Coach Mike Mead

Take A Break from Pace Training

Many runners are hitting the track to work on their speed this time of year in preparation for the many races that lie ahead. The idea is to work on race pace speed in order to run the competitions more relaxed. The typical interval workout that is a favorite to many runners is 8 to 12 x 400m’s (one lap around the track) at even pace with equal rest. It’s a good workout, but does it prepare you for racing?

Many runners need to do workouts in practice that simulate racing situations. Most of these 400 interval workouts and the like are good for runners who race even, consistent times. But let’s face, most of us do not run even pace. As I look back over my racing career, I remember just one race where I ran even pace. While at West Georgia, we ran a meet in Rome, Ga. (hosted by Berry College) at Barron Stadium. My coach entered me in both the 3-mile and the 6-mile events. Since I only had an hour of recovery time between the two events, I focused on the 3-mile. I got out comfortably and began clicking off 72-second laps. Since there was no one that day to challenge me, I controlled the pace and finished with a 14:15. We won’t talk about the 6-mile race!

Since I was able to run my pace, I was able to run even laps. Having done many of those 400-repeats definitely helped. But what does a runner do to prepare for a more typical race where the pace changes many times throughout the race?

Recently, we did a workout that went 1 x (1,200, 600, 300), 1 x (1,200, 500, 300) and 1 x (1,000, 300, 200). The intent of this workout is to get the runner use to changing pace and intensity. The longer portions of the workout are run close to race pace, or slightly faster. The shorter segments are done faster than race pace.

Another workout we’ve found success in doing is three sets of 1200m & 300m. The 1200 is run near your 1,500/1600m or mile pace. As soon as you finish the 1200, you jog a 100m and then run the 300 as fast as you can go to simulate your finishing kick. Between each set you rest 4-5 minutes. By adding up the 1200 and 300 times, you should be able to get a fair idea of what you should be able to run a 1,500/1,600m or mile.

If you can’t break your obsession with running 400 repeats, than give yourself a little change by setting out two cones about 50-80m apart. When you run your 400’s, each time you pass the first cone, pick up your pace to the second cone and settle back down to your starting pace. This will create a little change of pace and help you better prepare for racing. It also takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you mentally and physically.

So the next time you plan a track session, consider a workout that will train you to use your different gears so that the next time you race, you’ll be able to leave your opponents in the dust.