Saturday, May 06, 2006

On Getting Faster

On Monday I ran a 6 minute 54 second mile on the treadmill. On Wed I ran a 6 minute 50 second mile on the treadmill. My fastest recorded time prior was 6:59. I am getting faster.

The time has come to buy a stop watch and get a more accurate time, (read) faster time.

Runner's World June issue has great tips on how to get faster. The online site is even more helpful and has a trainer tool to help you customize a training program to get faster for your next race. I already do incorporate some of these tips and training recommendations in my, and I use this term loosely, training program. However, none of their tips involve a treadmill as a tool for speedwork. Obviously my methods are either cutting edge or, more likely the case, not very effective considering the magazine tells me that running on a treadmill forces you to run differently than you do on the road.

I have to admit that when it comes to running I do focus more on endurance--the length of my runs--in lieu of speed. Really, I think they should probably receive nearly equal billing. I remember from my days of swimming that our practices were fairly divided between interval training, sprints and 2 long lap swims; warm-up and cool down. Endurance was a by product of the relentless intervals--which I hated then and I hate now-- so they rarely find their way into my running workouts.

So why bother with getting faster if it takes the pleasure out of running one might be inclined to wonder.

My answer is simple: being faster means I can run further. I like to run far. And there is definite pleasure in pounding out the miles at a fast and efficient clip. Your body feels like a machine. You feel like you own the road. I see running fast and efficiently as kicking gravity's ass and as the prime paradigm of physics at its best.

The treadmill at the gym, which I use to do my sprint work, I know is not the most ideal tool for increasing one's speed. The problem is that the top speed is a six minute mile. This has not been a problem until recently as previously I never pushed it below a 7 minute mile. Lately though, as I sprint and gradually increase my speed from a 7 1/2 minute mile to a 6 minute mile, I am finding that I can and want to go faster.

My mind absolutely boggles at the thought that if with proper training I might some day be able to run a 6 minute flat or even, dare I think it? A sub 6 minute mile. When I started running 8 years ago I was a solid 9-91/2 minute miler. I thought then that an 8 minute mile was impossible. Now I run 10 consecutive 8 minute miles on a fairly regular basis.

I am not so totally unrealistic that I would ever entertain that I could maintain a 6 minute mile, even a 7 minute mile for the course of a whole marathon. I am talking about for just one mile only, not consecutive miles, a 6 minute pace. But I do think that a 7 minute mile for a 10k and an 8 minute pace for a marathon might be realistic--assuming I can get that one 6 minute mile. Well, anyway, that is what I hold as my allusive goal.

As runners, and I am loosely paraphrasing John Bingham here, we put up doors that we think are closed to us: the 8 minute mile, the half marathon, the marathon--whatever. And once we bust through that door we have to put up a different door that we may think is closed: a door that we may never have even imagined possible. The best part of running, I think, is how you can continually surprise yourself.


  1. I am in awe of your speed.

    The treadmill may not be the BEST trainer for speed training, but the fact that it relentlessly churns at the appointed pace means that it works - you are able to go through that door (as you and John Bingham say) and the simple fact of practicing at the faster pace makes you more likely to do your road work at that pace. :) Congratulations.

  2. It is possible to tell, this :) exception to the rules