Run Faster: Tips For Improving Your Speed On The Track

By Team GLUKOS Triathlete Ben Lindell.

Photo Credit:

A very wise man once told me, “If you want to run fast, you have to run fast.” At the time, I really hated him for saying this. I wanted the pill that would impart great speed into my legs. As I’ve learned over the few years that I’ve been doing this, that pill doesn’t exist.

Track sessions have been an incredibly important part of my training for the last couple of years. I’m incredibly fortunate in that running has come very naturally to me. There has definitely been work involved, but when you’re first marathon is a 2:56 without much speed work, genetics are definitely playing a factor. But just because something comes more naturally doesn’t mean you don’t work on it. The opposite is actually truer. My coach and I have been working on enhancing this strength so that it is a finely tuned weapon to pull out at the end of a long race. The run is where I can make up the most time, especially in longer distance events.

The track definitely takes you out of your comfort zone, especially if you’re running with faster people. There’s really nothing like running as hard as you possibly can for 400 meters and feeling like you could pass out! I have heard from people that question the need to put in these short, super high-intensity efforts when I’ll never be running a sub-5 min pace during a race. My thoughts on this are two-fold:

1)     Comprehensive muscle work – I’m still trying to learn the basics of exercise physiology, but I do know that there are slow and fast-twitch muscles. Slow-twitch are the ones that help with endurance, and fast-twitch are for sprinting. I am far from an expert on this, but it seems logical to work both types of muscle fibers in order to increase overall fitness.

2)     Sprint finish – Thankfully I haven’t had to sprint down the finishing chute yet to hold off or catch another athlete. This crosses my mind during every race, as I hope and pray this won’t be necessary. Working those fast-twitch muscles, though, gives me the confidence and better top-end speed should I ever have to battle till the end.

One of the consistent things with most of my runs is that the hardest effort comes at the end of the workout. For track days, they turn out to be a lot like boiling a frog. We start at strong but manageable paces and aim to steadily get faster through the intervals. This takes a lot of mental effort and discipline, but it really helps to train the body to push hard in those last miles of a race. It also hurts, a lot, which again helps prepare you mentally and physically for the back half of a race. If you can push through the finish line, you will make up a lot of time on your competitors.

Most of my track sessions happen early in the morning, and my stomach doesn’t tolerate much at that time. Especially going into the really hard efforts that occur on the track, I use liquid and chews for my nutrition before and during these sessions. I’ve found that these digest easier while still providing ample energy to get through an 8+ mile workout. Nutrition has been a multi-year struggle for me where nothing really seemed to work that well. When I was introduced to GLUKOS earlier this year, it was a gift from heaven! Nothing has worked so well with zero negative effects on my gut. I have a 15-20 minute drive to the track, so right when I walk out of my apartment I open up a package of GLUKOS gummies and have at least ½ of that before the workout starts. After the warm-up and in between intervals, I sip on a bottle with 2 scoops of GLUKOS energy powder. Like with all sessions, but especially these because of how hard and taxing they are, recovery is key. I have a GLUKOS protein shake waiting for me in the car. This helps to start the body’s repair process and get a few calories in before I make it to work for a full breakfast.  

My favorite track sessions tend to be those with longer intervals. I don’t have the top-end speed that some of the experienced 200-400 meter runners have, so I have a much better chance of keeping up and pushing from the front when we start running long. A couple of weeks ago, my track group did the following main set:

                  2x 2 miles continuous as 8x 300 meters at 5k pace/100 m recovery (only slightly slower pace)

                  2x 800 meters hard

This is a pretty consistent progression for most of the recent track workouts. There are longer intervals at the beginning followed by 1-2 shorter efforts at a faster pace. Like I mentioned earlier, these workouts hurt. But having structured, group workouts like these with fast guys has been so beneficial for my running. My first race after starting to train with this group is coming up this weekend, and I am very excited to see some results from the last month of hard work.