Speed Training Tips
for the Long Distance Runner
There are a lot of conflicting opinions in the running community about speed training. All long distance runners know that they need to work on speed in some way, but most could not tell you in detail why it is important.
Even more important, many runners could not tell you in detail how their speed work helps them during a marathon or other long distance running event. This is because they do not understand all of the benefits of working on speed and most do not know how to do it correctly.
The Importance of Training for Speed
There is a lot more to long distance running than speed. Yet, those who want to be competitive in upcoming races know that they have to train for speed just as they train for endurance and work on their form. There are five advantages that come from effective training for speed:
- Improved running efficiency
- Enhanced flexibility
- Improved coordination
- Enhanced muscle power
- Ability to make last minute push for the finish line
This last advantage is what competitive marathon runners are after. They know that in many races they will have to turn up the speed at the end to make it across that finish line before other racers tagging closely behind.
This is where speed really does matter in the long distance running world.
The first four advantages are what create that speed that takes a winner to the finish line before the rest.
Without efficiency, flexibility, coordination and power in the muscle, a runner will fall behind and won’t be nearly as competitive. This is why training for speed is so important for all runners!
The Goal of Speed Training
The point of training for speed is not simply to run faster. This is the mindset many long distance runners have, unfortunately.
Training for speed will pay off in a race as long as it trains the runner to hold a faster tempo during the race. Just being able to run super fast for a short period of time does nothing for a long distance or marathon runner.
It is the ability to run a bit faster for a longer period of time that matters, and that requires a thoughtful and effective speed training philosophy.
One effective way of training to run a given length at a faster pace is to run the entire length of the race just a little faster than the time you would like to make for the race. You can take very short recovery periods between fast sets, but they should be no more than a few seconds to a minute long.
This trains the body to run efficiently at this faster pace, so when you go your slightly slower goal pace on race day it is easier than your workout and you don’t need those short breaks in tempo that were taken during speed training.
In order to train this way, you need to know your goal pace for your upcoming race, or the most important upcoming race. Your training for speed should then be performed a big faster than that goal pace, with those very short breaks at set times throughout the run. Do the entire length of the race during these speed runs.
You have to make sure that you also add a few marathon pace runs to your schedule if you are training for a marathon.
When to Train for Speed
Now that you have a better idea of what yet speed training is and how it should be carried out, it is time to think about how much time you dedicate to training for speed.
If you are naturally fast, then you may be able to get away with limiting speed runs to the month or so leading up to an important race.
If speed is not so natural to you, then it is best to give your body more time to respond to the training. You should be incorporating speed runs into your workout schedule throughout your entire training season.
How much emphasis you place on speed training depends on your current goals for an upcoming race.
If your goal is to run this next race faster to break a record (personal or otherwise), then you will place more importance on speed training than someone who just wants to make it to the end of a marathon with a more difficult terrain than they have raced on in the past.
Training for speed is essential to all runners, but it becomes even more important when you start to take your running more seriously.
If you are training for a marathon, I would definitely recommend to add speed training to your marathon training schedule.
The more competitive you want to be in an upcoming race, the more important speed runs will be to your training schedule.
Return from Speed Training to Marathon Training Schedule
Return to Marathon Training Tips home