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22 Ways to Get Faster

  • Jana Ross

    I incorporated structured workouts into my weekly running routine.

    "I started including track and tempo days into my schedule, as well as doing race-pace miles within my long runs every week," says Jana Ross, 26, a run coach from Boston, MA who has shaved nearly 20 minutes off her marathon time. "It was a big adjustment for me, since I had always defaulted to the same average pace on all my runs, but this forced me to get serious about my pace every day of the week." (Don't have a ton of extra time? Try these workouts if you only have 10, 20, 30, or 40 minutes to spare.)

  • Kara Beussink

    I kicked up my cross-training.

    "I noticed a huge difference in my running when I started taking strength-training and high-intensity interval training classes once or twice a week," says Kara Beussink, 30, from Marina del Rey, CA, who has shaved 40 minutes off her half-marathon time and nearly 90 minutes off her marathon time. "Getting my heart rate up while doing non-running activities was a major benefit to me. I also biked or swam once a week, and I believe those low-impact activities helped keep me injury-free throughout training. "

  • Liysa Faye Mendels

    I worked on my glutes.

    "Having strong glutes gives you a massive running advantage," says Liysa Faye Mendels, 29, from New York City. "When you're running long distances, you need strength to hold onto your pace. As soon as I started paying attention to my glutes, I felt like a stronger runner—and that eventually translated into getting speedier."

  • Kristin Golat

    I ran more.

    "When I started running, I would sporadically run 3–4 miles twice a week, plus a 6–8-mile run on the weekend," says Kristin Golat, 25, from Staten Island, NY, who has taken almost two hours off her marathon time (yup) and 38 minutes off her half-marathon time. "But I knew I needed to run more to increase my endurance for longer races. So I gradually increased my weekly mileage, being careful not to jump too much to avoid injury, and incorporated cross-training on non-running days. It worked!"

  • Nicole Haber

    I stopped fearing the distance.

    "When I first started running longer distances, I was too scared to go fast," says Nicole Haber, 32, from New York City. "I was worried about finishing the race, and I never really trusted that I could actually do it, so I held back."

  • November Project NYC

    I tweaked my diet.

    "As I started running more, I began to eat healthier," says Jennifer Buck, 26, from Bethlehem, PA, who recently shaved 26 minutes off her half-marathon PR. "I ate a lot more chicken and fish, and a lot more fruits and vegetables. I also limited myself to only drinking on the weekends—or not at all, for a few months." (Pro tip: Always refuel within 30–60 minutes of finishing a run. Don't be guilty of making one of these 8 Worst Mistakes Runners Make.)

  • Cara Rabin

    I incorporated "fast finish" runs in my routine.

    "I like using the last 4–5 miles of my long training runs as a workout," says Cara Rabin, 31, from New York City, who has taken 23 minutes off her half-marathon time and 10 minutes off her marathon time. "I'll try to get down to just faster than marathon pace. Almost all of my long runs start out one minute per mile slower than where they end."

  • Nicole Haber

    I started training with a group.

    "After my first half-marathon, I decided to sign up for the New York Road Runners group training classes," says Haber. "The speed work and hill workouts were absolute magic for me. Plus, the group aspect served as meaningful social proof to convince me I could, in fact, do these workouts. If similarly-paced people could run up and down the hills in Central Park 10 times, I could, too."

  • Erica Silbiger

    I chilled out.

    "I ran three marathons without seeing major improvements," says Erica Silbiger, 29, from Coral Springs, FL, who has taken more than an hour off her marathon time. (Yes, you read that right. An hour.) "I was running up to 60 miles per week—much more than I was used to—doing speed work and intervals every week, and strength training whenever I had time. It wasn't until I ran a marathon on a whim—as a training run for an ultramarathon—that I decided not to look at my GPS watch and to just run by feel. Go figure, it was my first sub-4:00 marathon, and was more than an hour faster than my first marathon just two years prior." (Check out why one runner ditched her GPS watch—and found happiness and speed in the process.)

  • Emily Faherty

    I changed my mentality.

    "One of the biggest switches for me was a change in my approach to each race," says Emily Faherty, 29, from Hoboken, NJ. "When I first started running, I was running to survive. I just wanted to finish the race, or I wanted to finish without walking. Once I realized I could do those things, I started running to race. I wanted my best times. I wanted to hurt. And I wanted to beat the boys."

  • Jana Ross

    I made core work and foam rolling priorities.

    "I do core work and foam roll nearly every day," says Ross. "Both play a huge role in keeping me healthy as I bump up my mileage."

  • Cara Rabin

    I sloooooowed down.

    "I run 90 percent of my weekly miles at a conversational pace," says Rabin. "Being on a team or running with friends helps, because you can keep your runs chatty and happy."

  • Kara Beussink

    I ran tougher routes.

    "Finding more challenging running routes made me so much stronger, physically and mentally," says Beussink. "I used to avoid running hilly routes, but now I know that they are super beneficial, and make me feel stronger."

  • Jana Ross

    I hired a running coach.

    "My coach gave me a customized plan and tweaked it as we went along and I made progress," says Ross. "He made me push my limits and run paces I never dreamed possible. He prevented me from over-thinking, and I trusted that his plan would get me to my next start line as strong as possible."

  • Nicole Haber

    I read running blogs.

    Your running community doesn't necessarily have to exist IRL—you can always find inspiration online, too. "I would read about the effort other people were putting in—and how hard it was for them, too!—and it made me believe I was capable of getting faster," says Haber. "It showed me that the 'secret sauce' was really just not giving up. Watching other people push themselves toward their goals helped me push, too."

  • Jana Ross

    I got comfortable being uncomfortable.

    "I practiced pushing my body and mind to the limits—and then I pushed further," says Ross. "Running fast is hard, and I had to practice not panicking when I got out of breath so I wouldn't go into fight-or-flight mode." (Don't fear the discomfort. Try these 11 Mantras That Will Get You Through Any Run.)

  • Cara Rabin

    I learned what works best for my body.

    "I know that I'm likely to get injured with too much speed training," says Rabin. "So I generally only do one speed session per week, or one every other week. My favorite is a two-mile warm-up followed by 10 minutes at half-marathon pace, 10 minutes at 10K pace, 5 minutes at 5K pace, recovery jog for four minutes, then repeat."

  • Kara Beussink

    I hit the track.

    "While working toward my second marathon, I added one track session per week to my running routine," says Beussink. "The workouts are as simple-sounding as 400m or 800m repeats with short recovery periods in between."

  • Nicole Haber

    I learned to start slow.

    "Learning how to slow down has, in turn, made me a lot faster," says Haber. "I used to start each run like a bat out of hell. Then I would burn out, hate running, and want to stop because it felt so hard. I'd get so defeated. Now, I take the first mile or so of every run slowly, and I get faster naturally throughout the run as my body warms up."

  • Jana Ross

    I ran with fast friends.

    "To get faster, you need to run faster, and I wanted to run with my friends, so I had to match their strides," says Ross. "Ask around—you'll be surprised by how willing people are to run with strangers."

  • Liysa Faye Mendels

    I learned how to measure effort.

    "The more you pay attention to what feels like 60 percent effort versus 90 percent effort, the more you'll be able to get comfortable pushing a slightly uncomfortable pace," says Mendels. "Interval workouts are great opportunities to learn where your limits are—and to surprise yourself!"

  • Cara Rabin

    I was willing to put in the work.

    "I truly believe that wanting something really badly is the first step to making it happen," says Rabin. "Being willing to put in the hard work to get there is what actually makes the changes happen, though. I found that I loved running and really wanted to get better at it, so I dedicated myself to making progress happen."