Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Question for all the fast runners out there (probably you)....

Okay, I am not fast, I have said that before and I realize that...and I may never be fast, and I am okay with that.....but, I have a question for all the runners out there faster than me (those that are consistently running 8-min or less miles, those that place in their age group or at least finish in the top 1/2 or 1/3 of the pack, etc.)

The question is: Have you always been fast?
I mean, did you start out running 7 1/2 min miles? Or did it start with 11 min miles, then slowly evolve to 10, then 9, then 8 or 7 min miles? How did you get faster? How long did it take? Years? Months? Weeks? What's your secret, (if your sharing)?

This month's Runner's World has a decent article about running a faster 5K, and I am just curious on hearing how people really get to be faster runners. I am literally amazed that someone can run even one mile at a 5min or 6 min pace, let alone a 5K or 10K or marathon at that pace....

Thoughts?

17 comments:

lindsay said...

well i don't think i am fast (would like to improve more) but since i have seen improvements i thought i'd at least input.

i've been running (on and off) since 10th grade (1999 i think). i haven't had the consistency but when i do get in a groove (past 4 years, though they still could have been even more consistent) i have seen some improvements. my 5k times in high school were in the 24:00's and 25:00's and now i am on the edge of breaking 21:00. sure that's been almost 10 years but i didn't run much at all in 2001-2004. (i'd like to think i could be faster had i kept at it).

i think everyone starts somewhere and it's not necessarily always the same. for some people that starting pace is slower than others, but it is a lot easier to progress from a 10min/mile to an 8min/mile than it is from a 6min/mile to a 5:45/mile.

consistency is my "secret". gotta log the miles, get the long runs in, do the speedwork, follow the plan. train hard, race hard, rest hard, get up and do it again. i really think i've only been good at consistency for almost a year now, and i'm hoping to see the results of that later this year in races. (and hopefully can continue to stick with it of course!)

i, too, am always amazed at anyone who can run 5-something miles for any distance!

Hi! I'm Erin said...

I hope you get some good responses to this! As you've noted, you and I are about the same speed. I have noticed an increase in my speed over time, though. My first 5K in September 2007 was over 33 minutes. My most recent 5K in November 2008 was 27:23. I have another 5K this Saturday and I'm hoping to go sub-27.

What I'd like to see, though, is how long it takes for those increases in short distances to translate to increases in speed over longer distances. I can run an 8 minute mile. I did it last night. But can I do them one after another? Nope.

Donald said...

You can get faster, but to a point. I was a 50 min 10K - 4hr marathoner and eventually got to be a 37 min 10K - 3hr marathoner, but that's pretty much my ceiling. The gains get smaller, and you have to work harder for them, the further you progress. And for me, it took years.

Everyone is different, though - some people have excellent physical potential that comes to the surface within several months of dedicated training. Others have to work and fight for every last second per mile. The only way to find out where you are on that spectrum is to do the work and watch the results.

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

I agree with Donald. Everyone has a ceiling that is going to be determined by genetics. However, I'm betting that you are a long way away from that ceiling. It really takes a lot of training to reach your full potential and most of the research I have read says that runners who begin as adults don't reach their maximum potential for 10 years! That's 10 years of dedicated training. I for one started out as a 30:00 5k runner and my current PR is 22:24. Still, I'm planning on going below 20 for the 5k and 3:15 for the marathon. It takes a lot of work, but it can be done. Just keep at it.

Running through Life said...

I asked that same question to a snail the other day. He ran away from me.

SLLarsen said...

I am a new runner - just over a year under my belt - and have "speeded" up so that I can run slightly faster than 10 minute miles. I am VERY interested to know if there is hope for me. Thanks for asking this question - I will follow the responses.

Billy Burger said...

Depends on the distance. For something like a 10K or 1/2 marathon, tempo runs seemed to get me to that point (2:04 -> 1:40). For marathons, I think it's just volume + tempo/LT runs.

Jess said...

I think everyone's speed is a matter of two factors: natural ability and training.

