Marathons, 5ks and charity fun-runs have one thing in common: runners competing for the best possible time. Months of tireless preparation go into each race, as you log miles on asphalt tracks and treadmills. You even break in new running shoes until they fit your feet just right. Prepping with timed track workouts can increase track speed as well, whether you run for fun or to beat the clock.
Ramp up your speed with timed fartleks. Author Debora Reber advises runners to use this technique to decrease the duration of their run without sacrificing distance. In her book "Run for Your Life: A Book for Beginning Women Runners," Reber uses the burst to quicken her running pace, similar to interval training. To use fartleks for a 20-minute run, first jog for five minute to warm up. Then increase your speed for five minutes. Switch between jogging and fast-paced running, quickening your running pace each time for five minutes at a time.
When training for a 5k, something as simple as quarters can be a valuable training exercise to run through. Quarters gets its name from quarter-mile intervals. Since most school tracks require four passes around the asphalt to equal a mile, you will be doing just one lap for this bad boy. But don't let that fool you. Quarters push the envelope by making you run faster than you'd run on race day. Lift your knees and pump your arms as you time your laps, increasing your speed each time. Walk a two-minute lap between each quarter, doing four or five total.
Heavily associated with football and basketball, timed 30- and 40-yard sprints are powerful training tools in a coach’s arsenal. Whether on the field or the court, players need to have quick and agile feet. The same applies to you, and timed sprinting workouts can help you run faster for longer periods. One way to practice this is to set up cones or place markers in a zigzag formation. Begin at the first marker and diagonally sprint through the obstacles. For an added challenge, stay close to the markers.
Don't be afraid to play around with your normal track routine. If you run five miles, toss in some interval training. Adjust your speed throughout the run, playing with the duration and speed. Go off track and challenge yourself to a timed hill run. Find a steep hill, set your stopwatch and hit the ground running. For school track runners, after every mile, hit the bleachers for a lap up and down the stands or steps. Time yourself and enjoy your run.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.