Fit Bride Q&A: Speed

A few days ago I asked if anyone had any questions or things they wanted me to talk about.  Jennifer asked…

I did the couch to 5k program in the summer/fall, and did 2 5ks this fall. But I run SLOW. I envy you your pace. So I’m wondering are you just a fast person, or did work up to it? If so, how did you do it?

I read this and I literally laughed out loud.  Me?  Fast?

I really don’t consider myself a fast runner.  I don’t consider myself a slow runner, either, I think I keep a pretty average/moderate pace.  On longer runs, I stick to a 10:00/mile pace, unless I’m outdoors on hills, and then it can slow to the 10:30-11:00/mile pace.  I’ve never tried it, but I’m guessing the absolute fastest I could run a mile would be 8:30-8:45, and I doubt I could maintain such a pace for longer than a mile.  (Maybe I should try this.  Hmm.)

I think the bigger issue here is comparing yourself to other runners.  It’s something I struggle with CONSTANTLY.  I’m a treadmill peeker–I feel secretly awesome if I’m outrunning the tall dude next to me, and feel terrible if a skinny girl next to me is going faster.  And when I’m racing, I get discouraged on an out-and-back to see how many people are ahead of me…until I loop the corner and see how far ahead of other people I am.  And when I read other people’s blogs, I’m often jealous of how fast they run as compared to me!

This is a constant struggle for me and a lot of other runners I know.  I think one of my biggest hurdles in marathon training will be the mental struggle of slowing my pace down.  When I was a chubby kid in gym class, I distinctly remember anyone running the dreaded mile in slower than 10 minutes getting a “C” grade (which, to an overachiever like me, was TERRIBLE).  I’m not sure how I’m going to feel when I have to intentionally slow myself down to an 11:00 or slower pace.

One thing that helps me is to constantly beat myself.  I try to always run a little bit faster than I did the day before–even if I only shave a few seconds off my time, seconds add up into minutes pretty quickly.  Competing against myself seems to satiate my competitive drive some, and I feel better that way. I definitely worked up to my current paces–I was much slower when I first started, and I just aimed to shave a few seconds off every day.

Currently, I find that intervals really help my speed.  I’ll run at my long run pace for a minute or two, then for a minute I’ll run as fast as I can, and repeat for 20 or so minutes.  It’s really exhausting, but it does help.

And no, I don’t consider myself a fast or naturally gifted runner.  I have zero natural athletic ability–it’s been a long, hard process getting halfway decent at this whole fitness thing!  I will never win races, and that’s a-okay with me.

What are your tips for improving speed?

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9 Responses

  1. I hear ya! I feel like I run so slow but you know what? At least I am running. My time and speed has improved so much over the years. I used to not be able to run 2 miles straight..now I can! I try not to compare myself to other runners.
    We all have to start somewhere.
    I do know what makes me run a bit faster-
    music
    chewing gum. Seriously. If I chew a little faster, I run a little faster.
    I had some Luna Moons before my run and I felt great. Definitely having the right fuel before and after helps ALOT.

  2. I’m pretty slow. My average pace is often below 10 min/miles which in my head is the speed to shoot for. I live in a pretty running centric area too. Even in my 10k, where I ran it in under an hour, I was still something stupid like 95th place out of 100. It really screws with my head, I need to move to a slower city! 😛

    As for getting faster though, I noticed a HUGE pace increase this past summer when I was splitting my cardio between running and cycling. Bicycling worked my muscles in a different way and made them stronger for running. I also started running more sprints which helped my cardio ability. I can handle much higher heart rates now without thinking my chest is going to burst open 😛

  3. I think speed just comes to some people eventually. I’ve always been a back-of-the-pack runner. Now that I’m mixing my weeks with long runs and short runs, I concentrate on my stride and pace on the short runs. And I’ve seen my pace greatly improve by just working on the basics during the short runs.

    And this…
    “I’m a treadmill peeker–I feel secretly awesome if I’m outrunning the tall dude next to me, and feel terrible if a skinny girl next to me is going faster. And when I’m racing, I get discouraged on an out-and-back to see how many people are ahead of me…until I loop the corner and see how far ahead of other people I am. And when I read other people’s blogs, I’m often jealous of how fast they run as compared to me!”

    is me as well!

  4. I feel like I am a slow runner too and average at 10 min miles now for the longer distances….I just made it through my first 5k on the treadmill the other day at 30:16 ( I was super thrilled because I haven’t been able to do it yet)….I feel like I used to be a lot fast when I was younger (I remember doing an 8 min mile in middle school) but I weight about 70lbs less and it’s a lot easier to run the less you need to move around. I find that intervals and inclines has been great for helping me increase my speed.

  5. OK, people, you don’t even KNOW slow 😉

    I’m Jen the Question Girl, and seriously, it takes my like 40 minutes to run the 5k on the treadmill (on a good day), though I seem to be able to do it in 35 for actual races (erm… the whole 2 races I did…)

    Right now, running several 10-minute miles strung together seems an *impossible* task.

    I mean, I’m proud I’m able to actually “run” (job, lumber, whatever…) for the whole 3.1 miles without stopping, but I’d like to be a bit more of a normal speed. I guess I didn’t know if there was a standard or popular strategy/program/plan for that. I liked the couch to 5k because it was “do this on this day, and by the end, you’ll run 3 miles.” But now I’m kinda floundering…

    But thanks for the tips. I’m heading to gym now, and feeling inspired 😉

    • @ jennifer
      How long have you been running for? Perhaps your body still needs time to adjust? I found that when I first started I would force myself through 3 miles of intervals where I would be on 1 min off the next…I would really go as fast as possible during that one min on and in my min off I would still stay at a 4.0…over time I transitioned to longer intervals at lower speeds and found my comfort zone. I try to increase me speed each week even if it’s just by .1 mph..I started running the longer intervals at 5.8 and have increased it up to 6.4…babysteps will get you to where you want to be 🙂

  6. […] of others. Brie over at The Fit Bride wrote a post recently in which she admitted to being a “treadmill-peeker“…you know, glancing over at the runner next to you to see how your pace compares (and […]

  7. I wanted to let you know that the latest post on my blog references this post of yours! 🙂

    http://www.healthforthewholeself.com/2010/02/start-where-you-are/

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