Jan 8, 2021
Today’s running article is about speed work. I believe this is one of the more important articles I’ve written. Speed work is important if you want to get faster, though it’s a two edged sword – it can bring you unstuck too.
The blog posts from the world run are for Jan 7 and 8, 2012. Scroll down to view those.
Speed work – benefits and pitfalls
If you want your running to get faster, there’s really only one option – run faster in training. There are many variations on training faster, but it all comes under the broad banner of speed work.
There are three general classes of speed work sessions – intervals, fartlek, and tempo runs, although some might consider hill work repeats as a case too (unless you run your hills very slowly).
Before I begin describing each type of speed work, let me say that the faster you run, the more damage will occur to muscle and tendon fibres, requiring longer periods of rest. If you run fast too often and don’t rest enough, YOU WILL GET INJURED. There is no magical way to prevent injuries other than adequate rest. But if you do allow enough rest between speed work sessions, the benefits will quickly accrue.
Interval training is perhaps the most common form of speed work. Run a particular distance quickly, then take an interval of rest before the next one. There are virtually an infinite number of variations on how you might conduct an interval session, but each fast portion is usually run on the same course.
Some runners like to do longer distances with the interval consisting of nothing more than standing still. Others like shorter distances with a short jog in between. Other like the jog to be longer. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to include various types of interval sessions in your training. A favourite of mine is 10 x 400 meters with a slow jog of 100 meters between each 400 meters. Many, however, prefer longer distances, such as 4 x 1 mile with a half mile jog as the interval. The combinations are limitless. The main thing is to ensure the faster running is of a high enough quality to stress the body.
Fartlek is a Swedish term meaning ‘speed play’. As the name suggests, a runner simply ‘plays with speed’ by throwing in a faster bit of running when it suits them. It is not done by repeating the same stretch of road or track. Fartlek is traditionally conducted on trails, although that’s by no means necessary. For example, a 10 km road run might include a short sprint, followed by a quarter mile back at your normal pace, then a half mile at your 10 km pace, followed by a mile at normal pace, 200 meters at your flat out mile pace, then back to your normal pace again. There are no rules – just run whatever seems like fun. It’s probably the easiest form of speed work from a psychological point of view.
The third conventional type of speed work is the tempo run. Personally, I call these time trials. Pick a distance and run it as fast as you can (or close to it). You might say that tempo runs sound just like a race. However, there’s a difference. This is training, and you should use tempo runs to practice controlling and understanding the pace you can sustain over a particular distance. It helps to ensure you don’t start races too fast and end up fading in great pain. And, at the same time, it will increase your general speed.
Overall, there are great benefits for a runner in participating in regular speed work sessions. You can’t help but get faster, UNLESS you get injured – the great pitfall of speed work. As mentioned previously, make sure you rest up well between speed work sessions. I would recommend no more than two sessions at most per week. And one session is fine. And you can still do normal runs on the non-speed work days, but keep them simple and non-intense. If unsure, err on the side of caution and take it easy. Remember, the stress of speed work will only lead to benefits if the body has time to repair itself between sessions.
Jan 7, 2012
Distance today = 50.76 km; Total distance = 357.64 km; Location = Evansdale – 45 43′ 00.8″ S, 170 34′ 12.33″ E; Start time = 0844, Finish time = 1626.
What a day! The easiest way to convey the activities is in
chronological order, so here is the sequence of events. It started off quietly
enough, but stay with me – the pace quickens (and I’m not talking about my
running pace, which invariably slows as the day wears on).
Firstly, for those watching the GPS tracker, you may have
noticed my position as being at a town called Mosgiel. I actually concluded the day before at Outram, about 10 km back, but we stayed in a motel at Mosgiel. I must have
accidently activated the iPhone app that transmits my whereabouts, as I noticed
it was on when we were at dinner. It, therefore, showed me as being at Mosgiel
(which I was, but I like it to only show where I am while running). However, I
went back the next morning to Outram to start the next day of running, and
passed through Mosgiel a bit later. Sorry if that caused any confusion.
After passing through the most southerly point of the entire
run around the world, I reached Dunedin around midday. It’s a great little
city, with a bustling centre that was full of eateries and other social
activity. I had one of the best pies I’ve ever eaten – steak and mushroom.
