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What Affects How Fast You Run? (Top 13 Factors)

What Affects How Fast You Run? (Top 13 Factors)

Regardless of whether you are dedicated to training and are an experienced runner, there are factors that affect your running.

It is important to know how to adjust your running pace to the conditions in which you run so that you run as best as you can. Some factors can be influenced, and some are beyond our control.

In this article, you will find out what affects how fast you run.

1. Age

Your age affects your running. Most runners reach their full potential between the ages of 20 and 30.

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Numerous studies have shown that runners gradually lose their speed and running capabilities after the age of 40.

As we age, various changes occur. The older you get, the more muscle mass you lose.

What Affects How Fast You Run

A study has shown that people lose between 3% and 8% of their muscle mass with each decade after the age of 30, and this rate of decline gets even higher after the age of 60. Most men lose around 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetime.

The older you get, the longer you need to recover.

Furthermore, your maximum oxygen uptake and your aerobic capacity become lower, the connective tissue between your muscles and bones becomes less elastic, and your bone density is lowered, all leading to a greater risk of injury.

The range of motion of the main joints used in running is reduced, which leads to a shorter stride and thus to reduced running efficiency.

Tip

Adjust your expectations to your age and abilities.

The process of aging varies from person to person. Depending on several factors, such as your lifestyle, nutrition, genetics, and level of physical activity.

For bigger marathons, qualifying times vary by age. The older you are, the slower the qualifying times are.

Example

For the New York Marathon, the qualifying time for women aged 30 is 3:13:00, while being 4:10:00 for those aged 55. This does not mean that a 55-year-old will run their qualifying time more easily. Instead, those qualifying times vary according to the differences and abilities of people of that age.

Furthermore, in races, there are awards by age group, so regardless of your overall ranking, you will be awarded in your age category.

2. Gender

Differences between genders affect running time, which is why men and women run in different categories in races.

On average, men run faster than women. The reason for this is that men have better physical predispositions, such as a bigger heart that can deliver more oxygen to the body, higher testosterone levels, and more muscle mass.

3. Genetics

Looking at the results of road races, they are dominated by runners from the East African region, Ethiopia and Kenya, from which it can be concluded that genetics greatly influences running.

The inevitable fact is that the best middle- and long-distance runners are Africans.

Many physiological characteristics that affect running are genetically determined.

Studies have shown that an individual’s genetic makeup has a significant impact on physical characteristics, including body size and shape. Although there are a lot of exceptions to this rule, the best middle- and long-distance runners are usually of relatively short stature and low weight.

4. Weight

The heavier you are, the more load you have to carry and the harder you work to run the same distance at the same pace.

Increased body weight makes middle- and long-distance runners less efficient and less able to withstand high speeds over longer periods.

Likewise, being overweight increases your heart rate, raises body temperature, and puts more stress on tendons, joints, and bones, which increases the risk of injury.

Read more: How Heavy Is Too Heavy to Run? (17 Tips for Heavy Runners)

Tip

If you decide to lose weight, be careful. Consult your doctor to perform detailed examinations. At the end of the day, your health is most important.
What Affects How Fast You Run

5. Experience

With years of training comes experience that also affects your running.

If you’ve just started running, don’t expect good results right away. Be patient and enjoy the training process. With dedicated and continuous training, you will progress and become faster over time.

6. Fitness level

The more fit you are, the better your body will be able to withstand the stress of running and the more efficient and faster you will be.

Contrarily, if you are not fit enough, you get tired faster and are not able to maintain proper running technique, which leads to a higher risk of injury.

Beginners should first start with walking and then gradually introduce running segments. Over time, their stamina will grow and they will be able to run longer without stopping.

Read more: Why Can’t I Run Longer? (15 Most Common Reasons)

In order to improve your running, follow an individualized training plan, do not disregard recovery, pay attention to nutrition and hydration, and choose quality running shoes.

7. Sleep

Lack of sleep can negatively affect your running. Quality sleep is essential for recovery after training.

A study has shown that runners who slept longer than usual were faster and their rates of perceived exertion were lower.

Sleep needs vary from person to person. On average, a runner needs about 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

Read more: Why Can’t I Sleep After a Long Run? (12 Most Common Reasons)

8. Nutrition

You need to adjust your diet to your training schedule so that it does not negatively affect your running. Running on a full stomach leads to nausea, cramping, and bloating.

Your body is busy digesting food while increasing blood flow to your stomach and intestines, allowing your body to absorb nutrients from food.

Food in the stomach is not digested properly, and the muscles used for running tire faster because they lack oxygen and cannot function fully.

Depending on the size and content of a meal, it takes different amounts of time to digest it successfully.

