Q To run faster, is it better to quicken my steps or to lengthen my stride?
A The short answer is “both.” First, check your step cadence. If you take fewer than 90 right-foot steps per minute, work toward hitting that number. Lengthening your stride is trickier. “Overstriding” is inefficient and can lead to injury. Aim instead to increase your range of motion by stretching your hip flexors, and to give more power to your push-off by strengthening your glutes with exercises like bridges and “Superman” (pictured). This will make upright running posture (no bending at the hips) and a longer, more powerful stride (because of better hip extension during the push-off) come naturally to you so you can run faster.
– CAOLAN MACMAHON, running coach
Q When I reach the halfway point in a race, should I hit it right on my target pace?
A It’s better to start a little slower (two to three seconds per kilometre) than goal pace, which will put you just slightly “off” at the halfway point. By starting a bit slower, you’ll be in position to shift into a higher gear in the last kilometres and finish feeling strong. The exception: In races with more hills in the second half, aim to maintain an even effort throughout.
– LIZ CORKUM, running coach and pacer
Q Can I stick to training at a slow pace if I want only to finish a half-marathon or marathon?
A Sure, if completing rather than competing is your sole goal. Running strictly at a “conversational” pace makes it easier to safely and effectively increase your mileage. You can even include walk breaks on your longest runs and during the race. Long, slow runs or run/walks will physically and mentally prepare you for race day. Increase the distance of your long run and total mileage by no more than five to 10 per cent each week. Half-marathoners should work up to at least 24 weekly kilometres with a 16-kilometre long run, and marathoners, at least 40 weekly kilometres with a 32-kilometre long run. Once you’ve hit your peak, taper for one week before a half-marathon or two weeks before a full marathon.
– BRAD MCCLEARY, coach and gym owner