Why is there marathon work in my speed segment?

Why is there marathon work in my speed segment?

Why is there marathon work in my speed segment?

Recently, I received an interesting question from one our coached athletes in the Online Run Club. Essentially, they were following one of our plans for a shorter distance- a 5/10k plan, I believe.

What they asked was:

“Why is there a marathon pace workout during a speed segment?”

Ah! So, think waaay back to reading the Hansons Marathon Method, or our blog on training philosophy. I will respond to your question with my own question: “what is one of the pillars of hansons training?” Insert Final Jeopardy music. That’s right, it’s balance! We never stray too far from any one aspect of training.

So, during a marathon segment, one can ask why we are doing repeats at 10k pace when we are training. In this case, why are we doing marathon pace work during a segment for a much shorter race? As I mentioned, it’s all about maintaining balance, but why? How?

The Mental Part:

The physiological reasons we give a runner marathon pace work is simple. These are a great way to improve overall stamina, or ability to cover distance at a given pace. It also helps improve general endurance, which is simply being able to cover a set amount of distance. This might not seem like a big deal, but while a marathon is 97% aerobic, even going down to a 1 mile run all out, 80% of your energy contribution is coming via aerobic sources. Simply, regardless of distance, having a high revving aerobic cardiovascular engine is going to be vital for your success. Now, that doesn’t mean that we need do 10 mile tempos every week, it does mean we can’t completely abandon that source of training stimulus simply because we aren’t racing that distance- much like we don’t with speedwork during a marathon segment.

The How:

Now, as to the “how,” there a number of places that a marathon pace workout can be inserted into your training that’s not a marathon segment. The first is during a general fitness, base building, or a regeneration phase of running. In any of these situations, marathon pace work, mainly in form of repeats, tend to be a great way to add more structure into a program. It can help subside the urge to get into faster work too fast and avoid burnout before you are ready to race.

The second area is actually during a tough stretch of really fast work. We always talk about speed being the top of the roof. Referring to the percentages above, even at 5k racing, only 20% of your fueling needs come from anaerobic sources. However, when we are in a race specific stage, we are doing a lot of workouts in a row that are focusing on the top end (Faster than 10k pace) of our capacities. If you are like me, you struggle after doing a bunch of these fast workouts in a row. So, what I will do is swing back around with a marathon pace repeat workout that hits on the aerobic component, but gives us a break from the constant barrage of lung burning “get down” speed.

Now, as I mentioned, the marathon work I am talking about isn’t necessarily a 10 mile tempo run every few weeks. In fact, I rarely even go further than six miles total of marathon work.

Most of the time I prescribe something like 6-8 x 800 meters or 4-6x 1 mile at MP. Rest will be pretty short. 1 minute to 800 meters depending on where it’s placed in the segment. Early segment will have longer recovery because the purpose is more about getting back into routine, than anything. Later in a segment, you should be more fit, so the rest should be shorter.

Long Run Options:

Another favorite is mixing up a long run in place of a workout. For instance, if someone has been doing a bit of speed and has had some extra days off during the week, I might take that long run and mix it up on a person. One thing I like to do is a cutdown of 6-10 miles. The runner would warm up 1-2 miles, then do a progressively faster run over a set distance. I might start at a minute per mile slower than current marathon pace and work down to marathon pace or slightly faster. Then cool down another 1-2 miles.

It’s a good way to get a quality long run in without finding a day to add another workout.

Another one of my favorites is a moderate distance long run of 12-14 miles, but in the middle I will add 4-8x 2-3 minutes at marathon effort with the same time recovery jog. Again, it’s a great way to not miss a long run, but really stress some of the aerobic components we sometimes miss out on during a speed segment.

The Wrap:

So there you have it! The why and the how of putting marathon pace work in your non marathon segments. It’s a way to offer up the balance  in training that we stress, provide an opportunity to see how marathon pace feels after some progression, and even offer up non marathon runners a way to practice patience. It may even be a nice transition for those who are on the fence about a marathon to help build confidence in moving forward with that goal. The main reason though is that it does provide a great physiological stimulus, builds specific endurance, and helps break up a string of really tough 10k and faster workouts to help bring us back from burnout. Like most workouts, to make this work, you have to use restraint. Faster is not better here or we defeat the purpose of the workout. Hopefully, this helps answer some questions or gives you some ideas for your own training!

