All speed work should be performed on either a flat grassy area or a running track. The speed workout below is an example of a good track workout:
|x2 laps as a warm up, nice and light then stretch.|
|x1 lap fast make sure you time yourself 85% effort.|
|x2 laps fast 85%|
|x4 laps fast 85%|
|x2 laps fast 85%|
|x1 lap fast all out 100%|
|x2 laps cool down then stretch.|
The above example can be adapted to any distance – as you get fitter you can add in longer intervals (e.g. 6 or 8 laps), or increase the number of X4 laps. Making note of your times will allow you to chart your progress.
Rest for 90 seconds between intervals, and be sure to pace yourself so that each interval is run at a similar pace from start to finish. These are intense sessions, and should only be done about once every 10 days with a rest or easy day to follow.
A great alternative to track workouts is ‘Fartlek’ (the word is Swedish for ‘speed play’). Fartlek workouts mix sprinting with walking/jogging, and are typically done using natural landmarks such as city blocks or lampposts – e.g. sprint three lampposts, jog three, repeat.
Again, this is a tough workout and should only be done once every 10 to 14 days. Be sure to warm up and cool down properly before you start any speed work, and stretch when you get home.
Beginners should wait until they can run 2/3 miles at a comfortable pace before adding any form of speed work.
For intermediates, the aim is to gradually increase the distance of the sprints, concentrating on correct running form – be sure you are pumping your arms and lifting your knees high. Advanced runners are likely to already be doing some form of speed work like this.
Hill workouts are another excellent way to improve your fitness, and are essential if your race has any hills. Good hill running technique involves leaning into the hill, taking smaller strides, and pumping with your arms.
Whilst it’s good to have a training schedule – ensuring that you have the right mix of workouts – you also have to listen to your body. If you are sore or feel really lousy, take it easy. However, be sure you’re not using this excuse too many times or you’ll not be ready to race when the time comes.
Competing in shorter runs, such as 10k's, 10 miles or even half marathons, will help with your preparation, and give you a good guideline into your current fitness level.