Speed Work

speed_work_001I have found that Wednesday’s are my least favorite training day, mainly because of the intensity required for the speed work on that day. The other three runs in a typical week are paced runs, starting at 4 miles and increasing in length on Sunday’s. Paced run’s are quite easy – I tend to take them at about 80% effort, raising my heart rate to the high 140’s for the duration. The purpose of these runs is to log miles, build stamina, develop good habits, and ultimately condition my body and mind to deal with the rigors of long distance running.

Speed work is a different animal. Running at the same pace all the time builds stamina for distance. Speed work is a valuable tool in a runner’s training arsenal, and is the only way to condition the body to run at a fast pace. For anyone interested in improving their race times (and that includes myself), speed work will add an additional gear or two to the runner’s motor that they can use during races.

For the purposes of the half-marathon, my speed work consists of alternating quarter mile stretches jogging and sprinting. The following table provides a guideline for pace setting during speed work:

Distance Pace
200 meters 112-115%
400 meters 108-112%
800 meters 105-108%
1 mile 103-105%


My typical run pace is 6.66 mph or roughly 9 minutes per mile, which is equivalent to 2:15 for a quarter mile. Using the high end of the speed pace guidelines, I should be running 400 meters at 7.46 mph or approximately two minutes. Just for fun, I actually round that number up and set my sprint speed to 7.5 mph. for the jogging intervals, I tend to drop my pace to 6.3 mph to aid my recovery and ensure I have something in the tank for the next sprint. In addition, I increase the workload every other week by adding one extra quarter mile sprint.

Now that I am on week six, my interval training consists of nine quarter mile jogs surrounding eight quarter mile sprints – total of 4.25 miles. By the end of the session I am completely wiped out, I literally have nothing left in the tank. It’s a good thing that the next two days on my training plan consist of circuit training and a well deserved rest.

Note: speed work is great for improving running times, but it can also be the cause of a wide variety of running injuries. Speed work should only be added to a training plan once the runner has developed a sufficient level of strength and stamina to support intense athletic activity. The training program described here has been tailored for my personal goals. Please consult a certified coach or medical professional before embarking on a similar training plan of your own.

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