Fact: You actually have to run faster if you want to run faster. But that doesn't mean you have to hit the track for mind-numbing and lung-splitting laps. If you start sneaking in speed in May, you may see some PRs in the coming months. Here are five ways to pick up the pace without touching a track.
If you're a newer runner, run one more day a week. "If you're running three days a week for three miles, add a fourth," says Leivers. Similarly, increase the distance of one run. "Make that 3 miler 4 miles, then 5," he says. "Just by running more, you're going to get faster because your body will naturally become more efficient." (Intermediate runners looking to build stamina and speed should also try these Strength Exercises That Make You Faster.)
Do hill sprints. After a good warm-up, explode up a very steep hill for 8 to 12 seconds total. "Give it 100 percent," says Fitzgerald, who adds that these are best for more advanced runners. Give yourself 1 to 2 minutes to walk down and catch your breath. "Don't cut your recovery time short," he says. "This is like weight lifting for runners." Do hill sprints once a week and work your way up to eight reps. If you're a newer runner, simply hit a hilly route once a week—and put some extra oomph into your climbs. (Try these 10-Second Sprints to jumpstart your hill work.)
Stride it out. After easy runs, do 4 to 8 reps of strides: Over 100 meters (or about 20 seconds) gradually pick up the pace until you're at about 95 percent effort. Pull back and coast to a stop. Let yourself recover fully before starting again. Do 4 to 8 strides, 1 to 2 times a week.
Aim for a negative split. On a shorter run that is, say, 5 miles, run each mile faster than the mile before it. "You're teaching your body and mind how to speed up when you're not totally fresh," says Leivers. "Over time, it becomes more automatic."
Run with a faster friend. Once a week, run with someone who averages 30 to 45 seconds per mile faster than you. "The 'slower' person would be doing a tempo run, while the 'faster' person can use the miles as a recovery run after a track workout or long run," says Baker. Everyone wins. Plus, follow these other tips to Find the Perfect Running Buddy for You.race.