Training

Getting Back Into Speed Work … I Think

October 29, 2015 • By

Do some of you get intimidated by speed work?  Or when you talk to a more seasoned runner, nod and smile when they talk about their mile repeats and 6x800s, 5x400s or tempo runs (i.e. 6 mile tempo run)?  Well, I’ve been trying to get faster and follow some of my half marathon training I did back in 2013 for the 3M Half that had me PR.  What that means for me is speed work each week.  400s, 800s and tempo runs mixed into my weekly mileage.

For beginners, I wouldn’t worry about that right now.  But in case you are wanting to know what those terms mean, I’ll explain them (shown below in reference to the examples I used above):

  • Mile Repeats – depending on the distance of race you are training for depends on how fast you run your mile repeats, but often times half marathoners do 5-6x 1 mile repeats at 10k pace with 2 min recovery jogs in between (just an example).  For shorter races like 10Ks or to work more on speed (over endurance), you could do 3x 1 mile repeats at 5K pace with 3-4 min recovery jog in between.  There are lots of variations.  This will help your speed and endurance!
  • 8x800s – 800 meter sprints (or speedy runs at about 5k-10k pace is what I usually do) 8 times.  Many plans vary the number of rounds during different weeks of training.  800m = 1/2 mile.
  • 5x400s – 400 meter sprints (I aim for 5k pace) 5 times.  Again the number of speed rounds will change depending on what week you are in during your training plan.  400m = 1/4 mile.  You’ll also see some 1200s and 1600s on some advanced long distance training plans.
  • 6 mile tempo run – let’s say you run your 10k at an 8 min pace, do a 2 mile warm up at 9-9:30 pace (60-70%), run the middle 4 miles at your 10K pace/8 min per mile (80-90%) and then cool down 2 miles at 9-9:30 pace (60-70%).  Often tempo runs incorporate intervals in them, too, during those middle miles.

When I first begin running track in high school, I loved sprinting.  I was definitely more of a short distance kind of girl (100m, 200m).  I am still to this day intimidated by the track.  I don’t get the high I got from it when I was 16.  My hamstrings start to hurt, I think of the pulled groin I got way back when, and I just think of how nice it is to take it slower and longer…  I love to run, but the track and I aren’t very good friends.

So I actually do most of my speed work on the treadmill these days, believe it or not.  The treadmill is not a bad place to log your speed work because it’s easy to see how far you go and how fast.  I’d say if you can’t find a track, don’t sweat it.  Hop on a treadmill and give it a try.

So back to looking back to my 2013 3M training on Monday of this week.  I looked at my old log and saw “10x800s.”  “Wow,” I thought to myself.  I’m 6.5 weeks out from the Dallas Half and that’s what I did 6.5 weeks out from the 3M Half?  Sheesh.  So my friend Amanda and I decided to give the workout a try.  And boy was it hard!!!  Here’s what we did at a 1% incline to mimic outdoor running:

10×800 WORKOUT

  • 1/2 mile (800m) warm up 6.5 mph (9:14 pace)
  • 1 800m 8.0 mph (7:30 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 8.0 mph (7:30 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 8.0 mph (7:30 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1 400m 6.5 mph (9:14 pace) recovery
  • 1 800m 7.8 mph (7:42 pace)
  • 1/4 mile (400m) cool down 6.5 mph (9:14 pace)

TOTAL of 10 800s and with 9 recovery 400s with 1/2 mile warm up and 1/4 mile cool down = 8 MILES/8:12 avg. pace

treadmill display
When assessing our speeds, we looked at what was normally an easy pace, what is normally a standard workout pace and what is a challenging pace or tempo pace…  that’s where we came up with our 6.5 mph for the warm up/cool down/recoveries and the 8.0 mph for the speed portion (that after three rounds we had to modify to 7.8).  Remember that treadmill running on 0% incline is easier than outdoor running, so increase your incline to at least 1% to mimic outside.  Here’s a handy treadmill pace conversion tool that can help you see the difference.  (I still always use the programmed treadmill pace for my overall workout pace … it’s not that big of a deal).

At the end of this speed workout, we felt dead.  We wanted to quit at #6.  I’ve been doing a lot of tempo runs but really haven’t done serious speed work consistently.  I felt this the next day, of course, and am still sore 72 hours later!!!  This is an advanced speed workout but I highly recommend if you are on your 2nd or 3rd half marathon and are wanting to improve your speed, that you begin incorporating speed drills of some sort.  You don’t have to do all 10 800s in this workout to do a great workout.  Let me know in the comments section what you’re training for or what training posts you’d like to see and I’ll be happy to write about them!

XOXO,

Jess