Speed work

I keep reading references to 'speed work' in training plans/discussions etc, can you guy's give me an insight into what this involves and any strategies that I can adopt to integrate it into my training please?


  • There is some advice in a thread I started about 'getting my mielage up'. Look for the posts by Ratzer.

  • Ok will do, cheers!

  • Depends what your training for, how long you been running, how much you run amongst other things.
  • At the moment I'm training for half marathons, next year I'd like to do a marathon. I run about four/five days a week mostly around five miles but one day a week up to about 10 miles. 

  • Also depends what sort of time you want to achieve in said half. are you after 2:30, 2:00, 1:45, 1:30 because if your looking to break 2:00 then you really just need to get more miles in. its only really when you start getting towards sub 90mins that some kind of qiuck running needs to be done. Although tbats only my opinion. An I do tend to prefer miles to intervals personally, whereas other people prefer intervals over miles so it depends what works for you.
  • My pb's 1.46 so i'd like to better that if possible.

  • Okay your pb of 1:46 works out about 8:06min/mile so you could try doing mile intervals at 7:50-8:00min/mile with enough recovery in between so that you can maintain the interval quality (no point reducing recovery if it stops you completing each interval- in my opinion) also start fairly modestly so that you dont leave your legs in a reasonable state the next day. Theres not much gains to be made by leaving nothing left in the tank.

    Of course mile reps are just one idea. Other forumites may well have ideas that are just as good although I feel justified in answering your OP because my methods got me a 1:16:50pb for the half, so my opinion cant be that bad.
  • Great, thanks for the advice, I shall definitely give this a go. How much of an improvement was your 1:16:50pb?


  • Rob, to be honest my PB was only 5seconds that day, but that doesn't really tell the full story because the previous PB was gained by having a full week off to rest up fully, but for the 1:16:50 I just had an easy 3 days of with short slow(ish) runs. So not as fresh. I feel that really means it was a much better effort as that was a 60 mile week (easy week) but chester was virtually no running at all.
  • I would say that you'll get far more bang for your buck from tempo runs and fast finishing long runs rather than intervals for HM performance.

    Intervals have a place in the overall scheme of things as icing on the cake but you see far too much emphasis on intervals as if they are the be all and end all.


  • parkrunfan thats a good point to be fair about tempo runs i totally agree with you but some runners like doing intervals regardless so I suggested mile reps because I thought if rob really wants intervals then he may as well do longer ones than 200m reps like some "expert" plans suggest.
  • Point taken Andy image

    The main point is that I would quite happily tackle a HM without any interval sessions in the build up and have managed several 1:14 clockings without an interval session for months beforehand.

    However, I would be far less confident going into a HM without a reasonable volume of tempo running in the build up.

    So it was just a comment on the relative pecking order of different types of sessions, which seems to agree with your experiences.

  • I want to believe intervals help but after starting them in july there was an initial improvement with the first few weeks of 12x400 in 75secs but this started to become fairly comfertable really so myself and training partner made the decision to add reps on each week so the session built up to 18x400 in 75secs one week but the legs were beaten till the weekend that week but there was no reward come race day because I think we left are performances on the track rather than in our legs. I got to 1:16:55 without intervals and 34:38 (10k) but only sliced off 5 an 10 seconds off respectively in the two distances post intervals. Very frustrating but true.
  • Hi Andy and parkrunfan thanks for your reply's and information it is greatly appreciated. My understanding of a 'tempo' run is a five minute warm up and then run for approx ten minutes at tempo pace, with tempo pace meaning you would be putting quite a great bit of effort in but not all out sprinting. Is this correct? And then another five minute recovery followed by another tempo effort and so on.

  • Robert

    Part of the problem with this running lark is that lots of words and phrases have completely different meanings to different people.

    I would describe a tempo run as being a warm-up (ideally 1-2mile), a spell of solid effort (a great start for you would be 3-4 miles @ roughly 07:40ish per mile) followed by a cool down (say another mile or two)

    Over time, you could increase the length of the quick bit in the middle, or you could do the quicker bit towards the end of one of your runs - so if you were going to do 10 miles, do the first 5 at whatever pace feels comfortable, then set yourself the goal of the next 5 miles each being a little quicker than the last one...

    The opportunities for fun (and suffering) are endless reallyimage
  • Ha ha very true, the suffering that is! image 

  • interesting what you say re intervals Andy.  I have always found tempos are my bread and butter to getting faster, although obviously I am not in your league, as a mid paced runner, I knocked my HM time by doing 6 mile tempos at slightly faster than HMRP.  For HM distance, I find you need to be able to give it 6-7 miles in training for it to come to fruition on the day of race.  Like I said, this works as middle of the pack runner (PB for HM is 1:44).  Intervals something which I find very hit and miss and if I had to do one speed session a week - tempo would win everytime. 

    Robert, my advice to you would be add more endurance and tempos.  So go over the 13 mile distance as often as you can and do a tempo each week and work on speed endurance (get faster over the long run).  You may do this already so apologies if I am repeating what you know. 

  • re tempo - what YoungPup says is exactly what I do.  I warm up for 1 mile at around 8:30m/m - then 4-5 miles at around 7:40m/m and then 1 mile cool down.  

  • I also would drop that 7:40 pace into the end of long runs too. So progressively get faster - start my 10 miles at 9m/m then nudge the pace down until I was running final mile at around 10k pace. 

  • I agree with what people say about Tempo run. I think there better as a bread n butter session in general year round training but in the weeks leading up to a runners "A" race I think intervals have a place in training as long as they are relevant to the race distance. Also when myself and training partner were doing them I looked forward to them as an alternative to just plodding along streets endlessly mile after mile. Variety really helped break up my training week and it kept motivation high as ever.
  • i think its fair to say andy that the interval session is like the icing on the cake.with the combination of easy runs,tempo and a weekly long run.i defo agree tho that to get half mara time down longer tempo runs are the key
  • Ste Hayes to be honest I want to get our intervals going again A.S.A.P because next year I wanna get some good (for me) tomes at shorter distances working up the distances over the year so I have a series of targets to aim at for the whole year. so after Helsby I hope to get a PB at the mile (sub 5mins) to start with.

    Also see ya tomorrow at the 5k
  • It is all relative depending on what distance you're racing. If you're focusing on your first marathon or ultra, I'd leave the speedwork focus in favour of increasing your aerobic endurance, maybe incorporating some marathon pace tempo within long runs.

    For half marathon/10milers however - tempo runs are great. 25-40mins at race pace - hard, but you need to be able to sustain it for the length of time without breaks. Faster than steady running but not so fast you get lactate buildup and hav e to stop after 10mins. You can also incorporate blocks of tempo into longer steady runs.

    10k, 5k, cross country - intervals will make all the difference. Repetitions ranging between 2-5mins generally with short recoveries of 30secs-1min. The recovery should never be quite enough and these are to be run at a hard pace. For 5k and cross country in particular the total reps time will be longer than your race, but you won't have the recoveries in between.  

  • Baby hermes- fair comment in the first 2 paragraphs but for 5k's I'm not sure I'd agree that the session distance of intervals would need to be longer though otherwise the pace of the intervals would need to slow down. if the session was say 12x400m the runner could do these at 5k or faster pace. If a runners 5k pace is 6min/mile pace (90secs/400m) I dont see how doing say 4m of intervals at an inevitably slower pace would help get a pb. Speed work atleast has to be at race pace in my opinion.


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