San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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April 11th, 2010
Run with Moe: How to cut your time

Run with Moe: A column
By MOE JOHNSON
San Marcos Runners Club

The Capital 10K ran early Sunday morning, with a number of San Marcos runners entered. If you missed the “big” race of the year, there are a lot of smaller races coming along the next few weeks, and most are very close to home.

Not everyone enters a race with the prospect of winning an award, unless you are in a low turnout age group. Many runners say they enter for fun and for the exercise, mentioning that they do not really care about the time that it takes them to run the distance.

This sounds good, but invariably almost all of the runners that have entered the race, and that includes a few walkers also, want to know their time. The time may be slow, but runners like to know how long it took them to complete the course and, little by little, they begin the process of trying to run just a little faster the next time.

Eventually a set time to complete the race will be in their strategy. It might be to break 40 minutes in a 5K to start, then it becomes 35 minutes to run a 5K, and so on. Sometimes, that goal is just a few seconds away and, even if they are running the race for “fun,” the runner will literally sprint the last 50 yards to break that magic time that was set at the beginning of the race.

I can only assume that sprinting at the end can be classified as fun for the runner. The easiest way to build speed — even a little speed — is to take a training run during the week and practice running a little faster. The best way is to find a quarter-mile track and do a few laps around the track.  Figure out a time that is just a minute or two faster than your own personal best and figure out what that pace is per mile. Maybe it is a nine-minute pace you’re thinking about. That averages out to two minutes and 15 seconds to run around the track.

Remember that you are only asking to take a couple minutes off your best time, not five to ten minutes. That means, for a quarter mile pace, you only need to run about five seconds per quarter faster each lap. Five seconds in a 5K will have you running 20 seconds per mile faster and one minute faster in a 5K race.

Take small steps in trying to build more speed into a workout. If you don’t like the boredom of running around a track and prefer the open spaces, there are several speed workouts to try once or twice a week during your training. One of the easiest is to run faster on the down hills. Running downhill is easy, the main purpose for running faster is to train your legs to have a faster turnover rate and maybe lengthen your stride a little during a run.

This works best on gradual downhills and not on a steep down grade.  Steep downhills increase the danger of falling, and also put too much stress on the knees and back because the stride foot lands in front of the body and acts as a braking motion that travels up the body through the knees and back. For your purpose, stick to gradual and easy to run down hills.

Another technique is a thing runners like to call “fartlek.” It is a Swedish word meaning run as you feel or basically do a fun run. During a run, pick out a landmark ahead of you and run at varying paces to it. The landmark might be a block long, to a parked car or telephone pole, or a bush.

The pace you pick is “how do you feel” pace. Do you want to jog slow, run a race pace, sprint, or average workout pace as you run to your chosen landmarks. Vary the sequence of the speeds during the run, mix them up and just have fun running different speeds one or two days a week.

The key to this form of running is that somewhere during the run you will be running fast and that will enable you to run faster in a race. Even though you tell other runners that you are not interested in how fast you run, it is still nice to see that you did run a little faster this time and, next time, it just might be faster yet.

And one day, in a race, you might just run fast enough to win one of the awards in your age group.

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