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One of the best workouts I have done in my running career is what I call
The workout consists of a 16 mile run split into two segments. The first segment is 13 miles run at a comfortable long run pace and the next segment is 3 miles run hard. A brief (1-2 minutes) break between segments for water or a shoe tie is acceptable. “Hard” is somewhere between your half marathon and 10k race pace. The hard effort is a challenge and usually takes 2 or 3 attempts to achieve the faster end of the range.
Ideally, you should find an accurately measured and flat 3 mile course to perform the hard effort. If you cannot find a flat route try to make the route as fair as possible (this can be difficult in Atlanta but try your best). If you plan to do this workout more than once, I would suggest you run the exact some course so you can compare efforts.
This workout is a combination workout. You will challenge your aerobic conditioning (long run portion) and your lactate threshold (hard portion). Both of these energy systems are vital to improving half marathon performance. Also, this workout will allow you to accelerate even when fatigued.
The genesis of this workout came in the summer of 1993, while I was a student-athlete at Georgia Tech. That summer, I was fortunate to participate in an exercise physiology study involving a new sports drink.
After a brutal VO2 max test to determine our various physiological parameters the professors could then begin the study. The study consisted of three 20 mile runs around the small athletic fields on campus. The 20 mile trials were spaced two weeks a part. The first 17 miles were to be run at comfortable long run pace and the last 3 miles were to be “hard”. Keep in mind we were preparing for 8k and 10k cross country races.
These tests were rough. Although they started early in the morning, the heat and humidity were horrendous. The summer of ’93 was abhorrent; there was a 7 day stretch where the high temperature did not go below 100 degrees. Normally we would do our runs at Kennesaw Mountain or the Chattahoochee River where there was a sliver of respite from the heat. The athletic fields offered no such sanctuary. Several of us overheated and needed to be packed down with ice after the tests (yours truly included).
Despite the heat issues the results were pretty dramatic. The surprise wasn’t so much of the study results (I don’t really remember that part) but of the positive effects of the three trials on my fitness level. After the third trial there was a noticeable improvement in my fitness level. When our season began, with few other dedicated workouts under my belt, I was able to accelerate with 3 miles to go and run strong all the way to the finish.
During the summer of ’94, in the spectacular Grand Teton area of Wyoming, I recreated the same workouts on my own at altitude (but no heat). Later that fall I was honored to become Georgia Tech’s first NCAA All-American in Cross Country. I feel that the workout above, as well as great in-season coaching and training, helped give me an edge the entire season.
I recommend that runners always try to negative split their long runs. That is, run the second half faster than the first half.
As long as you are within your long run pace range at the beginning make sure you stay conservative throughout the first half of the run.
In the second half, assuming you feel good, purposely accelerate throughout the remainder of your run. Ideally, you will finish your run at the faster range of your long run pace.
If you are feeling unusually fatigued after the first half, feel free to maintain or even slow down in the second half.
However, if you have a history of always slowing down in the second half it is likely that you are too aggressive in the first half. Slow down at the beginning and plan to wait until later to push it.
One of the biggest issues I see with runners is a lack of pacing abilities. If you are the type that runs races and always seems to fade or slow down considerably during the latter stages of the event, this article is for you.
So you toed the line at your last event having attended several of the following to improve your running:
hot & cold yoga sessions, correct your lousy running form classes, core training for weak abs, and multiple nutrition courses.
When the gun goes off, you take off with guns blazing well faster than your recommended pace. After one or two miles your heart throbs, your legs turn to Jell-O and you slow down to a snails pace, nearly crawling to the finish line. You might be thinking well at least my core is strong, my chi is centered, my nutrients were nutritious and my form looked good. But, what you should be thinking is “why is my pacing so bad!”
Don't despair, this article will help.
Practice your Goal Pace
The best thing you can do to "hone" in on your pace is to visit a local track or accurately measure 100 meters in your neighborhood. For this exercise you need to forget GPS for a moment. The inaccuracies of GPS are such that it will only serve to frustrate you. Even an error of 1 second per 100 meters will lead to 16+ second error per mile (1609 meters). In order to "hone" in on your correct pace a 16 seconds per mile error is unacceptable.
Once you have an accurate 100 meters available do the following workout:
1-2 mile easy warm up
6 x 100 meters at Goal Pace [90sec-2min rest in-between]
100 meters at 8:03 pace = 30.18
1 mile easy cool down
During the 100 meter repeats you should focus on your breathing, leg turn over and arm action. Get a sense for what that speed feels like. If you listen to music when you run, turn it off. Music may be a huge motivator but it can be distracting when attempting to focus on your pacing speed. Every runner should be able to “sense” their appropriate pace just by tuning into their running mechanics and breathing. This can be achieved with practice.
Doing the above workout the day before a race is a fantastic idea. The 100 meter repeats activate your muscle memory. If you are able to successfully perform 4-6 x 100 meters at your race pace it is very likely you will start your race at the correct pace.
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