Running to the Top — Building in Speed (Part One)

This Chapter has so much good information that I have decided to split it into two parts for this study. This first part is just an overview of what we plan to do in this period of training and how to set the athlete up for success in this phase.

The second part will get into more detail on how to plan the training to have the athlete prepared to reach his  or her peak!


The six weeks of hill work completed, our athlete feels psychologically as well as physically fit. Well aware of the hard work he has piled into those weeks, he is in first class condition and keenly wanting to get on to the track. This gives him a distinct advantage over the athlete who has already been training and racing hard on the track. Even at this stage, the early starter has been on long enough to have blunted his initial enthusiasm; once his keenness starts to wane, it tends to keep on waning. 

— Arthur Lydiard, 1962


As with most chapters in this book, there is so much gold here. The fact that Lydiard knew to keep his charge under control early and that he would have an advantage later over the athlete that has been racing and doing the hard track training…genius. I see it all the time where an athlete comes to a peak in March, but can’t hold form through the end of the Outdoor Season and the coaches are left wondering why? Well, this simple explanation above from Lydiard in 1962 is likely an answer.

He carries on with…

Partly because of this keyed-up mental attitude, we watch our learner carefully here. He can get carried away with the desire to run the fastest he has ever run; his mental tuning is such that the feel of the track beneath his feet makes him want to get moving really fast. But our first five weeks’ track schedule, while it involves running fast, is still geared down to speeds well within the capacity of the runner. He is still being checked, although he now trains at speeds he knows he is capable of running and fast enough to make him realise at the end of a session that he has been working. It is a delicate balance, but an essential one, because our object is still to time his training so that he will be running at his best at the time of the race which he wants to win. 

Lydiard was the best at having his athletes ready to win THE race. And you can see from the paragraph above that everything they did in training was geared to be ready for THE race.

One of the aspects of Lydiard’s training I personally love is the balance…many of his adversaries point to how it’s all one sort of training per phase and how it’s archaic and doesn’t meet the standards of today’s training where you do all things at all times…

Well, Lydiard was periodized…as you have seen as we have walked through his book…but there was balance throughout everything.

He continues…

Again, we alternate speed with medium-pace work, combining sessions at more and less than the distance of the chosen race. When he runs the actual distance, he does so at a speed slower than the one he is aiming to produce on race day. Combined in the early part of the schedule are repetition training over distances ranging between 220 yards and 880 yards, and steady runs over two, three, and six miles. This stage of the schedule also includes the occasional session of, say, twenty 440-yard runs to really work the athlete. 

As you see…there is a balance of repetition work and steady work and longer repetition work…it’s a very well balanced phase of training here as you are preparing the athlete to ready for the track.

This Chapter has so much good information that I have decided to split it into two parts for this study. This first part is just an overview of what we plan to do in this period of training and how to set the athlete up for success in this phase.

The second part will get into more detail on how to plan the training to have the athlete prepared to reach his  or her peak!


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