Coach Mike Mead

April 2011

Tracking your Efforts

Over the years in this space I have written a couple of columns about the benefits of speed training on the track. I’m still amazed at the number of people who run and are foreign to using a track to improve their running.

It doesn’t help that as far as the availability of quality tracks throughout Georgia goes, you’re just as well to run on the asphalt pavement. With some exceptions, most tracks are just that – an oval of asphalt laid around a high school football field. I guess those emergency vehicles need a good firm surface to park on while they wait to cart off another injured player!

If you are fortunate to live near a good synthetic or rubberized, 400m track consider utilizing it at least once a week. The running gurus caution the novice and inexperienced runners about speed training. They are right – speed kills if you are not prepped properly.

This writing is directed at the more seasoned runner who has not stepped onto a track in a while for some speed enhancement. Yah, I know it’s boring running in circles. Tell that to those NASCAR drivers who go in circles for 500 miles most Sunday afternoons. To me, it’s not as boring as running on a tread mill. Don’t get me started!

Anyway, my thinking has changed in the last few years on how one can utilize a track to improve one’s speed. In my prime, I was the type of runner who liked hitting the track twice a week doing anything from 12 x 400m to 4 x 1600m and anything in-between.

If you are a runner who is racing distances beyond 10K, 12 x 400m may not give you a whole lot of bang for your buck. Speed training done correctly will make you more efficient, so there still is benefit. But you can do a blend or variation in training that can help you achieve your racing goals.

Lately, we’ll send the kids out for a two to five mile tempo run. The track we use conveniently has a trail (paved unfortunately!) adjacent to it so our athletes can run without interference with vehicles. They’ll go out and come back to the track. After a short rest, we have them get on the track and do a variety of different distances. We might have them do a 1200m (three laps), an 800m (two laps) and finish with 4 x 300m at 800m pace. Or we might have them return from the tempo and do two sets of 1000 & 500m.

We’ve also had them start on the track and do a 1600m (four laps) at 3K pace, then go out onto the trail and run a 4-mile tempo run. Then they return to the track for another 1600m and finish with 4 x 200m at 400m pace.

The key is throwing in a bunch of different speed variations to get them use to the changes in a races’ tempo. When I raced on the track, my style was to run consistently, so that’s how I trained. So 12 x 400m at a range of 70-72 with 45 second rest in-between each one helped me, but it did not necessarily prepared me for those races that changed pace a couple of times. The workouts we put our kids through better prepares them for the tempo change.

But many runners’ approach to speed training is go out hard and hope to hang on. Typically in a 5,000m race on a 400m track, laps six and seven are usually the point where the undertrained get left by the experienced runners, or that is the point where their times drop off until the last lap or two.

As I’ve written before, the nice thing about training on a track, it takes the guess work out of knowing the distance you are covering. If you have not used a track for speed training in a while, seek out a good one and give it a try.

And be sure to keep making those lefts!