Speed and running go hand in hand and most runners are eager to improve their pace. My desire to improve my pace started after my first half marathon, the Princess Half in 2011. It was then that I discovered racing and running were fun, and maybe I could improve upon my finish time of 2:25 and change. There are several things that happened after my realization that hard work and some research needed to be done. Christine and I found a basic training plan for our first half marathon, and for my second, I used the Run Less, Run Faster training plan found in the book based on my prior race time. Track workouts on my own were a drudgery, but thankfully the hard work did pay off several months later when I earned a PR of over 17 minutes.
Obviously running is a sport that requires training, and more than anything a commitment to follow through week after week. Endurance sports are different because you spend so many hours training for just a couple goal races per year. Before I joined a group I planned one day of the week of running at the local university track. Tom kept me company which helped alot, but running solo at the track was not my favorite thing to do. Adding speed work can enhance your chances of quicker times at races, but be aware that adding faster workouts also increases your chances of injury. Adding them gradually gives your body time to adjust.
Figuring out your appropriate pace for speed work can be found in running books, online and through your running coach. I used to plan all my workouts based on a book, but now I just trust my coach to plan my run workouts. While standard track measurements of 400, 800, 1200 and 1600 meters are used in most speed intervals, try switching it up with some 600 and 1000 workouts. These unusual distances make you focus more on your form and overall pace than a certain time you need to finish a lap or laps.
Now here are some of the tips I want to share that were provided by Jeff.
FAST AND FUN—It’s a state of mind* Why is running faster a good thing? Short and fast segments not only help you run faster in races. If you run a few faster segments each week you can improve your running efficiency while receiving a better attitude boost.
* How long should you be running before you add some faster running in? After 2-3 months of regular running some short accelerations can be added with minimal risk of aches and pains.
Jeff shares some great speed workouts and one of these I have done several times with my group. The Indian game is a great way to do pickups and increase your speed with bursts every few minutes depending on the number of runners in your line. I remember we were all laughing and chatting during this drill and it really made the workout fun.
Three Faster, Fun Workouts from Jeff:
1. Speed play that you can do on your own. ACCELERATE AND GLIDE. After an easy 10 minute warmup of slow running, pick up the pace for 10 steps, then coast off the momentum for 10-20 steps. Don't be obsessed about the number of steps as this is just a guideline. Don't sprint--be playful. Gradually pick up the pace, and then glide back down to a jog. Repeat 2-3 times on your first attempt, and take a one minute walk break. Each week you could increase the number of accelerations as you wish, with a recommended walk break of 1-2 minutes between each.
2. Speed play you can do with two friends—SURPRISE game. Following the same format as game 1, the follower tries to surprise the leader by passing gently but quickly. While there should be no sprinting, it is OK to run fast for 10-30 steps to pass.
3. A speed play workout you can do with three or more friends—INDIAN RUNNING. The group is running single file for a minute or two at an easy pace. Then, the last runner, passes all of the other runners and takes the lead for a minute or two. The current leader sets the pace, and takes a walk break. When the running resumes, the last runner starts to move to the front. Each runner gets to take the lead at least once in this game.
Have you added speed work to your running schedule? Has it helped you improve your speed at races?