The need for speed training

Usain Bolt’s speed training sessions ahead of the Olympic marathon were coming along nicely. (Photo: Jmex60 via Wikimedia Commons)

Sixteen weeks to go to the Dublin Marathon and already things are getting serious – last night I went to the track for my first speed workout of this training schedule.

The track is two miles away, so I ran there, did my session and ran home without stopping or taking a break. As last night was the first time in a while, I started modestly – four pairs of slow and fast 400m laps. (I have a two-mile run there and back, remember.) As my training progresses I’ll toughen up the speed training.

I hadn’t been to the track since the hard training back in March ahead of the Paris Marathon. Things were pretty much as I left them four months ago – a men’s and a women’s rugby team each training in one half of the artificial pitch inside the track, while runners of various levels went about their laps. Office workers traipsed home late through the park nearby and if they even noticed us they probably wondered how we found the energy.

The first speed session of a training schedule is always a bit of a suffer-fest. The first fast lap went well but from then on each slow lap seemed insufficient for me to recover properly. Coming up to the start of another fast lap, my spirits sank a little. Like trying to dance and think at the same time, I was conscious of one leg moving in front of the other until I almost tripped myself up. By the end my legs were heavy and I was out of breath. And this was just a short welcome-back session. Honestly, sometimes I feel that the 26 miles is easier.

That said, I enjoy my speed training. It’s always refreshing to vary your training. Also, I keep a record of my fastest lap time from each session, so I can see how I’m progressing every week.

On top of that, there’s something more profound that I find when I push myself in my speed training. Coming up to another fast lap I feel what I can only describe as a swell of dread in my chest – is it my inner slacker, or a fear of damaging my health? Anyway, I know I just have to get over it and take care of business. This is great mental training for the marathon, an experience that can be full of dread as it approaches or even while you’re in the middle of it. At the risk of turning this blog into a self-help book, there’s probably also some kind of life lesson we can draw from this – the notion of overcoming The Dread to achieve your objectives.

So I finished my short track workout last night and turned for the two-mile shuffle home, tired but happy. My one-lap time may be a good deal slower than the shift a dedicated 400-metre runner can put in, but I remind myself that at 22 miles in the marathon there won’t be many sprinters up there beside me.

If you want to read about different types of speed workouts and techniques such as fartlek, check out my earlier blog post on speed training.

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2 Responses to The need for speed training

  1. Gareth Price says:

    A few weeks ago I had to take two weeks off running due to shin splints. I put it down to sprinting during my weekly circuit training and speed training sessions. During my hiatus, I tried cycling and swimming instead. Since returning to my marathon training schedule last week, I’m taking things very easy. I’ve replaced my circuits with a bike ride to an outdoor swimming pool and back, and I’m a bit dubious about returning to speed training for the moment. This is going to be my first marathon, though, so my only real concern is being able to finish it.

    Loved yesterday’s tips, by the way. Really enjoying jogging and logging those miles, especially in the rain!

    • Run and Jump says:

      Sorry to hear about the shin splints – I’ve been doing speed workouts for years without ever having those problems. Cross training (i.e. doing non-running sports too) is great for your running and core strength – some advice from my trusty physio that I haven’t always followed, I’m ashamed to admit!

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