Speed (Not on track). Why I tell my athletes to not hit the track during marathon speed.

PlayPlay

If you purchase a schedule from us via our partners at Final Surge, you’ll notice the title of this post as a notation in the speed work days. While I hint at it very little in the book, it was brought to my attention that I never really give a full explanation. So, let’s set the record straight as to Speed (not on track)

Kevin and Keith Hanson

Kevin and Keith Hanson

The vast majority of Hansons Marathon Method comes from my experience with The Godfather’s, Kevin and Keith Hanson. I simply noted what I had observed through their coaching of these specific programs to the masses and the philosophy to individuals. You see, every year, starting in April or May (whenever the snow is completely gone) the brothers start a community speed workout day (Tuesdays) at Dodge Park. It’s great, as it is about a mile dirt path that allows complete viewing and easy cone placement. The speedwork then switches over to follow the marathon program for The Detroit Marathon beginning in mid June. So, here, not doing it on a track easily allows larger groups of people to participate.

 

FIRST REASON

Now, admittedly, the first reason was purely about logistics and nothing particular about physiology, there are specific reasons as to why I personally prescribe it that way. The main reason is that in the classic schedules, you are doing speed work every week for several weeks in a row. If you aren’t used to doing speed work on a track regularly, then it can be a setup for developing injury. All the torque of the turns on that left leg has stopped more than one runner. Speed itself is a risk factor for injury, so let’s minimize it by taking the constant turns out of play.

Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup

Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup

SECOND REASON

The second reason is that I know you. I know that when I say 10k pace, you’ll cheat it down to 5k pace. That’s easy to do on a track. If you have to do it on the roads, 10k pace is usually hard enough to nail. So, in a sense, getting you off the track is a built in speed governor. In combination with above, I can drastically reduce your injury potential while giving you plenty of hard work.

THIRD REASON

The third reason is that while I want to maintain balance I want you to develop that marathon mindset from the beginning. On the track, you can zone out to a degree. Here, I can force you to be aware of your surroundings. You’ll have to pay more attention to what you are doing, the terrain you are running, and how you are approaching what’s ahead of you.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Shovel winter track

Shovel winter track

The last reason is purely practical as well. Over the years I found that the majority of my runners either wake up and head straight out the door or head out right after work. Much of the time that means that a track is more than a warm up jog away. this way a runner can program their gps and just go do the workout without feeling like they are missing something by not being on the track. It also takes into account the winter variable.

Unless you are willing to shovel off lane one in January or February, this makes it a lot easier to just go out and get a workout in.

 

 

 

 

WRAP UP!

To wrap this up, it’s not imperative that you avoid the track, I would just prefer not to make it a weekly habit during marathon training. Remember, the speed we are working on is relative to the distance we are racing. Unless you are racing marathon after marathon, we would dedicate specific segments to shorter and faster races that would allow you rip some fast work on the track. That friends, are the simple reasons why I say Speed (not on track).

Sprint Training: Hurt or help aerobic development

One of the criticisms I have seen against the Hansons Marathon Method is that the speed work is in beginning of the training segment because speedwork causes what is known as acidosis. I addressed the question a little bit in the second edition of Hansons Marathon Method. In that discussion, I argued that the speedwork that we are talking about is speed, relative to the marathon. What I mean is that us doing speedwork at 10k pace is fast, when compared to marathon pace. If we were training for a 5k, then no, that same speedwork would actually resemble threshold work. I also argued that doing it early allows us to put the primary focus on marathon pace as the last several weeks approach, a time where the effort needs to be as race specific as possible. In short, I don’t think that the speed work that we are performing creates acidosis at all.

Benefits of Sprinting!
Benefits of Sprinting!

So why bring this up again? I hadn’t planned on it until I came across some articles as I was researching another topic for an athlete. And, since I think it’s always good to have a complete argument, I figured it’s a good time to add to this discussion- even if it’s just me talking to the wind!

Ok, acidosis has been traditionally thought to hurt aerobic development because of things like lowering the blood pH, which would hinder aerobic adaptations. In this case we are talking about peripheral adaptations- enzyme activity, mitochondrial development, etc. However, what we know is that acidosis is only truly a threat if a) you are running above 100% VO2@max and b) spending a lot of time during a session/week at paces of VO2max. This is the basis of my argument. However, what if we did spend time above VO2max? Would it hurt our aerobic development? This is where the articles I re-discovered come into play.

