This speed session looks simple on paper—but it isn’t easy!
Every once in a while, you just have to get out and run hard, says Newton-sponsored marathoner Tyler McCandless. His coach, former marathon world-record holder Steve Jones, was famously known for doing this during his own competitive career and continues to preach the practice of aggressive workouts as a current mentor to young athletes.
“Learn to hurt in workouts,” Jones told writer Bobby Reyes last year for an article on Competitor.com, “and you’ll be able to hurt more in races.”
One of McCandless’ favorite workouts for replicating the uncomfortable nature of racing is a session of 8-12 two-minute repetitions at a hard effort. The recovery between these tough 2-minute reps ranges from 1-2 minutes depending on how fit you are and where you are in your training cycle. There are no specific splits to try and hit or heart-rate zones to target—the point is to get out hard and practice getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
“It’s very aggressive,” says McCandless, who credits this workout with helping him lower his half-marathon personal best from 1:04:59 to 1:03:14. “Your first reps should always be your fastest. Practice getting out hard like you do in a race and maintaining form to the end of the workout as best you can.”
McCandless and his training partners will typically do this workout every other week over the course of a 10-12 week training cycle. The session is usually done on grass or turf in an effort to build leg strength while minimizing injury risk.
“Early in your season start with 8 x 2 minutes hard with two minutes rest between repeats,” explains McCandless. “As you prepare for a marathon, extend the number of reps and shorten the rest. In the final six weeks before a marathon I’ll likely do 12 x 2 minutes hard/1 minute easy every other week. When I’m able to be aggressive in this workout, yet staying in relaxed form and strong enough to hang on for all 12 reps, I know I’m fit and ready to take it to the race course.”