On Marathoning — The Speed Workouts

As the ‘On Marathoning’ series is winding down we move along to the speed workouts. These are typically workouts that people think are important, but the truth is, they have the least amount of importance throughout the training block.

Just yesterday, Coach Ben Rosario of Northern Arizona Elite quoted Coach Bob Larsen, “If all we did were tempo runs we’d run pretty fast.” Well, Bob Larsen coached Meb (google him if you don’t know him) and that was a pretty successful Coach-Athlete duo. And tempo runs are really specific marathon sessions.

But…while speed workouts are of the least importance…they still hold some importance. Just yesterday I posted a workout of the day with one of the top master’s level marathoners in the country, Magaly Soto, and she routinely does speed work in her marathon build ups.

The speed workouts are there to keep us efficient, to keep us healthy, and to keep us fast.

So, what speed workouts are relevant in a marathon build up? Personally, I am not a fan of VO2 Max work throughout a marathon build up. I just don’t believe it is that important, especially if you are having other segments in the year that are dedicated to 5-10k races or half marathons. There is plenty of time and need during those training segments for that kind of work.

For a marathon build up, I try to stick with 200 meter repeats and hill repetitions. These are simple, can’t fail sessions, that leave the athlete feeling pleasantly fatigued and fast!

There are two ways I incorporate 200 meter reps — either as a continuous session of 200 meters cruising w/ 200 meters easy jogging for 10-20 total reps (2.5-5 miles continuous); or as what I term a speed maintenance session where you run 2 sets of 4-6 x 200 meters a bit quicker than you would the continuous session and taking a bit more rest between bouts and sets.

With hill repeats we typically do 1 minute hill reps, or 300-400 meter hill repeats. Honestly, there’s no difference between the two…just whether or not you are able to find a hill that long…so I always say, “Just find a hill that you can run strongly up for about a minute…” The goal here is to run strong up, jog down easily. As Frank Shorter said, “Hills are speed work in disguise.” We are getting muscularly stronger on this session, which allows us to be FASTER!

I use these sessions early in a marathon training cycle and try to alternate hills and 200 meter reps weekly.

As usual…if you’ve got any questions…please email me at thedailyrun@gmail.com.


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