First, let’s discuss what we are essentially talking about: sprinting, simple as that. Some people will call it High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, which is… sprinting. More specifically, I am referring to repeated bouts of 30 seconds of sprinting in bouts of 4-6 efforts with near full recovery between each and done 2-3 times per week. This is important, because if you are training for a 5k, you might see workouts like 8×600 meters or 8×800 meters at mile pace (or faster) and these are very fast and for 60-90 seconds for fast runners, longer for slower runners. Those are workouts and the 4-6 reps of 30 seconds is a supplement to a run. Extended strides, per say. I think that is key to the whole argument.

So, where’s the proof? I linked a couple of good reads at the bottom of this and you should check them out. These both include references to several studies of interest. The end result is this- In a pretty short amount of time (6-10 weeks) runners of varying abilities performed 4-6 reps of 30 second strides over 2-3 times per week. They found significant improvements in VO2max via peripheral components (with no significant change in central adaptations like heart rate). These are the very same adaptations that we thought would be the victim of acidosis if we engaged in sprinting activities! If we control the length of time and the number of times per week, we not only will avoid hurting our aerobic development, we can:

  • improve neuromuscular connectivity
  • improve strength
  • improve general endurance
  • improve VO2max
  • improve overall speed

As I mentioned, the 30 seconds is key. The 2-3 times per week is key here too. You won’t see the Hansons Marathon Method convert to a HIIT model anytime soon, but there are some serious practical applications for this.

The marathon/half marathon:

  • If you already do strides, try bumping the duration up to 30 seconds from 10-15 currently.
  • Try only once per week to start. This in combination of other SOS workouts is a significant amount of work.
  • If you don’t do strides, start with short 10 second strides and build to 30 seconds over several weeks.
  • I view this as a long term and continual process, so at first it might take longer to see results, but give them time.

The 5k/10k:

  • Here, you might actually do more sprints in the beginning and trail off as you progress in your season
  • With these races, you will actually start training at slower paces and build your actual workouts to a slightly less volume, but greater intensity as you close in on the goal race. This would reduce the need for doing longer sprints more often as workouts, so no need to go beyond 1-2x per week.

Time Crunch:

  • Lower mileage athletes may benefit greatly from being able to incorporate sprints into their week.
  • Another scenario is having a shortened training segment. Let’s say you had something where you took enough time off to lose a little fitness. You are healthy now, but the calendar isn’t cooperating. If you have been doing sprints, you can begin again, and maybe shorten that window needed to regain most of your fitness. I only think this is a safe option if it’s something you’ve done. I don’t condone starting your sprints fresh off a running injury…

Dosages:

  • Start with 1-2x per week and build to 2-3x per week when you aren’t in full training mode.
  • As your workload increases, I would recommend backing down to once per week of 4-6 30 second reps with full recovery. Otherwise, I think a good thing can be overdone.
  • Personally, I would do on a second easy day. So, if you do SOS on Tuesday and Thursday, then I’d do on Saturday before the Sunday long run. Expect to be sore when you first start as you may be finding muscles that have been MIA for awhile.

Good Reads:

Sprint interval training effects on aerobic capacity_ a systematic review and meta-analysis

The Surprsing Aerobic Benefit of Sprinting _ Training Science

Recent Question: Can’t hit speed work at longer distances… HELP!

A couple days ago a reader dropped me note and had an interesting question.

Donald is doing his speed work based on his 5k time. We should point out that the he stated that it was based off a time he has run, not a “wishful thinking time” as Don said. The problem was though, that as the repeat distance increased from 400 meters to 600 meters and above, he could no longer hit the 5k pace. So the question is, what gives?

You know me, there’s never a simple answer, but I’ll try to break down my thoughts on this as short as I can.

First:

The very first point I’d like to make is that this is why I don’t usually prescribe 5k pace training during the marathon. Here’s why, Don stated he’s a pretty new runner. So my guess is that he ran that 5k PR even earlier and probably wasn’t training as much as he is now. I know it seems counterintuitive, but think of this way- when training for that 5k, let’s say he was running 20ish miles per week and probably running a few days per week. Within that week, he was probably doing a speed workout a week and a moderate length long run. Needless to say, he was fairly fresh when he ran that. Now, he’s probably running 40+ miles per week with two workouts and a long run in the week. You may have heard me say that speed is relative and this is exactly what I am talking about. Doing a bunch of work at 5k pace is important for 5k to 10k races, but 5k pace for a marathon isn’t as big of a deal. Doing the speedwork at 10k pace is plenty fast for 95% of the people we work with.

