Speedwork for a faster 5k, 10km and half marathon time

Speedwork for a faster 5k, 10km and half marathon time

Posted on August 8, 2018 by Carey Nelson

Forerunners offers a Wednesday evening speed clinic at all three locations. You can join us starting after Labour Day in September to prepare for the fall Classic Half Marathon, 10km and 5km.

Why speedwork? Speed work improves running efficiency resulting in more economical energy use. Speedwork can rapidly improve your VO2 max which is directly correlated to race times. The higher the VO2 max the faster the race times.

Speedwork versus more mileage. If you are running 3 easy runs per week is it better to add another day or running or add speed work? Adding more mileage to your weekly routine may result in a faster race time but keeping your quality high instead of adding miles can also lead to faster race times. When you add more miles to your weekly schedule there is often a tendency to reduce your average training pace per week to accommodate the fatigue associated with higher mileage. I’ve only seen one study that links marathon times to training, and that is that race times are linked to average training pace, not miles per week. By running speed workouts you keep your average training pace at a higher level.

You run faster than your half marathon race pace and tempo run pace during a speed workout. You are running very fast during speedwork and need to break it down into smaller segments to maintain the pace.

Speed workouts are 1 to 5 minute repeats with a longer rest of 2 to 5 minutes that you will find in the clinic training plan. Examples of some of the speed workouts are:

a) 8 x 1 minute fast with a 1 minute jog rest between each repeat (also called Intervals)
b) 5 x 2 minute fast with a 1 minute jog rest between each repeat
c) 5 x 3 minute fast with a 1 minute jog rest between each repeat
d) 5 x 4 minute fast with a 1 minute jog rest between each repeat
e) 5 x 5 minute fast with a 1 minute jog rest between each repeat

You’ll notice that the speed workout is different each week and will progress towards longer fast repeats as your get fitter. You will also notice that the training program includes Ladders and Pyramids in addition to Short Interval Repeats and Long Interval repeats. They are different forms of speedwork that mix the fast running time.

Ladders increase the repeat time/distance as you progress through the workout ex 1min, 2min, 3min, 4min, 5min. Pyramids climb like ladders but also descend. ie 1min, 2min, 3min, 4min, 3min, 2min, 1min. We also use Hills, which combine strength and speed.

The rest interval is usually a walk or light jog. During the rest you will want to jog at your easy pace to half marathon race pace. Sometimes you can take a walk rest if the speedwork is very intense. Speed workouts start out with an easy 2 to 3km warm-up jog followed by some stretches and running drills. After a good warm-up you are ready to run fast for 1 to 5 minutes (depending on the workout) followed by a rest interval of 1 to 3 minutes. The main purpose is to bring down your heart rate and clear some of the lactic acid from your legs so that you can run fast again. After the rest interval you are ready to run another fast repeat!

Speedwork basics

Long ago people ran interval workouts which was essentially the same training as what we call speedwork today. The term “interval training” was derived from the rest interval between repeats. Eventually we just called it speedwork. There are different types of speed work depending on the type of runner you are. A 100m sprinter thinks of 30m sprints as speedwork and a 400m jog as long distance training. A middle distance 1500m runner thinks of speedwork as 8 repeats of 200m. Speedwork, can then mean, running faster than you normally do. It’s all relevant to the event you race.

What is speedwork to a 10km and half marathon runner? There is even different means amongst long distance runners. Some will tell you it’s 20 repeats x 400m while others will tell you it’s 4 repeats x 2000m. A 5km tempo or fast 10 mile run may be considered speedwork by some runners but our training program separates tempo running into a different category.

Like your long easy runs, speedwork should be controlled. If each of your repeats is getting slower then you started too fast. You should finish at the same pace you started or even running a little faster for the last repeat. In a session of 5 x 3 minutes fast, you want repeat number 5 to be your best one.

If you are racing other people or consistently week after week racing your speed work you can burn out. There must be a level of self-control to avoid developing excess long-term fatigue in your muscles. In this running clinic I recommend that you run at 10km race pace for most speedwork, except for the shorter 1 to 2 minute repeats which can be run at 5km race pace.

There are clear benefits of speedwork ie running much faster than normal:

1) To run faster you should practice running faster by training the mind and muscles to feel and sensation of speed;
2) The human body responds and there are physiological changes that occur to improve your fitness such as V02 max and resistance to and/or metabolism of lactic acid;
3) When you improve your speed running at slower speeds becomes easier. ie it is easier to run at half marathon and full marathon pace;
4) Marathon and half marathon long distance running alone can cause you to lose your speed. By adding a speed workout on a regular basis you maintain your speed and race faster.

Speedwork paces
Your speedwork should be between 5km and 10km race pace. The following table gives you an idea of the different paces you should be targeting during a workout:

Half Marathon Race Time 10km pace per km 5km pace per km
2:20 6:17 6:03
2:10 5:50 5:37
2:00 5:23 5:11
1:55 5:09 4:58
1:50 4:56 4:45
1:45 4:43 4:32
1:40 4:29 4:19
1:35 4:16 4:06
1:30 4:02 3:53
1:25 3:49 3:40



We also have a Learn to Run 5km Clinic Starting September 5th which will get you ready for your first 5km at the Fall Classic.