Older runner, can't get faster.

I'm an older female runner in my late fifties, of fairly normal weight, and I've been running for five years now. My issue is I've always been slow and I never seem to speed up. Brand new runners of my age join the group and are faster than me straight away. I've tried running more, running longer, doing sprints (which are laughable in their non-sprintiness), doing hills, pretty much everything I can think of but I still can't break a 12 min/mile pace. My heart rate always goes up too high (180+) almost straight away and I can't breathe if I go any faster. I've had health checks and have a bit of treated exercise-induced asthma but no heart issues, normal bp etc. I'm just depressed at always being so far at the back of the pack. Any suggestions please??


  • I'm the same- been running for longer, but getting slower year on year- I'm fed up.  Supposed to be doing a half in 4 weeks and considering dropping out.  My sympathies.  I'm reading up tonight on any tips and you have my virtual support as it's so frustrating

    I was doing 10 minute miles 3 years ago- I'm carrying a stone of extra weight but not sure I can lose it in 4 weeks!

  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    Hello tigersnail - generally to increase speed you need to shake up the training a bit. You write that you have tried sprints and hill running, but how have these been structured and how long did you do them for?

    Speed isn't so much about sprinting, but it is about pushing yourself a bit harder for periods of time on some of your training runs. These can be intervals, threshold running, progressions or fartleks.

    I'd suggest starting with intervals where, for a 90 second burst, you up the pace to the point where it is a struggle and then do a 2 min recovery run where you try and bring your heart rate down again. Repeat these 5 times as a block sandwiched between an easy pace to warm up and then easy pace to cool down. This builds up endurance, but more importantly in your case, you should start to see an increase in your base speed and how long you can maintain that. 
  • JGavJGav ✭✭✭
    How much running do you do per week?  
  • Thanks for your comments, all. JGav, I run about 15 miles a week over 3 sessions. Guarddog, I'll definitely give intervals a go, thank you. And cat, good luck on the half training!
    tigersnail - we all have our limitations but your weekly mileage is low so improvements are very unlikely.  

    I would suggest that you need a long base period to improve your aerobic system, maybe 3 months or so.   Do your base training with an HRM and no faster than 70-75% MHR.  Running at this easy pace you should be able to run for at least one hour a day without getting tired.   At the end of that period you should find that you are running faster at the same HR than when you started and you will find running a much more comfortable experience, which I think is really what you want.   Thereafter you can start doing some speedwork/intervals if you want to.
  • Not an expert at running by any means but are you doing any strength training, as stronger muscles can only help you improve, surely. How is your diet, as whether I'm training, running, hiking or working, if I'm not eating right it has a definite impact. 
  • Hi, I was in a similar position and I am of a certain age. I found that cutting mileage (not what you want to hear!) and preparing my body for a harder work out (one per week) then letting it recover really worked. I saw my easier run times improve. With the extra non run times - I just took it easy on the gym bike listening to pod casts. Good luck.
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