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How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

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How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

Post  carleenp on Tue May 29, 2012 12:39 pm

I want to incorporate some speedwork into my next marathon training (I'm running Portland in October, which will be my 6th marathon). But, I also don't want to overdo it as I have a history of needing extra recovery after hard training runs. Previously, I have done a Hal Higdon intermediate type program with pace runs, but I didn't do them the day before the long run the way he prescribes because I find that I really need a recovery day after anything up-pace. Instead, I put them mid-week and did another sort of long run slow the day before the long run. I also have done plenty of what I call "accidental speedwork" running a short run or two each week with a friend who is faster than me. Those were often 3-4 miles slightly slower than my half marathon pace. We sometimes would do a 5 mile hilly course at close to my marathon pace speed too. If I really needed I could get her to slow down to more general aerobic pace for me, which I did when my miles got higher. Those shorter runs never left me feeling particualry worn out, but longer pace runs required a rest day or super easy day after for me.

So, how can I incorporate a bit more formal or different things into training to work on speed? I thought about taking the weekly pace run mileage and just mixing it up. Maybe a pace run one week, tempo the next, fartlek the next, etc. over trying to formulate specific interval type training sessions. Then maybe I could get more formal the next time around. I kind of want to ease into it. Or should I try to mix in some formal interval stuff?

Any suggestions? Anyone know of good training plans that might work like that? I lack experience in this area!
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Re: How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Tue May 29, 2012 12:44 pm

One thing that I like to do and have others do when they want to start incorporating speed is to do what I called "1 min on/1 min off". Essentially these are adding a bit of fartlek work to a regular run, but you do it on a prescribed day (say every Tues), and you start by warming up (running) for 10-15 min, then run 1 min at roughly 5K pace, and 1 min back at your normal pace. Start with 5-6 of the 1/1 combinations and then finish your run. Don't add anymore distance - so if you are going to run 5 miles, then just add it to a 5 miler. After doing this for 2-3 wks, build the number of 1/1 combos to 10 or so per run, and you will find that the overall run will be faster. Monitor your recovery.

I think once you get used to adding these types of "fast" bursts of speed, you can easily progress into adding Yasso 800s into your weekly schedule.
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Re: How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

Post  Julie on Tue May 29, 2012 2:14 pm

I like Michele's idea. Last summer I followed Pfitzinger's 18/55 program and he has some 100m strides at the end of runs about once a week and then some half mile repeats, tempo runs, runs at half marathon or 15K pace or lactate threshold runs. My best speed workout method (or most long term) is to run with a friend who is a little faster and I try to keep up the whole time. I know that's very low-tech but it works but just starting to push yourself with a fartlek is a great start to getting used to running faster.
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Re: How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

Post  carleenp on Tue May 29, 2012 2:46 pm

Yes, I like Michele's suggestion too. It seems like a decent moderate introduction to things. And I also already get a fair amount of unstructured faster pace stuff running with my faster friend.

I also thought about paying for a McMillian custom plan after a friend really liked hers and it was the first time she did much formal speed work. Anyone have experience with that? It is a bit pricey but it does sound like it is truly customized to identify and work on weaknesses and I could use the expert guidance there.

Mostly though I want to mix things up for fun. After my last round of training, I am a bit tired of the standard week of a long run, some easy runs of varying length, and a sort of long pace run. I could use a bit of a change I think.
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Re: How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

Post  Dave-O on Tue May 29, 2012 3:39 pm

Incorporating strides at the end of easy runs is something I always recommend. Don't worry about distance or time. Just run hard for about 10-20 seconds (or 50-100m); not all out sprinting, but 95% effort focusing on running strong.

If you do that 2-3 times per week you'll fire the fast twitch muscles called upon during more formal speedwork. So perhaps start with strides, then after a weeks incorporate 1L's fartlek, then after another month or so, more formal speedwork.

Also, sometimes you just need to rip the band aid off. Yes you'll be sore at first, but there's only one way to get over that hump...
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Re: How to start incorporating speed work with marathon training?

Post  Ben Z on Wed May 30, 2012 5:50 pm

Agree with all the feedback already. My comments:

The first step should be incorporating strides and/or hill sprints in to your weekly training routine. Start with 4-6, 20-30 sec strides and/or 10 sec hill sprints (on a 4-6% grade) after 2-3 runs each week. Then over the course of 4-6 weeks try to build up to doing 10-12 strides and/or hill sprints 2-3 times per week. Note: you should walk for 1-2 min between strides / hill sprints and do them after a run. These are NOT meant to stress you aerobically, rather it's a tool to improve your leg strength.

Then I agree with Michelle, the next logical step would be incorporating a fartlek run 1-2 times per week. Start with timed runs and not distance as she suggests. Could be 1-2 min 'on' ('on' being a pace that is comfortably hard) and then an equal recovery jog (so 1-2 min 'on' then 1-2 min 'off' at a jogging pace that allows you to recover). Probably start with 10 min of total 'on' running (20 min total) and work up to 40 min of total running (e.g., 1 min 'on', 1 min 'off' x 20).

Another fun option is to do 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1 min segments with equal recoveries. Similar to the other fartlek format it's just a different way to skin the cat but also builds by trying to do somewhat longer intervals.

I would do timed fartlek runs like this for 4-6 weeks after the initial 4-6 week period of strides / hill sprints. However, IMO you should maintain the strides and/or hill sprints two times per week year-round once you are comfortable with them. I treat them as an easy way to build running-specific leg strength and do it year-round. Just like core work - it's a necessary evil (though actually quite fun).

Then I think the third step could be to do some hill intervals, both shorter and longer hill workouts. When done properly I think this is a much safer way to do speed work because you are not pounding the pavement nearly as hard yet reaping the aerobic / anaerobic benefits. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. I don't want to completely overwhelm you just yet Wink
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