One of the biggest fears troubling many runners who are thinking about training for a longer race such as a half marathon, marathon or even an ultra is that they’ll lose their speed amid a steady diet of long runs, bulky workouts and high weekly mileage.
A simple, surefire way to quell those concerns, however, is by not losing touch with shorter speed workouts such as 200 and 400-meter intervals run faster than your 5K race pace. While not a key session for long-distance racers, an occasional set of short, speedy repetitions is an essential ingredient of a well-rounded training program.
“We are primarily a long distance group so we don’t do a ton of workouts like this, but they’re important,” says coach Ben Rosario of the Flagstaff-based Northern Arizona Elite team. “Touching some speedier work now and again keeps us from getting stale and keeps our form snappy.”
At least once during a training segment, Rosario has his marathoners do three to four sets of 200 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters at 1-mile race pace with an equal amount of jogging recovery after each repetition. If you’ve never raced a mile or are unsure of what you could run one in right now, the McMillan calculator is a handy tool that uses a recent race result to calculate equivalent race times at other distances.
“[The 200-200-400 workout] works well to plug it in somewhere between a lot of long, hard workouts as a change of pace…literally!” says Rosario.
This workout is best done on a track, but it can easily be performed on a measured stretch of road, a treadmill or just about anywhere with some assistance from a GPS watch. Regardless of where you do it, the key is to keep your wheels spinning so they don’t go flat on you. The only way to lose your speed is by forgetting to stay in touch with it in the first place.
Originally published June 2016.