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Powerade, the official hydration partner of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and the Cape Town Cycle Tour, has signed-up some of South Africa’s foremost running, cycling and training experts to challenge athletes to beat their best in 2017.

In 2015, Caroline Wöstmann became the second woman in history to win both the Comrades Marathon and Two Oceans Marathon in the same year – just 7 years after she began running around the block in an effort to lose some post-pregnancy weight and has provided some insightful tips on how to improve your speed, see below:

How to improve your speed?

How you train to build speed really depends on what level you are running at and what you are trying to achieve. Caroline shares tips on improving your speed for major races:

  • When you are running at recreational level, you tread along every day at your normal rate, but you can run faster, if you put some work into it. If you do 6-7 minutes per kilometer and you want to get to 5 or 6 minutes, all you need to do in an easy run is improve your cruising pace slightly, and incrementally, until you get to your desired pace.
  • You do not have to put in specific speed work – that gradual increase in effort will get you there. It is not about doing speed work, just adjusting to run slightly faster at your natural cruising pace. By picking up pace slowly, it will seem more natural and you have a better chance of avoiding injury.
  • If you are at a pace where your cruising pace is quite fast, around 5 minutes/km, there are other things you can do to try and increase your race speed. The appetite for speed work varies from person to person, so it is important to find methods that you enjoy and do not have you lying awake the night before, panicking.
  • You could do interval sessions, a scheduled session where you say you will do 1km repeats or 400m repeats on the track or the road. Or else look at time sessions, where you run hard for 3 minutes and then relax for 1 minute.
  • Another alternative is a pyramid session, where you run 400m hard and jog 200m, then run 800m hard and jog 400m, 1200m hard, 400m jog, back down the pyramid, in 3-4 sets. If you want to mix it up, run in a group and take turns deciding what the next interval and recovery will be, it is a kind of unstructured speed running. Warm up for 15 minutes, then have the first person decide on the durations.
  • During the recovery, the next person calls the next set of durations. Do that for about 30 minutes and then have a 15-minute cool-down, that will make for a great, mixed 60-minute session. When training hard, I like structured sessions so I can compare improvements week-on-week. In my off season, I want less structure and want to have more fun running around, playing games!
  • Hill training is a great way of doing speed work. If training for a shorter race, do 10-20 hard 1-minute hills and then jog down. For marathon training, where power is more important than speed, run 1km uphills. You should not be running uphills for more than 5 minutes in training, so if your 1km uphill pace is longer than 5 minutes, stop at the time cutoff and go back. Start with 3 of those up and downs, and build up to 6.
  • A great way to improve speed in general, depending on the distance you are trying to race, is doing a 10km race. For a marathon, doing a few of 10km races in the build-up is a good idea. Ultra-runners hate 10km races, we feel like we are making all that effort to drive somewhere just to run 10km and it does not feel worth it. But to improve your marathon pace, running more, shorter races and pushing yourself, will improve your marathon time.
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