Last night, the Seattle Marathon Twitter chat (#RunSeattleChat) was about picking up speed to avoid the 90 Bridge Bus. That, by the way, is my goal for both the RnR and the Seattle Marathon: don’t get picked up before crossing the bridge. One of the questions was about speed work; now this is my favorite topic, basically because its the only time I really enjoy running. So with inspiration pushing me ahead, I figured I’d share some of my favorite speed sessions. (What, I’m starting a blog series!?!?)

All of the speed drills I use are pretty basic, so can be used by slow runners or fast, new or experienced. They were added to my training plan to give me the most bang for my buck. They often leave me exhausted, but feeling strong. First up is one I added to my repertoire last year: the Pyramid.

This Pyramid was added to my training by my coach last year and quickly became my favorite outdoor speed training workouts. There are plenty of pyramid drills, which basically just means you build up to something and then move back down.


A quick photo break while running at Saratoga Springs at WDW

This one I like because it’s short and can be done anywhere, not just on a track or with a measured distance, including Disneyworld (my favorite spot was the path between Hollywood Studios and the Boardwalk, although I also ran this on the lake loop within Saratoga Springs). Although if you are on a track or using the same trail each session, it will be easier to judge your improvement each time you do this. Chose a relatively flat area, so you are focusing on the drill and not adding effort with hills.

This is a straight speed drill, so it’s quick and fast, versus a speed endurance drill where intervals would generally be longer (as would the rest). The short low intensity period will not allow you to recover fully before you start your next sprint, so this very short workout is more effort then you might think.

First, I would do a warm up, which could be a run around the block or a mile lake, or even a three-mile slow jog to the track. Generally, you should do a good five-minute warm up and cool down.

Warm up
Sprint at 80% with equal rest intervals (low intensity, slow, walk if you feel that is your low intensity)

  • 10 second sprint, 10 second low intensity
  • 20 second sprint, 20 second low intensity
  • 30 second sprint, 30 second low intensity
  • 45 second sprint, 45 second low intensity
  • 30 second sprint, 30 second low intensity
  • 20 second sprint, 20 second low intensity
  • 10 second sprint, 10 second low intensity

Cool Down of  3-5 minutes

Further into my training, I added a 60 second interval (which meant a second 45 second interval on the way back down) if I was feeling up to it. Not  because I needed to in order to make this workout harder, but because it was fun. Because you are using high intensity effort each time, this should not necessarily get easier over time. You should be going further in the same amount of time, each and every time you do this but generally using the same effort. You can easily track how your speed is improving.

My marathon training plan last year had speed work on just one day of the year, as I was more focused on long back to backs to prepare for Dopey. This year I have two days of speed work in my plan as I focus on getting faster to drink more wine on the course in France. The Pyramid is on my training plan one day a week about every third week. However, I use this as a my go to when traveling when I need a quick outdoor workout, so it pops up quite a bit.

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