your training goal. 5K and 10K runners will benefit from short bursts of speed while 10-milers and longer distance runners should include faster portions of a mile or longer. But according to Runner's World all runners will benefit from short and long speed components so it's best to include both in your fartlek.