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How to Run a Faster Marathon

A Reader Asks: Help! I'm Running My First Marathon!

FitSugar reader BriannEmal needs your help — she's about to start training for a marathon but wants to increase her speed. She posted her question in the FitSugar running community group, RunningSugar.

So I picked up running a few years ago to get healthier, and it's one of the best things I've ever done! So far I've completed a few 5 and 10Ks and a half marathon, and now the marathon is the logical next step. Now, in my other races I've been able to get away with just plain old running to prep myself. Now as my long runs get longer I've come to realize that I need to vary my training with shorter speed-work sessions if I'm gonna make all this mileage happen. Problem is . . . I am so not a speedy girl; I'm a leisurely-paced, distance kind of girl. Anybody have some advice on how to slowly build my speed without killing myself? Keep in mind also I live in Arizona, so for the next few months it will always be at least 100 degrees out during my workouts.

Read on for the advice we gave BriannEmal and share your own advice after the break!

Congrats BriannEmal on deciding to run a marathon! It's great that you've found that you love running and have already completed several races — you are off to a great start.

First, give yourself adequate time to train; we recommend four months. Check out this four-month marathon training plan. Having a specific training plan is essential for building both your speed and your endurance steadily so you don't risk overtraining or other injuries. Check out some more tips for first-time marathon planning here.

Another thing we'd recommend is starting interval training, if you haven't already done so. High-intensity interval training is important for increasing your endurance and speed. Since you live in the oh-so-hot state of Arizona, try an interval training workout on the treadmill so you can beat the heat. Here's an interval treadmill workout you may want to try during your next trip to the gym.

Another race-friendly way to increase speed is to practice negative splits, which means running the last half of your workout faster than the first half. By incorporating negative splits into your marathon training you'll win physically — gradually increasing your speed during your runs will make you faster over time — as well as psychologically, since come race day you may find yourself passing others by during the latter part of your run. Another strategy that helps with speed is tempo running, which is when you do a once-a-week run at a slightly increased pace over a set amount of time (like, say, 10 minutes), and increasing that set time as you get better. We have a few more tips for increasing your running speed; read them here!

Also, don't forget that when you're training for a marathon, what you eat is important. Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet consisting of protein, carbs, and iron-rich foods (and add some extra carbs about a week before your race).

Readers, have any other tips for BriannEmal? Share them in the comments below and don't forget to post your own running advice or questions in our RunningSugar group!

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