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Speedwork Sessions


Speedwork sessions are basically a run broken into intervals.  They are not for everyone!  They are for runners who want to become better, faster and stronger runners.  If this is the case, then it is important to throw some speedwork into your training mix for maximal results!

On the other hand, if you are new to running and/or fitness in general, please aim to get stronger before adding any speedwork.  Adding speedwork to a training program while you are new, will most likely result in injury.  As a new runner, instead of adding speedwork, aim to run a little bit faster one or two days a week.  Also, start lifting weights.  In no time, you will find yourself getting stronger and your speed will increase naturally as a result!

When I trained for my first marathon (summer 2007), I was strictly trying to run the distance (26.2 miles).  I ran a lot and followed a novice training program, but I ran fairly slow, so that I would be able to finish!  But as I got stronger as a runner, I also got faster and I wanted to improve more.  I have found that the best way to do this, is to incorporate speedwork into my training once or twice a week.

While training for a half marathon and marathon last year (2009), I added speedwork to my training schedule one to two times per week, and my race times greatly improved.  I also used speedwork while training for the NYC Half Marathon, and was able to shave 4 minutes off of my personal best!

Below are descriptions of the speedwork sessions that I have used.  Make sure that you run these sessions at the times and splits that are best for you!  I had a goal time in mind to finish my races, and used McMillan’s Running Calculator to figure out what my split times should look like.

Tempo Run

A tempo run is when you increase your pace each mile until you hit your goal race pace for about a mile, then decrease your speed to recover for 1-2 miles.  This should be a “comfortably hard” run.  You should not feel completely exhausted at the end, but instead feel refreshed and like you had a solid workout!

Example of my 7 mile tempo run:

  • Mile 1 – 9:30 pace
  • Mile 2 – 9:00 pace
  • Mile 3 – 8:30 pace
  • Mile 4 – 8:00 pace
  • Mile 5 – 7:30 pace
  • Mile 6 – 9:00 pace
  • Mile 7 – 9:00 to 9:15 pace

Check out this Runners World Article to find out useful information about tempo runs.

400 (or 800) Meter Intervals

400’s and 800’s are a good way to get your body used to performing under strenuous conditions.  They teach your body how to use the oxygen in your blood efficiently.  Each interval in a session should get harder and harder, but try to keep them around a similar pace.  That is the hard part. 🙂

Example of my 8×800 session:

  • 1-2 mile warmup at easy pace (about 9:30)
  • 8×800 with 2-3 minute rest (walk or light jog) in between each.
  • 1-2 mile cooldown at easy pace (about 9:30)

Mile Intervals

Mile intervals are a great way to get your body in shape for longer distance running, such as a half marathon.  They are similar to 400’s and 800’s, but that much longer.

Example of my 4×1600 session:

  • 1.5 mile warm up at 9:30 pace
  • 1 mile at 7:45 pace
  • .25 mile at 9:30 pace
  • 1 mile at 7:45 pace
  • .25 mile at 9:30 pace
  • 1 mile at 7:45 pace
  • .25 mile at 9:30 pace
  • 1 mile at 7:45 pace
  • 1-2 miles cooldown around 9:30

After you perform a tough speedwork session, be sure to make the next day an easy workout day to let your body recover.  If you are trying to keep your mileage up, then do a nice and easy run.  If you don’t care as much about the mileage, then go for a swim or bike ride.  Recovery is just as important in a training program as speedwork is!  The goal is to get you to the starting line fast and healthy!


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