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Train Harder, Run Faster: Part 1 of 4

posted by Brandon
Train Harder, Run Faster: Part 1 of 4

The question we get the most here at Runners Feed is ‘how can I run faster?’ Part of me wishes there was a supplement, a pair of shoes, or a diet that would transform the avid weekend warrior into a sleek, strong, effortless runner, but there isn’t. Do not fret; there is a means to achieving that elusive stride and desired race outcome. Plain, old fashion, HARD WORK.

Over the next 4 weeks we will address the following 4 topics as they relate to training harder in order to run faster:

1) Mileage
2) Intensity
3) Form
4) what I like to call ‘The Little Things”

There are several publications that claim to have the answer everyone is looking for concerning how to run faster. Conversely I would argue that they have the answer everyone wants to hear. We have all heard and seen the propaganda; “These shoes will carry you to your Marathon PR”, “3 EASY steps to running faster”, and my personal favourite, “Train Less, Run Faster”. While these articles hold some value and can undoubtedly help you achieve your running potential, I believe we are missing an essential ingredient. Plain, old fashion, HARD WORK.


Once again, I wish I could sugarcoat it for you, but I would not be doing you any favours. Allow me to digress. Do I believe that running an obscene amount of miles without the proper guidance, build-up, and equipment is wise? Of course not. On the contrary, I believe that quality, including running mechanics, a substantial base phase, and the like are essential to long-term development. Oh yea, and…Plain, old fashion, HARD WORK.



Reid Coolseat, Canada’s top marathoner is no stranger to training hard, including logging in excess of 200 kilometers in a given week. Reid was in Kenyan this winter and mentioned in a recent article that Kenyans not only run – a lot – but they train consistently. Reid also mentioned a few stats that I found alarming. For example “an astonishing 239 Kenyans broke two hours and fifteen minutes last year in the marathon. (By contrast, Canada had three under the same time – and that was a good year for us.) Factor in the population of the two countries (Kenya, 39 million, Canada, 34 million), and it’s evident just how excellent the East African country is at producing world-class distance runners.” Check out Reid’s Blog to read more about his time in Kenyan. In short, Kenyans are simply running more.

When people ask ‘how can I run faster?’, my gut reaction is to ask ‘how much are you running?’ If you are training for a longer endurance race by logging 30-50 kilometres per week, I would argue that you are simply looking to complete the distance as opposed to racing the distance. Like any rule, there are exceptions, but the greats are logging 150-200+ kilometres a week for a reason. There has been a resurgence in superb performances by North American runners due to the fact that more elite runners are adhering to high mileage training similar to that prescribed by Arthur Lydiard several decades ago. Am I suggesting that you must run 160K per week to be a successful runner, no. That being said, 100K per week is not unreasonable given that the runner is either training for the 5K or is supplementing with some type of cross-training. Lastly, while building up to peak mileage during a base phase, and maintaining that mileage during the pre-competitive phase, it is critical to implement strides because as Mark Wetmore once said, “distance does not kill speed, not doing speed kills speed”.

On a related note, and one that Arthur Lydiard spent the majority of his time researching is the energy system used to run a marathon is upwards of 99% aerobic. Thus, the goal must be to increase one’s aerobic capacity. The Long Run and Tempo Run should be staples in any longer endurance race training plan. Interval sessions have their place, nevertheless, one must be fit enough to complete an interval session. By this I mean, if you do not have the fitness level required to recover during the rest interval, you will simply flat-line the workout.

Depending on your experience and current mileage, the 5-10% increase per week is a good rule of thumb. I would suggest thinking about your running in terms of long term development which should eliminate the need to rush. Be patient.

Listen to Haile Gebrselassie as he shares his thoughts on training hard and patience.

If you think I am simply attempting to persuade people to run more, you are correct.

Now that you have finished reading, put your shoes on and get in a few more miles before the day is done! Next week we will discuss training intensity as it relates to mileage and running faster.

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  1. odyason says:

    Hi Brandon,

    Great first part to the series! I’m pretty new to the run scene but want to do the best I can all the same. I currently only have a 10K and full marathon under my belt, but have been an active runner for a few years now.

    I’m just curious as to weather or not you’re familiar with the FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) program? I think it was first brought to a wider audience through Runner’s World magazine, and through a book they published titled “Run Less, Run Faster”. Your mention of pet peeve “train less, run faster” reminded me of this.

    Anyway if you’re unfamiliar, the basic premise is to run 3 key run workouts of (1) track repeats, (2) tempo runs, and (3) the long run. Between these workouts, they recommend cross-training, where they define cross-training as being either cycling, rowing, swimming, or basically any combination of the two. Overall it provides a 5-6 day training week.

    Any thoughts on this? I’ve been giving it a go for about a month or so and it’s not bad, but I do feel the lack of actual running miles. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. I don’t mean I feel less in shape, but the cross-training just doesn’t feel the same. The book prescribes the pace times based on your best 5K run and they’re pretty accurate.

    Anyway, enough of my ramblings! I was more curious to know if you’ve heard of the program before and whether or not you would ever recommend something like that to someone who isn’t quite a superstar, but not a back-of-the-packer either.


  2. Brandon says:


    I am not incredibly familiar with the FIRST program, nevertheless, I understand the basic premise. I think much of it comes back to what distance you plan on racing.

    As I mentioned in the article, if you are training for a 5k, the FIRST program sounds viable because you obviously need a little more quality than say if you were training for the marathon. I like the idea of cross-training as well because it is what I like to refer to as free aerobic development because you are not pounding the road, but obtaining the aerobic benefits. I especially like this approach for middle-of-the-packers. It is important to note that even if you are training for the 5k, you will be relying heavily on the aerobic system.

    If you are training for the half marathon or marathon you will require more run specific training, specifically mileage on the roads.

    Dave Scott Thomas, a world renowned coach speaks on this topic in the video below. I believe he presents a chart mid way through this segment that outlines the percentages of aerobic contribution for each event.

    I hope that helps. Thanks for the question.

  3. odyason says:

    This is great, thanks Brandon. Good video, too. I’m going to watch the other ones on the website, as well.

  4. Jeff says:

    Logging junk miles for the sake of miles or even just going more and more is not good. It is very hard on your body and you don’t need to do it. I used to do that and because of my job had to cut way back and instead focused on hard… very hard workouts but less miles other than my once a week long run coupled with once a week tempo and intervals – 3 total runs. My marathon time has dropped from 3:35 to 3:05 because of it. “Run Less, Run Faster” is scientifically backed and it is working very well for me regarding marathon capability.

  5. Arjun says:

    Great post! Thanks Brandon.

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