Runners World Articles: Archives - August 2002
Speedwork improves speed, but not always endurance, Heres
how to boost both at once.
Runners often define hitting the wall as the bone-aching,
spirit-crushing fatigue that overcomes marathoners sometimes after
mile 18. But you can actually hit the wall during any race, no matter
the distance, if you dont prepare your body properly for the
rigors of the final meters or miles. Specifically, many runners
do speedwork, but few run enough repeats during their speed sessions
to prepare themselves properly for the entire race distance. To
run strong from starting gun to finishing tape, you need to include
speedwork that targets your specific race distance. I like to call
these workouts endurance-speed sessions. During these
sessions, youll gradually increase the number of repeats you
perform in order to stimulate the race effort required.
Endurance-speed sessions prepare your body to run strong throughout
the entire race, and teach your body how to judge pace. After all,
its easy to run you repeats too fast if youre only doing
a few of them . But during endurance-speed sessions, as you increase
your number of repeats, you have to control your pace so you can
complete the workout. Once you learn to pace yourself, youll
find it easy to do the same in a race.
ANATOMY OF AN EDURANCE-SPEED SESSION
Your endurance-speed workouts should be done once every other week,
with a tempo run in its place during the off week. Be sure to include
the following in each session:
Room to Run. Endurance-speed workouts can be done on a track,
or anywhere that is accurately measured, fairly flat, and relatively
A thorough warm-up. Warm up by walking for 3 to 5 minutes.
Then jog for 6 to 10 minutes. Once your legs are loose and relaxed,
do three to six strides (where you accelerate for 50 to 100 meters),
with each one gradually increasing in speed until you reach your
race pace. Walk between each stride for 30 to 60 seconds. Remember,
The Right Reps. The best length for your repeats depends on your
goal-race distance. Heres what I suggest: 400 meters for 5K
and 10K runners; 800 meters for half-marathoners; and 1-miles repeats
A Gradual Build-up. Start with three to six repeats; and
increase by one or two per session. Each repeat should be run at,
or slightly faster than, you goal race pace. You maximum number
of reps depends on your goal race distance: 12 x 400 meters for
a 5K, 17 x 400 meters for a 10K; 14 x 800 meters for a half-marathon;
10 x1 mile for a marathon. (Advanced, competitive runners can run
an additional two or four repeats for any of these workouts if desired.)
Appropriate Recovery. Walk or jog slowly between repetitions-2
to 3 minutes between 400s, 3 to 4 minutes between 800s, and 4 to
5 minutes between miles.
The Correct Cool-down. To cool down, reverse the warm-up,
but dont include the strides.
The Dos and Donts of Endurance Speed
Sincere an endurance-speed workout can be significantly longer than
other speed sessions, be careful not to overdo it. Otherwise, youll
end up with a few aches and pains (or worse). Here are the most
important strategies to keep in mind:
- Do select a realistic and conservative goal race and pace.
- Do run a consistent pace for each repeat.
- Do finish each workout knowing that you could have run one more
repeat at the same pace.
- Do follow each workout with either a complete rest day or an
- Dont do endurance speedwork more than once every 2 weeks,
and dont run the half-marathon or marathon workout during
the same week as a long run or race.
- Dont sprint during any portion of the workout.
- Dont increase your repeats by more than two per session.
- Dont forget to have fun.
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