Second:

The second part to this has to do with some hard physiology. 5k paced training is designed to be pretty close to VO2max, just slightly under. The time we can run at our VO2max varies based on our ability. A world class 5k runner can run close to 2 miles at their VO2max. A newer runner, probably more like 3 minutes. So given this, it makes sense that Dons workouts would start falling apart as the repeat distance increases. 400’s for Don would be about 1:42. 600’s would be 2:33 and 800’s would be 3:24. Seeing this, it now makes sense that Don’s workouts start falling apart after the 600 distance repeats. He simply has reached the max amount of time that he can sustain that pace. The farther he runs, the worse the workout will be. In this case, he reaches pretty close to VO2max in the first couple repeats, and then he’s literally maxed out so that each following repeat will simply be slower and slower. The longer the repeat, the worst it will be.

Conclusion:

So, my recommendation is for marathon training, keep speed at 10k pace OR only do 5k workouts that will keep each repeats under that three minute range for beginners and around 5-6 minutes for more advanced runners. Other than that, please know that you will get what you need from doing the work at 10k pace. The marathon isn’t about working on overall speed, but rather the speed necessary to run your best marathon. To increase your overall speed, I recommend doing a separate training segment where you can work on all paces from 10k down to 5k and even mile race pace!

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An athlete’s question: Hill repeats or hilly run?

I really like these and maybe we should make it a regular part of blogging! I got another great question from Jill, an athlete we wrote a custom schedule for. She emailed me a very simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer: “What is better hill repeats or a hilly run at marathon pace?” Great question! The answer is… Both! Thanks for reading, have a great day!

Just kidding! The answer is both, but for other reasons. Let’s first look at hill repeats. Let’s ask ourselves what the main purpose is of hill repeats is? What is the benefit? Well, we know they’ll make us stronger, so let’s knock that one out of the way. One big aspect of hills is that it is a great form of speed work, or working at close to VO2max effort (not pace). With shorter, but faster hill repeats we are working very close to our VO2max if we are hammering hard up a 1-4 minute hill a few times in a row. You can tell just by how hard that you are breathing that you are working hard, right? With that, we are working on some neuromuscular components as well. With the intense effort, we begin recruiting all of our muscle fiber types to help out. This eventually “opens” up channels to some fast and intermediate twitch muscle fibers that you didn’t even know you had. At the end of the day, think of hill repeats as helping more with overall strength and top end components- lactate buffering, VO2 max, and things like that.

A final note about short hill repeats is that I will use them as gateways towards other workouts. With Boston Marathon people, what I will do is start out with UP hill repeats and a slow recovery back down the hill. Eccentric contractions are crucial for hill running, but they beat you up pretty good in the process. Over time, we’ll adjust and hard UP hill repeats, recover, and then DOWN hill repeats to prepare their legs for the thrashing they’ll get over 26 miles.

What about a tempo run on a hilly course? You’ll get a lot of benefit from theses, both physiologically and structurally. You’ll build your strength obviously, but it’s more like lifting 2 sets of 20 reps of medium weight, compared to like lifting 2 sets of 8 reps as hard as you can with hill repeats. You’ll still get muscle fiber recruitment too, simply because you’ll fatigue your muscles with a fairly intense effort over 30-70 or 80 minutes. For marathoners, that’s great because it’s very race like. These are all great benefits, but to me, one thing we can’t overlook is their eventual impact on our ability to judge effort and pace. For instance, right now, many people have awoken from treadmill hibernation, where they’ve simply set the pace on the hamster wheel and zoned out to their latest podcast of Dateline, or whatever you listen too. Now, they go outside and after letting their eyes recover from the new found sun, realize that there are hills and turns and beautiful scenery. I’m partly kidding, but you know what I mean- we forget and have forgot if we haven’t run in situations where we need to say, “man my pace is slow, but it certainly feels like a hard effort.” I reference back to folks training for Boston. There’s only small section of that course where it’s really flat. It seems like that you are either going up or down most of the time. This means splits will be fast and splits will be slow. It may be hard to find a rhythm. If you’ve practiced pace and effort on hills, then you’ll have more confidence and trust yourself that the effort is there and in the end, the pace will average out.

