How I’ve Continued to Get Faster

September 7, 2013

This has been a long time coming. Sorry for the delay. I wanted to get this posted this week, but running 100 miles doesn’t leave you with much time. (If you want to see how I balance work with running high mileage, check out this post: How to Run 100 Miles While Working Full-time.)

During the course of my 20-year running career, I have had my ups and downs just like every other runner. There have been highs where I broke the school record and times when I finished last place in a race (college track and possibly a cross country meet in college as well—I’m too scared to look up the results; if they are even still posted.) Wiith all these highs and lows, we learn from our experiences and move on, resetting the bar to achieve our goals.

I’ve worked hard to get to the point to be able to run 100 miles pretty comfortable and achieve the PRs I have run this summer. I’m not going to lie, it isn’t always easy getting up at the crack of dawn. It take discipline to log the necessary miles and slog through the rain, snow, and wind, but that hard work has produced new PRs in every distance (marathon yet-do-be-determined) this summer.

I was very fortunate to be able to set new PRs in every distance last summer and then set new PRs again this summer. Running these progressively faster times has not always been the norm. There was a period of 6 years before I finally broke my half-marathon PR!


During those six years, I continued to train year-round, do speed workouts, long runs, and do everything that one should do in order to PR. So what happened that caused me to get faster?

In short, a lot of miles and a lot of hard work!

This is SO my motto about everything in life!

1. I increased my mileage by 100%.

Instead of running 50 miles, I bumped my mileage up to 70 miles last spring (2012), and then 80, 90, and even 105 miles last summer. This is huge. I think this has been the main contributor to my success. It has been proven time and time again that the more miles you log, the faster you become. Although, I do feel as though I have to inset a disclaimer here: this may not work for everyone! I have heard many, many stories where people ran PRs on much less mileage. But if you can successfully and safely increase your mileage, I would challenge you to give it a try.

2. I train year-round.

The only time within the past several years I’ve taken any time off is after a marathon (usually about a week) when I am WAY too sore to run. Other than that, I have been running year-round since starting my college running career 12 years ago. I know this makes a big difference in my ability to continue to get stronger and faster because I don’t have to spend 2, 3, or 4 months building my base at the start of each training session. Instead, I have  a solid base to start from and build from there.

3. I do weekly speed/track workouts.

I know I would not be as fast or strong without my speed workouts once or twice a week. I usually hit up the track for one of those session and then complete the other on the road. These vary anywhere from 800 or 1600 meter repeats, tempo runs, long fartlek workouts, etc. They aren’t easy and track workouts still make me nervous, but I know they help, which is why I continue to do them.

4. I weight lift twice a week.

I truly believe strong muscles aid in ones ability to increase mileage and speed safely. During the off-season (winter) when I’m not running as many miles, I hit up the gym 2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes at a time. When I’m running much higher mileage during the summer, I make it my goal to get to the gym twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. I cover the most important muscle groups but don’t spend a lot of my energy lifting weights because I know I need it for running.

5. I have dropped a few pounds.

I have lost about 5 pounds since the beginning of the year, and I can’t imagine this hasn’t helped me with achieving my PRs this summer. Once again, I know this is a controversial topic, but I do think it has helped me.


To be honest, I am actually surprised I have been able to set new PRs this summer because I was out of commission for pretty much 6 months this winter while my glute and hamstring were bothering me. However, during this time, I continued to run as much as I could, lift weights, cross train, and take care of my body.

I do think there is a plateau for everyone. As hard as I work, there is NO WAY I will be as fast as this girl who has run the Olympic Trails marathon and her PR is 2:44. I don’t have that kind of natural ability.

But I’ve worked hard to get to this point. I figure if I work harder than 95% (maybe even 99%) of the other competitors out there, I’ve done everything I can. I’ve put in the hard work, dedication, and determination to see what I’m capable of. Everyone tells me I’m crazy, but I hope they secretly find some admiration in what I do. I know I won’t be able to do this forever, so I’m enjoying it while I can and living in the moment, which is something I continue to work on!

Who knows, maybe I’ll get in a bad car accident tomorrow and never be able to run again!?!? Sad but true. Live it up today!

    1. What great information!! Thank you do much for your post Michelle. It’s just the inspiration I needed as I head out for my long run in a few minutes. Definitely inspiring. You certainly put the work in a deserve to be PRing!

    1. Congrats on another 100 mile week! I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. I really admire your dedication to running and value the advice you provide. Thanks for being a great running role model!

    1. Thanks for the shout-out! Funny thing is, your list is exactly what has helped me improve as well. I was never super-speedy in college (yes, competitive, but not All-American, even at D3) so it’s just been gradual improvements – sometimes really slow progress, but progress nonetheless! Mileage and consistency I think are the two biggest things – the more you can run, the better you’ll be (in general), but only to the extent you can maintain it week after week. The other thing for me has just been learning to eat healthy. When I ate crap and packaged stuff all the time I didn’t recover half as fast as I do now. It’s amazing what good food can do for you! Wishing you the best as you taper for the marathon! Keep it up!!!!

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