The simplest way of doing that is the social run. Running with someone else can make a run a lot easier and more pleasant. The downside is that, if two people run together, one is either running too hard or too easy. When I was at the top of my game, I ran once a week with a group of the top local runners. We'd do 10 miles in 60-65 minutes; it was an easy social run for them, but I was doing a 10 mile race in the middle of every week and it was my downfall.
If I feel the need to do something a little different, I try to do a workout that touches on the finer points of racing, those things that might mean only a second or two in a race. If you've ever missed a PR or a trophy by a second or two, you've probably thought more than once about how you could've cut that little bit.
Most of my bag of tricks comes from coaching cross-country running and are team-related, so they aren't useful for a solo runner. The ones that are tend to be focused on hills and extremely fast running.
Many runners, and especially trail runners, will do hill repetitions, where they just run up and down a hill over and over (somewhere I can hear someone saying "just shoot me now"). While they get better at running hills, they get in the habit of pausing or stopping at the top of the hill. In a race, on can often take advantage of this by pushing up a hill and then continuing to run hard past the top. To practice this, you need a hill that flattens at the top, rather than dropping off quickly. Run hard up the hill and intentionally push for another 50-100 meters beyond the top.
This is a more advanced version of the hill extensions. Hills rarely reach a sharp peak, but flatten toward the top, and this means the hill gets easier on the legs just at the point where one is tiring. One can learn to take advantage of this. On a course with rolling hills, when you get to a hill, maintain the pace you were running on level ground as you start up the hill. It will continue to get harder to maintain speed as you go. Look for the point where the hill appears to go from getting steeper to flatter and, when you reach it, force your legs to "turn over" more quickly, increasing cadence, if perhaps shortening stride. It will take a while for your heart and lungs to catch up with the extra effort. If you master this, you can often make a move in a race on a hill, even against faster runners.
|If I were a girl, this is what I'd want to look like (except maybe the eyebrows)!|