So you are confident in your running ability, but what’s next on the agenda? Chances are it’s figuring out how to improve your running speed. We’re not promising to turn you into Usain Bolt, but here are five tricks that should help you become a fast runner.

1. Beetroot

If you are looking to improve your 5k personal best, it might be worth including some beetroot in your diet. Research at the St Louis University found that eating beetroot could help speed up your 5k running times.

During the study, participants were asked to run two separate 5k distances on a treadmill. Prior to completing the first 5k, participants ate baked beetroot. Then before running the second, participants ate cranberry relish that had the same calorific value as the beetroot. The study found that participants ran 7.6 miles per hour after eating the beetroot, compared to 7.3 miles per hour when they ate the relish.

Nitrates found in beetroot are what helped the runners to produce a faster speed in the first 5k.
-St Louis University study

It’s believed that the nitrates found in beetroot are what helped the runners to produce a faster speed in the first 5k. Beetroot juice is also thought to help muscles work efficiently and can improve a runner’s stamina.

2. Include Plyometrics

Plyometrics are quick and explosive exercises that help your muscles contract faster, improve their elasticity and can help your body cope with higher demands effectively, all of which should help to improve your running times.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska found that participants who could jump high, also had faster 10k times . Therefore, it would be beneficial to introduce plyometric exercises to your training regime if you are looking to become a faster runner. These workouts can be pretty quick - look to include some box jumps, scissor kicks and tuck jumps in your training to see some improvements in your running times.

3. Introduce music on your run

Another trick that could help you improve your running speed is to listen to music when you run. One man who backs up these claims is Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist who has researched extensively the effects of music on sports performance. Listening to music could improve your running performance by 15 per cent according to Dr Costas Karageorghis.

Listening to music could improve your running performance by 15 per cent.
-Dr Costas Karageorghis

The theory behind the improvements on performance is that music can encourage you think positively and is thought to make you feel less fatigued, as music can decrease your awareness of effort by 10 per cent. To get the most out of listening to music while you run, remember to bare in mind your own musical tastes and choose songs that inspire you - as something that works for one runner, might not necessarily work for you. When creating your own running playlist, choose songs with different tempos to match the stages of your run.

4. Work out if you are an association or dissociation runner

According to experts on the subject, most runners fall into one of two categories when it comes to mental strategies: association or dissociation. A study carried out at the London marathon in 1996 explored these categories further, finding that the mental strategies could be defined into the following:

  • Internal association - This type of runner focuses on how their body feels as they are running. For example, you may consider how your legs are feeling or concentrate on your breathing rhythm during the run.
  • Internal dissociation - This type of runner focuses on distracting their mind during their run. You might think about your life, solve a problem or make up a story when running.
  • External association - This type of runner focuses on the external detail of the activity. For example, during a race you might have the location of the next water station or your split times on your mind.
  • External dissociation - This type of runner focuses on external details not related to the race. You may think about landmarks along the way, or the weather.

By understanding which of the above categories you fall into, you can use specific strategies during your run to help you pick up the pace. If you are a dissociation runner for example, you might find it’s useful to use distraction strategies while you are running (such as listening to music) to improve your running speed.

5. Run slower

This one might sound counterproductive but in order to improve your running speed, you need to run slowly for some of your training. Variety is an important factor in your training and you should endeavour to mix up both the distance and speed you run at during your workouts. Aim to fit in some interval sessions and hill work to your training and try to run longer distances at a slower pace if you want to become a faster runner.

Running for longer durations will improve your aerobic fitness, help your body utilise oxygen better, and improve your overall running efficiency.