So there you have it, they are both important but for different reasons. Both have a place in training and can be utilized to your benefit.

– Luke

 

Marathon Speed: Part II

We left of talking a bit about periodization, especially for the marathon. I wanted to wrap up the speed discussion with talking about why our speed is emphasized in the beginning and why I don’t think it’s going to put a person into acidosis (when done properly)

First, I think I actually need to cover the idea of speed work putting a runner into acidosis. This is a very real thing. It happens with too much speed work, especially speed work at 100% VO2max and higher. This means lots of repeats that are short and very fast. If you are training for a 10k or shorter distance then I can see this being a huge potential problem. I think about many of the local road racers who start racing as soon as the snow melts and race every couple weeks until the snow starts flying again. Being burnt out is a very big issue. The culprit here is tons of work (and racing) at very high intensities. As I mentioned in part I, Lydiard had his marathoners stop at 5k to 10k intensities for their faster workouts (but still done over the last few weeks of the training block). When you look at 5k and 10k in terms of energy contribution. the 5k is still 93% aerobic and the 10k is 97% aerobic. On the other hand, if you were to race an 800, the aerobic contribution falls to 57% and the aerobic contribution for the mile would be about 76%. So you can see, that by limiting the pace of your speed development to 5k/10k pace, you keep it a very high aerobic workload and minimize the potential for acidosis.

Now, why do we keep the primary speed development in the beginning?

To me, it’s a lot less about the worry of acidosis. That’s well represented above. No, it’s simply more practical for the marathon- to me anyway. The last 6 weeks really does need to be a focus on the task at hand. What’s going to be more beneficial to your marathon development, cranking out fast 400’s or being able to be strong through miles 20-26.2?

With that said, the speed development shouldn’t be denied, so where can we put it but still keep all systems trained, promote aerobic development, and put our final push on race specific drive mode? The beginning makes the most sense. As I have mentioned before, this refers to the beginner and advanced schedules that so many people are now familiar with. You can revisit that discussion in part I. If we were working with you individually, we would have the freedom to put an emphasis on speed early on and gradually shift the focus to the strength later on. We could sprinkle in something different throughout the segment to hit on a system that has been neglected for a few weeks.

All of this makes another point valid. That is, to truly keep your training in balance you have to be willing to race other races and dedicate training segments to shorter distances. This will allow you to touch the type of training that marathon training simply isn’t a good fit for. The good thing is, that marathon training sets you up perfectly to be able to handle that higher intensity training for a short, truly dedicated speed segment.

Lastly, many of you are probably wondering about things like strides, hills, and where they fit into the big picture of things. That my friends is material for another post. I want you to just chew on this morsel for a little bit!

Til the next time,

Luke

Marathon Speed: Part I

I’ve been meaning to do a write up on marathon speed for some time now. Now, as I actually begin writing, I realize that there is a lot to cover here and will require a few parts to it. Otherwise, I might as well add another chapter to the book! The trick here is to figure out the best starting point!

Lydiard and Periodization

The best place to begin is with some thoughts on Lydiard and periodization in general. People describe Lydiard as a linear periodization, best represented by the pyramid we’ve shown before.

The foundation is slower, easy running. Over time you add faster and faster work until you are able to incorporate very fast repeats (faster than mile pace). Supplemental running like hills and strides are done nearly all the time. But where does all of this fit for the marathon? Even Lydiard put in his writings that his marathon runners wouldn’t go past the 5k/10k type of intervals during marathon training. To me, this points out a very important aspect of speed work or speed development. Speed training is relative to what you are training for. However, it also raises another question, if this is the case, and we are should be training our most race specific aspects the last several weeks, is the Lydiard pyramid the best way to go about. So this brings about a few things that I wanted us to think about with Lydiard and periodization.

  1. What type of periodization is best for the marathon, Lydiard’s linear where systems are stressed systematically? OR, do we take a non linear approach, where all systems are stressed to some degree over the course of the training block?
  2. Many coaches take Lydiard’s pyramid very literal and do step beyond the 5k or 10k “threshold” for their marathoners and put very high lactic workouts near the end of the training block, when we are “supposed” to be focusing race specific work.
  3. Some coaches criticize our program because the speed is in the beginning of the program because of the idea that the lactic work puts too much stress on the development of the aerobic system.
  4. With all of this, how would I classify the Hanons Marathon Method? Linear, non-linear, something else?

