Increasing Speed via Stride Length?

#1
I'm a 47 year-old male who only began seriously running at the start of 2020. I am currently averaging around 50 miles a week and earlier this week, I did a 10k time trial during one of my runs just to see how I would do.

My time was 48:17, which seemed to me like a decent enough time that leaves a lot of room for improvement.

While looking at the stats for this run provided by my Garmin Forerunner 45, I found that my cadence was around 190 and my stride length was around 1.1 meters.

When my time trial was over, I sort of felt like my time had been largely determined mainly by the limits regarding how fast I can physically run and not really by endurance, by which I mean that if I was physically capable of running faster, I felt like I would have been able to maintain the necessary endurance at that faster speed for the 10k trial.

Increasing my cadence would obviously help me run faster, but there is a limit to just how many steps I can take per minute, so it seems that lengthening my stride so that I am covering more ground with each step is going to be the key to improving my times.

From what I have read, Eliud Kipchoge has a stride length of about 1.9 meters and in watching videos of his sub-2-hour marathon, I noticed that he and his pacers all basically have similar stride lengths, despite the fact that the dozens of different pacers are of varying heights and sizes.

Now, I have no delusions about being able to run like Kipchoge, but watching him has made me realize that a longer stride length is going to be an important component of increasing my own running speed.

At the moment, I certainly do not feel very smooth or graceful when I run at my 5k/10k paces, but I am hoping that will improve with practice and experience.

I have started to incorporate speed work into my weekly running, but was wondering if there are specific stride-lengthening drills or techniques that I should focus on, or if simply running faster during my speed workouts will itself eventually result in a longer stride length as I become more comfortable and fluid at faster speeds?
 
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#2
The speed work is really what you need, especially because of what you said about feeling like your mechanics were the limit. Run those reps the same way you want to race: be relaxed. Do 4-6 strides after every run at paces ranging from mile-10k depending on how you feel. 190 race cadence is pretty standard, so I wouldn’t worry about those specific biomechanics.
It’s also possible that training to get your 1500-3000m times down would help you feel comfortable running faster over 10k.
 
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#3
I'd like to piggyback off the point of doing strides and speed work. I also want to throw in hills as well. All three of these things will help train your body to develop a more efficient running form when going fast and just in general. I like to do strides 3-4 times a week, and I should probably be doing more hill stuff. The thing is you don't want to do anything too extreme for speed/track sessions until you're close to the race or time trial. If you're still a long ways out from your race a fartlek of 1 min on/ 1 min off would do just fine. Hope this helped!
 
#4
I worked in several strides during a fartlek run this morning and it raised a question for me: Should I be trying to reach my top end speed during my strides or simply trying to run comfortably at a speed below my 5k/10k pace?

Right now, I my 10k pace is around 7:45 a mile, so should I be aiming to do my strides at around 7:30 or 7:15 pace or should I be trying to reach my fastest possible pace? Today, I managed to hit 6 minute pace during a few of my strides, but I was basically going all out and it felt rather disorganized and chaotic and was certainly not something I could have continued to very long.

It seems to me that it makes more sense to run my strides at a pace that is below my 5k pace but at which I can still run relatively comfortably and smoothly. Then as I improve at that faster pace and it becomes my normal 5k pace, eventually I can drop my stride pace lower and continue the cycle.
Trying to improve my overall top speed doesn't seem like a particularly useful goal since I can't maintain that top speed anyway given that my mechanics and conditioning are not where they need to be to do so.

Given that I am relatively new to all of this, I just wanted to see if I am approaching this the correct way.
 
#5
It should vary. Somewhere from 1500m-5k pace. Definitely try to stay relaxed and keep good form during the strides.
Improving high end speed has its purpose over 10k. I’m not very well versed in it, but the idea is that practicing running well at your fastest paces will improve your economy and make slower paces more efficient and feel easier.
 
#6
I will also say that speed work and strides will help you achieve your goal, but I think it's important we are on the same page. I was a HS track coach for 10 years and have a background in kinesiology.

In regards to cadence, it is largely self-selected. It can be trained with positive results, but the scientific literature suggests it's best to stick with what your body does naturally. A range between 160 and 200 is common.

In regards to stride length, stride length is determined by the amount of force applied to the ground. To increase stride length the focus is to produce a greater force in the same amount of time (this means cadence doesn't change). The greater force will result in you covering more distance between steps. One should not try to increase stride length by reaching out. That is, you want your feet to land in the same position relative to your body as they currently do.

Doing runs faster than race pace will allow you to increase your ability to apply force various speeds. One way to approach training is to run at speeds for the two race distance above and below your goal distance. So as a 10K runner, you would want to do some running at 5K and 3K paces and some at half marathon and marathon paces. You can use a race predictor calculator to determine these paces. The faster the pace, the shorter the distance. You could do mile repeats at 5k pace (ex: 3xmile with 3 minutes recovery) and 1000m repeats at 3k pace (ex: 5x1000m with 5 minutes recovery).

Fartlek is a varied pace run where one would generally run at a steady state pace and then mix in some faster efforts at 10K pace to 5K pace, but the options are limitless. These runs are best as a way to progress into doing more structured interval training.

Strides are generally around 100m in length and should be run with a gradual build up of speed, then maintain top speed for about 20m, followed by a gradual slow down. Your top speed will depend on where your in terms of development. It would be good to work up to the point where your top speed would be mile race pace (the pace at which you would race one mile). Your top speed for a stride should not be an all-out sprint, but rather controlled speed. You may progress to where your top speed in a stride gets faster than mile race pace. You can start with 3-4 strides and progress to 6 over time. Strides are typically done after a basic run or toward the end of a warm period for interval training or races.

Ultimately, from a biomechanical perspective, they key to running faster, is exposing yourself to faster paced running in manageable segments. I hope this was helpful.
 

Joe

Administrator
Staff member
#7
Generally, if you count how many rights a runner takes for 10 seconds is the easiest for determining turnover rate. In nearly every Olympic race from 1500 - marathon, the top runners are 16+ (96 total for a minute). The fact you're at 190 is excellent. Check out Tergat vs Gebresalassie in the 2000 Olympic 10k final (
). They have 7" difference in height and nearly the identical turnover rate. Focus on turnover, if you focus on stride length chances are you'll overstride which results in a braking action since you're reaching and not allowing your foot to fall under your center of mass. To increase stride length, do what Lydiard suggested - a focused several week training period of hills reps.

Joe
 
#8
These responses have been very helpful. Thank you all.

When I first started trying to increase my running speed, I wrongly assumed that it meant that I had to increase my stride length by reaching my legs out further. After pulling a muscle in my butt, I realized that was not the best course of action! :)

During my recent speed work, I have realized that the key to increasing my stride length lies in the push off and how much distance I can cover before landing. As such, I have been focused on maximizing that, but doing so in a way that is smooth and controllable.

There are lots of hills in my neighborhood which I have generally avoided running because running up hills is tiring! But I'm going to start incorporating hill repeats into my speed work.
 
#9
What other's have said here, do speed work, hill work is just a speed workout, check out on line how to do these. I wouldn't worry about stride length, and if you do increase the length of your stride don't reach with you legs, that's over striding, and one day you will have knee problems. If you watch pro runners what most have is a killer back kick, like they're kicking themselves in the butt

Sounds like you have a good base, but don't over do it with the harder workouts, it all takes time. One really important thing, do what works for you, we're all an experiment of one.
 
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