Sunday, 4 May 2014

Running longer distances without losing your speed.

Posted by speedygeoff on Sunday, May 04, 2014 with 2 comments
I am a fan of working on tempo (leg turnover speed) for all my running. This is the case whether racing an 800m event and feeling fatigued towards the end, or running 30k and struggling to keep the pace going for the last few kilometres. Either way, you finish sooner and get more benefit from shortening the stride if you have to, but sustaining a quick, efficient, leg turnover rate to the very end.

If you do have a slow gait, and if you then focus on running at a quicker tempo in your next race, you may find that your times improve immediately without working on any other factor. I know of several instances where this has occurred.

There are however many inter-related factors. Let’s spell out some of these.
1. Leg speed, recapping, at the end of a race or long training run, with most runners their leg speed will drop away. Sometimes you will hear me calling “leg speed” to a runner with a couple of laps to go on the track. At any stage of a race, relaxing and focusing on maintaining tempo (leg speed) is beneficial. To check what your natural leg speed is, count the number of steps you take per minute. Count one for each foot strike. For most runners 180+ steps per minute is ideal. Any less, work on it by counting 3 per second (left-right-left or right-left-right) when you go for your next fast run.

2. Stride length. Over-striding will slow down your leg speed. Some runners start over-striding when they get tired and are trying not to slow down; a few other runners do it all the time. When you are getting tired, it’s better to shorten the stride in order to keep the tempo going. Get someone to watch your running who can tell you if you are over-striding.

3. Foot landing. Most good runners have a mid-foot landing which touches down briefly on the heel and gets up on the toes fast. This is best but other factors come into play here.

4. Arm movement. The arms are not passive. They actually dictate what the legs do. Quick arm movements drive quick leg movements.

5. Body position. Running tall, hips forward, is the best active posture to adopt. A little lean forward or back is okay but not too far.

6. Ground contact. Do not let the feet linger on the ground. Keep them there for as short a time as possible. This happens when leg speed, stride length, foot landing, body position, and arm movement are all optimal, and when the calf muscles and tendons are strong enough to support a powerful springing action.

During winter we work on these factors by running a hill sprint session every Monday afternoon at Parliament House. It’s free if you want to join us. Or go ahead and develop your own. The important thing is that practice makes perfect, so consistency and commitment are very important.

One benefit of many of this training is that it keeps your fast twitch muscles active. Any loss of sprint speed when training long distances in winter can be regained in summer with just a few weeks of speed work.

See you on the track next season, fitter, stronger, and faster than ever.


  1. Thanks for profiling ordinary me on your blog today. I'm flattered :). I have purchased my Speedygeese singlet and plan on visiting your training sessions more frequently in the next 12mths than I have in the last 12mths :). In the meantime, the runs I do with other Speedygeese runners at different times I count as "de facto Speedygeese training sessions" :)

  2. Helpful post here! It's amazing how quickly strides can help the body remember how to move faster.