Guest post by Issa Abbasi (@IssaAhmadAbbasi)
When I began to enjoy running, I immediately listed all of the popular marathons I wanted to one day race. Of course, any serious runner would make sure to include the Boston Marathon on such a "bucket list" of races as I made sure to do. I knew that I had to qualify for the Boston Marathon but what I didn't know was that the qualifying time for my age group (18-34) would require me to run a marathon a year before I planned to register to run the Boston Marathon in 3:05. This qualifying race for the Boston Marathon (also known as a "BQ") has to also be certified by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), so it can't just be "any" marathon that you run to qualify for Boston.
While I am not running a 7 minute pace yet, I knew I had to get faster at running if I wished to one day qualify for the Boston Marathon.
But how does a runner simply run fast or faster? Below are some methods and techniques I used to improve not only my speed but also my endurance in a matter of 8 weeks.
I joined a running club
Running can be extremely fun, especially when you have a large support group in a running club. When you run with others around you, you will have no choice but to run faster if you want to keep up with the group. Naturally, you'll discover here what actual "running" is and feels like.
Furthermore, clubs tend to offer group workouts that include speed drills done by a coach. These speed drills are especially helpful to getting faster. With my experience, I cut almost three minutes off my 5K PR with weekly speed drills for six weeks (11/28/13 5K was 29:34 and 1/26/14 5K was 26:39).
I hired a running coach
As discussed in my previous post, even as a beginner, can pay dividends very quickly. A good coach's approach will get you to realize gains very quickly but also sustained gains for your long term racing career. Coaches will also give you advice you won't find in a running magazine, book, or on a Facebook page about everything running related.
I slowed down
This may seem counter intuitive but it works; slow down! Runners need to realize that not every run has to be at your all out 5k race pace. Runners need to embrace training at various paces on a weekly basis if they want to run fast(er). For more information about slowing down, see Ahmad's post about zone 2 training (hyperlink "zone 2 training" to your post on the subject). Remember, it's not the fastest runner who wins the race but the one who slows down the least.
I stopped comparing myself to others
Once I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on my running, my mental wall of "getting faster" vanished. This is especially key when you are running a race. I passed plenty of people in a recent 5K and 10K who were ahead me for the majority of the race and never looked back. How? Because I paced myself based on my training of slowing down and became a more efficient runner. When the time was right, I turned on the jets and motored past those who were in front of me for most of the race and ended up finishing before them. Remember, in a race, it's not about where you start but rather where you finish that matters.
I let it come naturally
Don't rush to get faster, let things come naturally. I've heard of the "running faster vs. longer" argument and I believe that a runner should focus on running longer first rather than speed. It doesn't help if you are a fast runner trying to run a half marathon but are not able to finish one. Furthermore, running longer will enable you to slowly become more efficient and thus faster runner, so don't chase speed.