Ok, great stuff to think about! Let’s jump in. I don’t know if these will be answered in order, but I’ll see what happens. As far as how Lydiard’s linear style periodiztion goes, I truly do believe it will work for everything 10k and under, 100%. I would say I am at about 95% of being completely sold on it being the best marathon style periodization. My major hang up for the linear style progression is the practicality of it for the recreational and even competitive athlete. Why? Because it would force people who aren’t training for a national meet or a world championship type race to sacrifice a lot of time with sub-par and under-trained races in order to reach their peak racing fitness. In short, their optimal racing window would be a very short window of a few weeks over a couple periods a year. That’s a very tough sell to many runners.

With that said, how can we still promote long term development, but not force ourselves into a situation with a very limited window of opportunity? That’s where the non-linear approach comes in. My basic understanding of how this works is that you have your training block of a few months and within that block, all training stresses are appropriately stressed. However, it’s not like you do this through the entire training segment. For instance, your last six weeks would truly be dedicated to marathon specific work, but you may have 2 or 3 “speed” type workouts sprinkled in there. I’ve seen a lot more of this type of periodiztion come up in discussions. To me, it makes sense for pretty much every level of runner. This type of training model allows runners to be but a few weeks away from being able to run well at many different distances. Long term development is stressed by :

  1. racing different distances and
  2. trying to improve at primary distance from year to year.

With all of this said, where would I say that the Hansons Marathon Methods fit in?

That is a two part answer.

First, with the schedules you’ve seen in the book, I think it’s a hybrid of the linear and non-linear styles. This is because there is a dedicated block of “speed” in the beginning, without much emphasis on speed late in the training block. You have to look at this way: These schedules are designed to work for a high percentage of people, so we have to put things in a way that will make most people successful. So in this case, we don’t want people to sacrifice speed throughout the segment, but we don’t want them to be doing speed all through the training, either. For many people, that would put them in that “acidosis” state and hamper their development. So, it’s really trying to make one style work for a large number of people.

On the other hand, coaching an individual, then we can tailor the schedule specific to you. Here, we would be a more non-linear approach to the marathon training. Personally, I probably wouldn’t make you do six straight weeks of speed intervals without a break in there. Would the majority be in the beginning of the schedule? Yes, the focus’ would still be the same, but we’d insert occasional workouts that would make sure all systems are stressed.

So to answer a couple of the numbers above. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Lydiard works, non-linear works. It truly does depend on the runner’s situation and what we are trying to accomplish. Hansons philosophy? Definitely leans towards a non-linear approach with our coaching clients, while the beginner and advanced programs that many people are familiar with, lie somewhere in the middle. Is there a reverse-linear model?

We are really left with why the speed is in the beginning of the block for the marathon training and why I don’t feel that the runner goes into “acidosis” by doing this. However, this post is now over a thousand words, so we’ll leave that for part II.

As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully, this begins to shed a little more light on why we do things just a touch differently for the marathon.

-Luke

 

Fartlek Workouts

Fartlek workouts are great alternatives to traditional speed workouts. The goal is still to build one’s aerobic capacity, however the focus is shifted from a pace per distance to an effort for a certain time. Read more

Speed Workouts Marathon Specific

We talk about keeping the balance in training a lot, in fact, it is part of what makes our system work so well for many people. However, the more I think about it, the more this needs to be clear and concise. Speed training is relative to what you are doing. For instance, is there as great of a need for repetition training (paces at mile race pace or faster) or a better fit for VO2max speed intervals (5k-10k pace work). Even better, does the speed work even have to be that fast? It all depends on where we are at with our training currently and from a historical perspective. It also depends on what you are currently training for. What I do for the marathon, probably isn’t what I would do for the 5k.

Let’s look at who is a big influence in the Hanson Training Philosophy. I should rephrase that, let’s look at who’s a major influence in a majority of distance coaches out there- Arthur Lydiard. Here is a pyramid of what his training emphasizes and when:

This is what his athletes would do. They’d start out with their base running, or the foundation of the pyramid. Once that was established, his runners would then add the marathon pace running. Basically, you started with low intensity work and built a layer upon layer until by the time you were approaching your goal racing season, then you’d be doing the really fast stuff (in smaller amounts). However, we are talking about runners racing a track season that is months away from when they start training. So, there is a couple things going on here.

