I’ve been running pretty consistently for the last 3 years. (3 years?! How did the time go by so fast?) In all my running, I’ve always wanted to get faster. And yet and yet and yet. I’ve only started to do speed work last month.
The fact of the matter is that if you are new to running, you can usually gain speed just by running consistently and training smart. (And being “new” can last more than a year.) That’s how I got faster. I followed training plans developed by experts (Holla at ya, Hal Higdon!), modified them to work for me, and ran. Simple as that.
And for 3 years, I was able to improve my speed. I PR-ed in every distance that I raced (5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon) last year, all without speed work, which is a good thing because me no likey speed work. At least, I didn’t used to like it.
I had a few ideas about speed work. I knew about tempo runs (jog a warm-up, run a few miles as fast as you can, jog a cool down), intervals (alternate jogging and running as fast as you can), farklets (alternate jogging and running as fast as you can). I would occasionally dip my toe into the pool of speed work, but it never stuck. My aversion was mostly due to that “run as fast as you can” part. Running full throttle doesn’t typically feel good. It’s not fun. And it didn’t make me eager to repeat it.
It was only recently that light bulb! I realized that the speed part of speed work didn’t have to be as fast as I could run.
I’m currently following the Run Less, Run Faster training plan. It has you do an interval run, a tempo run, and a long run each week. The key is that the speed you should run at is specifically outlined in a great detail and based off of a current PR.
Just like that, I find myself doing an interval run each week. Instead of dreading it, I look forward to it! The key being that the speed of my fast portion is not “as fast as you can, full speed ahead, short of breath, legs about to fall off.” It’s specific, based on my abilities and the distance of the interval.
Speed work does not have to suck if you do it right!
- You can get use Run Less, Run Faster like me. (RLRF also has training plans for shorter distances, not just marathons, that follow the same training principles.)
- You can do Yasso 800’s.
The idea is to run 800 meters (half a mile) in your goal marathon time. For instance, if you want to run a 4:15 marathon, try running half a mile in 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Then jog it out and repeat. You might do that 4 times in one run the first time, and add from there over time until you can do 10. If you can do that, supposedly, you can run your desired marathon time.
- You could hit up Runner’s World. This website has a loooong list of different runs and the speed you should do them at as well as expert advice.
- You could hop on Daily Mile and see what other people are doing. (Keep in mind that what is right for someone else is not necessarily right for you, ya heard?)
- You could play with the McMillan Calculator. I first heard about this from Amy at Running Army Wife. You put in a current PR, your goal race distance and pace, and it spits out all kind of info, including training paces. So cool!
One of my fears when I started to incorporate speed work is that it would take away the calming, leisurely runs that I had grown to love. That I’d be so focused on run this fast and this far that I wouldn’t be able to relax. While my most of my runs are no longer leisurely, I still find them calming, I can still relax, I still use them as a time to think about everything going on in my life, and I still love running. If anything, the addition of speed work has added a new dimension to my running that has helped me to enjoy it more. (I didn’t even know that was possible!)
The short version of all this:
- You don’t have to hate speed work!
- Don’t run full throttle; use the resources that are available to run at the right pace.
- You might not even need speed work right now, just consistent running
- You won’t lose the joy of running during your speed runs.
- I’ve only been doing this for a month so you shouldn’t even be taking advice from me.
Are you a fan of speed work? Any other speed work advice or workouts that you particularly love?*