I had a temporary breakthrough for a couple of days last week. I ran with someone in order to help push them and ended up pushing myself as well. They are actually a TON faster than I. The course I run has tons of cul-de-sacs and such so you end up retracing your steps a bunch. Whenever the other runner would run past me, I'd speed up to simulate a competitive runner. Even though sprinting was thoroughly exhausting, I ended up getting a couple of great runs out of it. My two-mile ended up sub-18 and my three-mile run was sub-28. Those two days were great.... and then there was a long day at a football game and the next AM I was too tired to really push it and all I could manage was a 30 minute 3.1.
I think the presence of another person was what helped me muster the energy to sprint. On race days I know I am able to run faster and I always figured that was because of the atmosphere. I think the same must go for practice runs; when I am being watched or have someone to watch in the distance, I think I tend to forget about being tired or in any pain and just concentrate on keeping up with the person ahead of me, thereby running with better form and effectiveness.
That being said, I typically don't run with anyone so the only thing I am looking to catch up to is the clock. Not as fun/easy. Also, I noticed my foot pain seems to decrease when I shift the way I run. I don't know which is right or wrong, for all I know, it's all wrong. What I'm trying to do is concentrate on running up hill on my toes and downhill, and on the flat surfaces, on my heels. Previously, I had been thumping flatly on my feet because I was tired and felt like it was easier. I should have figured, if it's easier, it's probably a bad idea. My foot has been hurting pretty badly so, I really needed to try something new and fix it. So far, so good. I'm hoping it helps fix things!