One of the most exciting aspects of being a new runner is seeing your running speed quickly increase. In your first few weeks of running, your body rapidly adapts to your new hobby, and you're likely to get faster with nearly every run. Unfortunately, these fast-paced gains don't last for long. After you've been running for a few months, you might be still improving, but you'll no longer be progressing as quickly.
Although your running speed is likely to continue improving just from running consistently, it will do so much more gradually. If you want to improve your speed more efficiently, just running regularly isn't enough. Instead, you must increase the duration and intensity of your runs to push yourself towards faster speeds. With a few simple changes to your running schedule, you can find yourself setting new personal records.
Increase Your Weekly Mileage
As a new runner trying to get faster, the most significant change you can make to your weekly schedule is to run more miles. Most new runners start with low-mileage beginner programs, typically running less than ten miles each week. This is a great way to begin running because it eases your body into a new form of exercise. As you get better at running though, you should extend the runs recommended in these programs. The best way to get faster is to run more, and if you only run a few miles a week, you'll never hit your maximum potential.
A standard guideline is to increase your mileage by about ten percent per week until you've reached a weekly mileage you're comfortable with. This process is called "building your base." The gradual rate of increase is high enough to push you but low enough to reduce your chance of injury. By the time you've increased your weekly mileage to around 25 or 30 miles per week, you can expect to have already noticed massive increases in your speed.
Incorporate Speed Work
For your first six months to one year of running, simply running more miles and building your base is the key to running faster. Eventually, though, your gains will begin to slow down. From here, the best way to continue improving your speed is to incorporate "speed work" sessions into your running schedule.
Speed work sessions are runs focused specifically on pushing yourself to run faster than usual. One common and extremely beneficial type of speed work is an interval run. In an interval run, you alternate between running at a high-speed rate and at a more relaxed jog or walk. Intervals can be measured with time or distance and are frequently done on a track. These intervals will help your body get used to the feeling of moving quickly and can push you to new speeds that long runs alone wouldn't get you to.
A final tip for increasing your speed is to regularly enter timed races. Entering official races will help you run faster in two ways. The first is that running in the race itself will likely push you to hit a new personal best. Seasoned runners will attest to the fact that the excitement of running in a race, surrounded by other runners, can push you to run at paces that you'd never hit in a training run. You'll find yourself hitting speeds you had no idea you were capable of.
The second way that races help you run faster is by giving you goals and deadlines to structure your training around. By having a specific race in mind, you can more clearly structure and plan your runs, knowing just what you need to do to hit your goal pace for the intended race. You'll also have an external factor motivating you to stay on schedule and push through the bad days. Signing up for races regularly will keep you running consistently through the year, and your speed will improve accordingly.
As a new runner, you're in a great position to quickly improve your speed and frequently set new personal records. By increasing your mileage, incorporating speedwork, and focusing your training towards races, you'll see your speed consistently improve. Carefully planning your schedule will see you running faster in no time.