Speed Work for Marathoners
A common misconception among runners is that when training for a marathon, speed does not matter. On the contrary, developing fast twitch muscles in addition to working the aerobic system is very important for improved running and metabolic efficiencies, as well as improved running economy. Additionally, the more comfortable you become while running fast, the easier your marathon pace will feel. Listed below are four workouts that benefit marathoners.
Hill repeats are a great workout for any type of runner to build endurance, strength, speed and stamina. They also help replicate the way your legs will feel in the later stages of a race. An example workout includes doing a 2–3 mile warm up, then running 8–12 times hard up a 100–400 m hill. When you get to the top, walk or jog down easy, and repeat. After the hill workout run a 2–3 mile cool down.
Tempo runs should be the bread and butter of a marathoner’s speed work regimen. These workouts help the body become efficient while running at a sustained effort, and also reinforce pacing. In addition, running tempos at marathon goal pace helps the runner become familiar with the effort required during the race. Common tempo runs for marathoners include 8–12 miles at marathon pace, or 4–6 miles at half marathon pace.
Improving your ability to run fast at shorter distances, such as 5k or 10k, is recommended since marathon pace is correlated to how much “true” speed a runner has, as evidenced by equivalent performance calculators. Cruise intervals incorporate both endurance and speed. For this workout, simply run your normal distance (e.g., 6–12 miles), but run hard during the last 200–400 m of every mile. During the remaining 1200–1400 m of each mile, run a normal pace without slowing down to recover from the hard portion.
The world’s best marathon performances have been run with even or negative splits, where the second half of the marathon was the same pace or faster than the first half. An excellent way to train your body to feel comfortable racing in this way is progression runs, where each mile of the run is completed 10–15 seconds faster than the previous mile.