3 Ways To Run All Out (And Get Faster)!

Sprints, strides, and surges can make you a stronger runner.

Hal Higdon |

If you never run all-out, you’re missing something: working at top speed can help any runner shave a few seconds to a few minutes off race times. Plus, all-out running taxes your body in different ways to other types of running, even speedwork done at 5-K pace.

By pushing yourself really hard for short periods, you’ll build muscle as well as the ability to run more efficiently. That means you’ll be able to go faster throughout an entire race or workout, not just at the end. Sprints, strides, and surges all involve working at or close to your all-out speed – and they’re all a fun change of pace from most distance training.


A sprint means going all-out for as long as you can hold it. Olympian and coach Fred Wilt recommended that distance runners run sprints weekly to develop muscular strength. Limit your sprints to 50 to 150 metres: if you try to go much further, you begin to train the ability to maintain speed, rather than to increase it.

Warm up with at least a kay or so of easy jogging. Then aim for six to 10 repetitions, recovering fully between each. On a track, sprint one straight, walk and then jog easily around the turn, and sprint the next straight. On a road or trail, choose two landmarks about 100 metres apart. Exact time and distance don’t matter: focus on moving as swiftly and smoothly as you can.


Strides involve accelerating over the course of about 100 metres, reaching the fastest pace you’ll hit – anywhere from 5-K pace to all-out – about two-thirds of the way into each. Strides ease stiffness from hard workouts, and prepare you for more fast training. They can also help you warm up before a workout or race.

After an easy kilometre or two, do eight to 10 strides on a flat, smooth surface. Ease into the first couple to work out kinks. As you progress, you can make the fastest portions faster, with the last stride or two building to a close-to-all-out pace. Walk for 30 seconds to a minute between each. If you’re doing strides as a warm-up, do four to six, and follow them with more easy jogging.


A surge is a fast burst thrown into the middle of a run. Top runners use mid-race surges to break away from the competition. For those further back in the pack, practising surges will improve your ability to change pace mid-race. This can help get you out of a rut, or put you back on pace, which can result in a faster time.

The term ‘fartlek’ (Swedish for ‘speed play’) is often used to refer to runs with surges. A fartlek run can be any distance, with a handful of surges of any length thrown in after warming up for at least a kilometre or so. One way to do a fartlek is to surge towards a point of your choosing in the distance, jog until you’ve mostly recovered, and then choose a new point to surge towards.

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