4 Ways to Improve Running Speed

Looking to improve your 5K time? Or trying to PR in the half marathon? Whatever your goal race, you can benefit from incorporating these simple speed workouts into your running. (If you're relatively new to running and have never done speed training before, check out "8 Rules of Speed Training" before getting started.)


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All runners, from beginners to elites, can benefit from doing strides. Strides can help improve your speed, flexibility, coordination, and running efficiency. Strides are short, fast interval runs between 50 and 200 meters. They should be run at a "comfortable sprint" pace, which means that you're basically running as fast as you can without sacrificing proper running form.

Start out with a session of strides at least once a week, preferably after an easy or medium intensity run. For example, you might want to run 8 x 100m following a 30-minute easy run. Some runners also like to do a few strides (such as 5 x 50m) as part of their warm-up before a race or speed workout. Just make sure you don't do strides after a hard speed workout because you'll most likely be fatigued and can increase your risk of injury.

Strides are fun to do on the track because you can use the shape of the track to determine the duration of your hard and recovery intervals. Starting on the track straightaway, run hard for about 10-15 seconds, then jog easy for the rest of the straightaway and the curve. Once you hit the next straightaway, run hard for another 10-15 seconds. Do this for four laps of the track (about a mile).


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Fartleks, which are runs in which you alternate between fast segments and slow jogs, are a fun way to get started with speed training because they're not structured and your work-rest intervals can be based on how you feel. To do a fartlek workout, try introducing some short periods of slightly higher pace into your normal runs. Maintain the faster pace for a short distance or time intervals, such as 200 meters or 30 seconds. The intervals can vary throughout the workout, and you can even use landmarks such as trees or telephone poles to mark your segments.

Once you complete a fast segment, slow your pace to below your normal running pace, until you have fully recovered and your breathing has returned to normal. Then return to running at your normal pace, and incorporate more slightly fast intervals later in the run.

During group fartlek runs, each person can take turns picking the next landmark or time interval. They can decide whether or not they want to tell the group their choice beforehand.

Hill Repeats

Running Uphill
John Kelly

Doing hill repeats will make you stronger, as well as improve your running efficiency and increase your lactate threshold. All that translates into faster running.

To do hill repeats, start with a 10-15 minute warm-up of easy running. Find a hill with a decent - but not too steep – slope that's about 100-200 meters long. Run up the hill at a hard effort -- you'll want to try to push yourself up the hill, but try to keep your effort consistent and don't let your form totally fall apart. Turn around and recover by easy jogging or walking down the hill. Your number of hill repeats depends on your experience and fitness level. Beginner runners should start with 2-3 repeats, adding one additional repeats each week for the next three to four weeks. More experienced runners can start with six repeats and add another one each week, with a maximum of ten repeats.

More: Tips for Running Hills

Effective 30-Minute Running Workouts

Strong Finishes


Picking up the pace for the last few miles of your long runs is good practice for race day conditions and it also improves your endurance and mental toughness. When you do your weekly long run, try picking up the pace by about 20-30 seconds for the final third of your long run distance.

More: How to Finish Strong in Races

5 Track Workouts to Improve Your Speed