Improving running speed and time are the most neglected parts of running training. Many recreational runners think that speed should be a concern only to elite runners, but everyone can benefit tremendously from increasing their speed.
There are two ways to run faster. You can move your legs at a faster rate, called stride rate or cadence, or you can take longer steps. A video at the New York City Marathon showed that the top 150 runners had the same cadence, taking 184 to 188 steps a minute. The difference between the top runners and the others was that the best runners took longer strides.
In general you can run faster by either improving your running cadence per minute or by lengthening your stride.
Improving running cadence means increasing the number of steps you take each minute. This can be done by running with short and quick strides. On the other side, lengthening your running stride means forcing a longer stride than your usual one. Both techniques are proven effective at increasing running speed. But which one is the best?
Stride Rate Vs. Stride length
Research has concluded that most elite runners have the same running cadence per minute. The difference that makes the difference for the elite is their stride length. The longer the stride, the faster they run. But forcing a longer stride does not necessarily means that you can faster. In fact it can have a counter-productive effects.
Stride length and over striding
Lengthening your stride can cause you to overstride. Overstriding is one of the most common lower body errors runners make. When you force a longer stride, you create a braking action with each step. This forces your body to slow down and generates added pressure and tension to your feet and knees, thus it increases the risk of injury and knee problems.
This could be a conundrum to many. It’s why many runners get frustrated and angry when they discover that they are actually slowing themselves down when they force a longer stride. But don’t worry, there are some tweaks you can do in order to decrease the effects of overstriding.
The best method for running faster
The best solution for running faster is by combining both methods. Do your best to run as fast as you can with quick and short steps. And at the same time, you should adopt a stride length that is comfortable to you. The most efficient stride length is the innate one – the one you feel most at ease with.
In fact, when you improve your running cadence you will be able to lessen the braking effect and your running form will start adjusting automatically by taking up a stride length that is appropriate for your cadence. Just don’t be harsh on yourself if don’t notice any instant results.
Drill to Increase your stride length naturally.
We have seen it is dangerous to increase your stride length by forcing things. The best ways to increase the stride is by doing a speed work-out known as Strides.
Strides are usually around 100 meters in length. They are broken into three sections; the first section is used to accelerate. During this portion you gradually build your speed so that at the start of the second section you hit your top speed. This isn’t necessarily an all out sprint but rather a controlled fast pace. You then hold this pace for the second portion of the stride. The final section is for slowly easing back down to either a walk or slow jog.
Here is a video by elite runner Katie Koski explaining how to do strides.
Basically, strides can be done anywhere you find room to safely do about 15 seconds of faster paced running. I would recommend trying to do your strides on a softer surface (grass, dirt, a track, etc.) if at all possible and as with any sort of speed work, always be sure and do a good warm-up first.
When doing strides the most important thing is to focus on is your form. You want to work on running fast but relaxed. Also, make sure you are not over striding. Your foot should be landing directly under your body, not out in front.