Read more: Can I Run on a Full Stomach? (Explained in Detail)

What Affects How Fast You Run

9. Hydration

Besides nutrition, hydration is also important. Drink sufficient amounts of water throughout the day.

Water is an important nutrient that is vital for optimal physical performance, resistance to injury, and maintaining a normal body temperature. It helps to carry nutrients to your muscles and remove waste products from them.

10. Running technique

Adopting the correct running technique increases your efficiency and running speed, and reduces the likelihood of injury.

Tip

While running, it is important that you keep your body straight, slightly leaning forward. Look straight ahead. Your arms are bent at the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Swing your arms in the direction of your movement. Do not clench your fists, always keep your palms open. Pay attention to the position of the feet. Do not run on your heels. If you run fast, run on the balls of your feet.

Avoid overstriding because it costs you too much energy and reduces your efficiency.

You should land your feet just below the knee, slightly in front of your center of gravity. This maintains torque and helps avoid braking. Likewise, your knee is protected, and the muscles and tendons in your leg allow you to cushion the impact of landing.

To improve your running technique, add running drills to your training plan. These are methodical exercises that mimic running movements. By mastering them, proper running movement becomes automatic.

Read more: Top 8 Running Drills To Improve Your Form (Video)

11. Weather conditions

Weather conditions affect your running significantly. It is not the same to run during high heat or in cold.

Just remember how many times you checked the weather forecast when you wanted to do a good workout or run a personal record.

A study has shown that the optimal temperature for most runners is between 45-59 degrees Fahrenheit (7-15 degrees Celsius). Everything colder or warmer than that optimal range will result in slower running times.

When you run in cold weather, that is, when the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius), your running pace will be slower because your body will expend additional energy on warming and maintaining body heat.

Likewise, the pace of running will be slower when running in the heat, i.e, when the temperature is higher than 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). In hot weather, your body puts extra effort into maintaining adequate body temperature through sweating.

When checking the weather forecast, don’t just pay attention to the temperature. Besides temperature, humidity also has a great impact on running.

The more humid the air is, the harder it will be to run because your body will have a harder time sweating and cooling itself.

When the air is very humid, sweat evaporates harder and can lead to overheating, heatstroke, or dehydration.

Tip

Prepare your running equipment according to the weather conditions. Pick running clothes made of light, breathable, and fast-drying synthetic materials. It will help cool your body by absorbing sweat droplets from your skin and making them easier to evaporate, Unlike cotton clothing which is not recommended as it retains sweat and slows down the cooling process of evaporation.

Keep in mind that we all tolerate high temperatures and humidity differently.

It takes approximately 2 weeks of training to adjust to the heat and high humidity. If you train in such conditions, your running efficiency will improve as your body learns to better dissipate heat and control its core temperature.

In addition to cooling your body better, sweat will contain less salt which means you will lose fewer electrolytes.

Additionally, wind also affects your running. When you run in strong winds, your pace becomes slower because you need to overcome greater resistance, and you get tired faster.

What Affects How Fast You Run

12. Terrain

If you run on flat terrain, you will need less time to run a certain distance than when you run on hilly terrain. The reason for this is the fact that you can maintain a steady pace and there is no increased energy consumption due to overcoming greater resistance, such as a hill.

Read more: Is Hill Running Better than Running on Flat Ground?

Likewise, it is not the same when you run on sand or asphalt.

It takes longer to run a certain distance when you run on softer surfaces because the surface cushions your every step and you need to activate more muscles to maintain balance.

Altitude also affects your running. At higher altitudes, the air is thinner and it is harder to breathe, which leads to a slower pace of running.

13. Gear

Adequate clothing will have a positive effect on your running. With it, you will be able to run in all weather conditions.

It is especially important for women to find a suitable sports bra to avoid discomfort during running and to be able to get the most out of it. 

Running shoes are the most important part of a runner’s gear. It is important to invest in a good pair of running shoes to avoid injury and be a more efficient runner.

Tip

Get your running shoes from a specialized sports gear store and take into account your style of running and foot shape. Buy them at the end of the day or after running because your feet swell during the day. When picking your running shoes, observe how they fit your foot, how stable they are, and how well they cushion impact. Try on multiple models of running shoes until you find the ones that are most comfortable for you.

Also, take care that your running shoes are not worn out and that you don’t run too many miles in them.

It is generally advised to change your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles. However, when exactly to change your shoes depends on the surface you run on, whether you belong to the category of heavier runners, and your style of running.


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Matea Matošević

Hi, I’m Matea! I’m an Olympic Marathon Runner, founder, and writer behind OLYRUN.com. On this site, I provide help in the form of my knowledge and experience to all who love running and active living. Read more…