Speed for Long Distance Running

Speed work means different things to different people, but for a long distance runner this should be split into two categories.

Firstly, there is the fast work that is done purely to work on improving the long distance running technique. This is commonly quite a neglected part of the distance runners work, but by running reps of 100 to 200m with little fatigue big improvements can be made in speed and technique.

The aim is to run at a pace which is a bit quicker than you would race at, maybe 2-3 seconds per 100m and really concentrate on technique - running smoothly and efficiently. The reason for working faster than race pace is that problems often get exaggerated at higher speeds and are easier to spot. Once corrected at the higher pace this usually transfers without any problems to race speed.

The other aspect to speed work is working with raised lactate levels in the body. This is caused by running at a pace which doesn't allow the body to use oxygen to release energy, which is fine, but it releases a waste product, commonly known as lactic acid. If this build to a high level then it becomes crippling to the body in terms of performance and you are forced to slow.

Long distance running is about controlling you pace so you are running at around the anaerobic threshold level (past which point lactic acid is produced), but injections of pace, whether at the end of a race or a burst during it, mean an athlete will need to go faster than this from time to time.

Training for this involves running faster than race pace, usually for distances between 300 and 600m with recoveries that are often a bit longer than you would have in other session - maybe 2-3 minutes. A good session for this kind of training would be 8 x 400m with 2 minutes between each, with the aim of running at a speed of about 8-10 seconds a lap faster than your 10k pace.

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