For those who are naturally fast, they may have several physiological advantages, like a naturally high VO2 max, or naturally long legs, lean body mass, etc.

For the rest of us, speed work is the only way to improve. That means running intervals, tempo runs, hills, etc. And there can most certainly be improvement, but if you're not naturally a Ryan Hall, you'll never be able to do enough intervals to catch up to him.

J said...

I have always run, maybe its been fast maybe not. I didn't really start timing myself and caring about how fast I was going until college. So say I start at about a 8:30 min pace naturally. With training I can usually bring it down to sub 7 minute miles for a 5k with training (no speed work). Now If i had a specific training program and focused at getting faster then maybe I could get even lower mile times.

I think that everyone starts at a certain natural pace/endurance. from there with the proper training, depending on the person you can become faster. Its all about finding the right balance of speed and endurance workouts and also the right intensity. its hard to explain but I hope this helps you understand my idea of how to get faster.

J said...

I forgot this...I do think that some people can only go so fast.

For example...in track I ran the 400m relay, and I ran it in 63 seconds. I think that no matter how much training I do I will never be able to run a 59 second 400m race because I am just not built for it. The same goes for distance races. I think its all about finding the right distance and race for you.

RunningLaur said...

Good question! Sorry, I'm slow, so I have no input :(

Missy said...

Mine is pure work and training. I didn't start running until I was 26ish. I didn't grow up doing it, nothing! The #1 thing that made me faster, besides training faster - a coach that deconstructed my run form. I got faster without working harder almost immediately. THEN work on the speedy stuff when you feel like you're going to barf.

None of it is natural to me - people just think it is.

ShirleyPerly said...

I think it's a combo of genetics and consistency. I was always one of the slowest girls in PE growing up. I started running back in high school (1976-77) just for fun but never thought to enter a race until 2002. Back then no one but serious runners ran races. I was more of a jogger and had no real desire to push myself or get faster, to be honest. But after 25 years of easy running off and on, I must have developed a pretty good aerobic base as I'm faster than average for my age now. And with speed work my race times improve but I'm prone to injuries and have to be careful (which is why I prefer marathons and their slower racing and training paces - volume doesn't bother me as much as speed).

I have a friend, though, who started running in his 60's a few years back and is now running half marathons in the 1:45-1:50 range after having started out in the 2:00-2:10 range. He's been running very consistently and doing speed work and it shows!

The Happy Runner said...

I'm not that fast, but I am faster than I used to be. For me, it's been consistency and hills. I think consistent running will yield results. Running hills has helped me speed up.

Lacy said...

I've become "fast-ish"
I'm hitting my three year anniversary of my first mile this month. I was a 10 min/miler for a long time and then it just started getting faster. One of my best trainers was running with people who are faster than me. I had to keep up. It's kinda interesting what the body can do if it has to.
I went from a 5:20 marathon in 2007 to a 3:37 in 2009. Or a 26 minute 5K in 2007 to a sub 20 minute in 2009. It just takes time and if you're like me, some stubborn headed-ness too!.

Lisa said...

Not that I am fast, but I did shave 40 minutes off my marathon time. For me, faster times came with improved fitness.

I think all the comments are saying just about the same thing. You will experience a much bigger improvement in your first two years of running than anytime after that. After the initial two years, you might only see 2-3% after that... and then, at some point, it will decline due to age.

I think the best advice is to keep running. Build your base and endurance. Then you can work on your lactate threshold which you use on shorter, faster runs. Once or twice a week, throw a fartlek or two into one of your shorter runs.

joyRuN said...

I'm so very curious about this as well. Some folks just seem to run fast right off the bat!

But then I get inspired by other people who say they started off with 10-min miles (sunrunner, ecrunnergirl) who, after a couple of years of hard hard work, qualified for Boston! Truly inspiring & tells me that maybe I can get there some day.

My 5k's used to be in the 29's. My goal two years ago was to go under 28. I've introduced a lot more mileage & dreaded hateful speedwork, & my last 5k was 25:26.