Unlike the mushroom pies I’m used to, this one had huge slices of real
mushroom, and lots of it. And the steak was the chunky variety, and lots of
that too. I can’t remember the name of the shop that sold them, but it was on
the north side of the Octagon, a little way down George Street and to the right
as you head north.
I then headed out of town, but stopped at a petrol station
for a drink, turned off my watch, but forgot to turn it on again. I lost myself
what I estimated to be about 1 km of distance. No big deal in the grand scheme
of running around the world, but I think it’s important to insist on a very
high degree of accuracy in an endeavour like this. Luckily, iMaps was able to
tell me I’d lost 1.1 km, and I later double checked with Google Earth, which gave
the same measurement independently. I added this 1.1 km on to what the Garmin
gave me for the day. For added surety, the gap in my course for the day is
chronicled in Garmin Connect (the part of “the cloud” where athletes store
their data), and this can be authenticated by any verification authority at a
So, from Dunedin, I progressed through the very picturesque
Leith Valley and up a huge hill – more than a thousand feet high – and then
down the other side. The quads were already sore from the very steep downhills
of yesterday, so luckily today’s downhill wasn’t so steep. During this time my
iPhone stopped receiving data, although phone calls were OK. I was getting
quite frustrated, but managed to finally solve the problem by turning the phone
off and on.
I reached my destination of Evansdale just before 4:30 pm,
with 50.76 km under my belt – and feeling remarkably good. However, then came the bad news. The support crew were due to pick me up at this spot, but Carmel called to tell
me the support vehicle had broken down. A garage just up the road had indicated
that it would need an auto-electrician, but none would be open until Monday.
Just what I needed – to be stranded 25 km north of the city, without any way to
continue for a few days.
Now to backtrack briefly. The girls had earlier been
contacted with an offer of accommodation in Dunedin for the night. They had
been around and “checked in” to Heidi and Derek’s – more about them later. So,
they called Derek, and he came out to the broken down car with a friend, Will.
Will and Carmel then drove out to pick me up, while Libby and Derek waited for
AA, the NZ road service (equivalent to the NRMA in NSW).
I was picked up, and we started to discuss options on the
return journey to Dunedin, in a somewhat sombre mood. And then we received the
perfect phone call – Libby excitedly told us that the AA guy had determined
that the problem was the air conditioner compressor. As long as we didn’t use
the air conditioner, the car would be fine. What great news!!!!
Well, we returned to Heidi and Derek’s in a very good frame
of mind. And it got even better. They had prepared a BBQ for the evening, and
we weren’t the only guests. In fact, it was Will’s birthday, and the next day
was Mark’s birthday (he is Heidi’s brother). There also for the evening were
Heidi’s parents, Jan and John, along with Heidi’s sister, Sally, and her
partner Joe. We all had a great evening, made even better by fantastic food,
topped off by TWO birthday cakes. And that wasn’t all – Heidi’s guitar came out
and the singing began.
As you can see, it was a very eventful day, but I’d like to
concentrate on how lucky we were to have Heidi and Derek offer their home for
the night. Not only were we most appreciative of this fact, but they also were
instrumental in saving us from the awful fate of being “up s**t creek without a
paddle”. What could have been a very bad day, turned in to one of the best
we’re likely to encounter on this whole trip. Thanks guys. You were life
Jan 8, 2012
Distance today = 34.34 km; Total distance = 391.98km; Location = Palmerston- 45 29.097′ S, 170 42.96′ E; Start time = 0956, Finish time = 1509.
Had an easy day today. Normally 34.3 km would constitute a long day, but not on this odyssey. Funnily enough, I felt more tired than the previous few days. Maybe it’s catching up with me.
I’m very pleased with my first full week of mileage – 351 km. At this rate it will take a lot less than two years to complete the run but, to bastardize an old saying, “over-confidence comes before a fall”. So I’m not going to speak too soon.
Today was from Evansdale to Palmerston, and we are staying with Andrew and Cherie, friends of Heidi and Derek from last night. Once again, we’re very impressed with the generosity of the people of Otago.
Tomorrow I’ll be back into the longer distances.