Running workouts are usually aimed at increasing your condition (you’re never conditioned enough as a runner!) but spending some time in improving your form can actually help you run faster given the same level of condition. Or running as fast while feeling less fatigue.
A good, efficient running form is directly related to high stride rate. World-class runners run at 180 strides per minute during competitions and slightly less when training.
Usually runners increase stride length when they want to increase speed more than they do increase stride rate, but this is not optimal.
One study revealed that in order to DOUBLE your running speed, stride length increases by 85%, and stride rate only by 9%. For example, when speeding up from a ten minutes per mile pace to a 5 minutes per mile, the length of a step increases from 18 to 33 inches, while strides per minutes only increase from 83 to 90.
Therefore, working in improving your stride rate (which might feel innatural at first, you’ll feel like you’re doing baby steps) will give you better results than working on increasing your stride length.
As we read here, the physics behind running is straight-forward: when you stomp your foot on the ground you apply a force to the ground and according to Newton’s third law of dynamics, the ground responds with an equal and opposite force, pushing you up and forward. Time is a major component in power. The shorter the time your feet is in contact with the ground during the stride, the more poweful your step will be.
Further, there is a rebound component to this. If you land with your heel and your gait goes through all the surface of your foot, the resulting pronation will cushion and absorb part of the power you are applying. If you land on your midfoot or forefoot, your foot will “bounce” less and applying more power to the ground, therefore increasing the bounce back and the distance you cover.
The last way to increase your running efficiency is to try and move forward more than you do move up and down. All the energy you use in moving vertically is energy you are not using propelling yourself forward, which is the aim of running.
Running is and will always be a sport where conditioning is essential. Muscular, cardio-vascular and mental stamina are the keys for long distance running. But working on improving your form (after all, you are running anyway, why not doing it better?) and achieving a good efficiency will make you run faster at the same level of conditioning or fatigue less going at the same speed.