What? High intensity speed training for a marathon? Don’t shake your head yet. It’s true.
What is High Intensity Speed Training?
First, a definition. By high intensity speed training, I’m talking about shorter intervals, probably on a track, done at about 90-95% of your effort level, or your 5k pace.
Frequently in marathon training, shorter intervals are disdained in favor of longer, slower efforts. Marathon pace training, long intervals at half marathon pace, and lots of long, slow distance.
Why High Intensity Speed Training?
Short, high intensity speed training intervals can have a place in marathon preparation, especially during the last eight weeks of training. They improve your running economy (your VO2 max, or the amount of oxygen your body can use at a given pace). And while high intensity speed training is challenging, it is also refreshing, after months of slower marathon training, to let it go and move fast.
Running faster is also a reminder of what running fast is. Completing a 400 meter interval at a six minute per mile pace can make your 7:30 marathon pace feel much easier and more manageable. Likewise can an eight minute interval compare to a 10 minute pace.
How to Incorporate High Intensity Speed Training into Your Marathon Prep
There are many great marathon plans out there, and they will all get you to the finish line. Adding high intensity speed training during the last eight weeks of training will give you an extra edge.
Eight weeks out from your goal marathon, add the workout below once every other week to your program, replacing one of your other workouts. The total volume should be about 7-10% of your weekly mileage. The final speed workout should be at least two weeks out from your race.
How Fast Should I Run?
The 400 meter intervals should be completed at about your 10k pace, the 200 meters at your 5k pace. If you haven’t run a shorter race in a while, aim for an effort level of 95% for the 200 meters, about 85-90% for the 400s. Fast and hard, but not all-out.
High Intensity Speed Training: The Workout
Warm up by running five laps around the track at a moderate pace. In the final lap, pick up your pace to “moderately hard.” Spend about five minutes doing drills. These will prepare your body for the workout to come. Here is a detailed post (and videos) about running drills from 2:41 marathoner Tina Muir.
During the workout focus on your good form. Keep good posture and arm movement.
The two minutes rest is between the 400 meter intervals and the 200s.
Don’t skip the cool down or the stretching. Here are some great stretches for runners.
Another way to incorporate high intensity speed training is to add it to your regular training workout. If you’re running one mile intervals at 15k pace, cut the volume in half, then complete the workout by running either 400 or 200 meters at high intensity.
High intensity speed training is one of the tools that I used to bring my marathon time from 4:10 to 3:16. I use it for the athletes that I coach to give them an extra edge going into their race. Not everyone needs or wants to do this fast and challenging training, and it may not be appropriate for you. Always remember that I’m a coach, but not your coach. Your workouts should be in line with your abilities and fitness level.
Do you incorporate fast intervals into your training? Are you training for a marathon? Or any other distance (this workout will work for them all!).
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