  1. The average runner to elite marathoner isn’t just racing over a summer stretch.
  2. They aren’t looking to run a race at 100%, or more, of their VO2max.

Ok, now I am getting confused too. Let’s try to break this down.

  1. I should start with this point and that is that Lydiard (as do many other coaches) will take their athletes and spread this training out over several months. They have time to completely maximize each level of the pyramid before moving to the next. Now, this is done a few ways, but isn’t the topic of this discussion. Just note that these runners may race at other times during the year, but knowingly not ready for peak racing ability.
    Now that has me thinking. How many of us truly put our training into this true form of periodization? I would say very few. What I would say is that each cycle of training we do is a version of periodization, just not for the long term. For instance, we aren’t doing a base training for 3 months over the winter. No, we might do a few weeks of base training while transitioning from finishing a race to starting the next training block.
  2. If we are doing marathon after marathon, then where does speed fit in? We’ll never get it in because we are always trying to get to that next long race.
  3. Most coaches will say that you run your race specific work towards the race, so if that’s the case, why would you do the speed during the race specific phase of the marathon?

All, very good questions, and I am not sure I have the right answers. However, I can tell you why we do what we do in hopes of making some sense of this.

Let’s start with where speed work fits into the grand scheme of things. So this is the big picture: Follow the 3-2 rule. In short, limit your marathons to three over a 2 year spread. This forces you to dedicate an entire training segment to developing at shorter races. Also, if you do a spring marathon, you can do a short dedicated speed training segment before needing to transition to a dedicated marathon segment again. Further, it does allow your winter months to be a time to dedicate time to building your base mileage, introduce supplemental training, and let your body simply recover.

Secondly, why do we do speed in the beginning. To be honest, it’s the only time to do it for those who are following the basic Beginner or Advanced plans. However, it does also make sense for most of the people following those plans. It gives them an opportunity to work on speed prior to having to switch to the marathon specific work and it eases the transition to the bigger volume strength work. Now, if we were writing something specific to you and knew what your previous training had been, then it might be different. However, when writing a schedule that everybody can use, we have to make it assessable to as much of the running population as possible. If you look at what the elite group does, it’s usually just a few speed workouts sprinkled in a shorter marathon block (12 weeks, or so) because they do a dedicated speed segment throughout the year.

Thirdly, and this seemingly isn’t well known, Lydiard would stop his marathoners halfway up that pyramid. According to what I have read, he would stop them at the threshold level most of the time. This means that they would not be doing the super fast stuff at all. They would get their “speed” in by doing hill bounds and strides. They would approach the top of the pyramid after their marathon and when they were training for other races. However, it seems like a lot of us have speed at the end of the marathon training block and this confuses me.

Ok, this is all great, but how do we use this information? Here are my recommendations for speed work during the marathon:

UNDER 30 MILES/WEEK and no previous speed work

  • Total Volume: 2 miles
  • Intensity: Goal Marathon Pace minus 20 seconds per mile (MP-20)

UNDER 30 MILES/WEEK and previous speed work

  • Total Volume: 2-2.5 miles
  • Intensity: 5k-10k pace or MP-20 seconds if need to

30-60 MILES/WEEK

  • Total Volume: 3 miles
  • Intensity: 5k-10k pace (current pace)

60-80 MILES/WEEK

  • Total Volume: 4 miles
  • Intensity: 5k-10k pace (current pace)

80-100 MILES/WEEK

  • Total Volume: 5 miles
  • Intensity: 5k-10k pace Note: At this point MP-20 seconds will probably be pretty close to 10k pace

100+ MILES/WEEK

  • Total Volume: 5-6 miles
  • Intensity: 5k-10k pace

Early on, I would go on the slower end of the range and increase as you get fit, or cut the rest shorter. This goes for all weekly mileage categories beyond the low mileage/no experience group.

Final thoughts: With higher mileage runners (80+ miles/week), consider shortening your marathon training cycle to 12-14 weeks. You are at a high enough level that you don’t need 18 weeks to fully prepare. With that said, your focus will be mostly on marathon specific work, so sprinkle in a speed workout every few weeks. Also note, with a shorter dedicated training cycle you now have more time available to train for a dedicated speed segment, even if you are running two marathons per year.

Speed Workouts for Marathon

Less than 30 miles/week and No Workout experience

Note: Best place to do these workouts is at your local track. One lap = 400 meters. Below are the speed workouts best suited for the runners in this category. Read more