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Brooks Johnson, the famous former Stanford track and field coach, once said: “It’s true that speed kills in endurance running. It kills anyone who doesn’t have it. ‘ You will need it. Here’s how to get it.
If you’ve ever watched an elite level track event or road race when two or more runners are together 400 m from the finish, the race inevitably boils down to a short final sprint for the finish line. And the winner is whoever is the fastest in that sprint.
This is not a coincidence. These elite distance runners know very well that the fastest final sprinter will prevail in highly competitive races. So they train for that very moment at the end of the race. Distance runners also need to train speed.
Here is the key to this workout.
Distance training: faster top speed = better pace
If you’re struggling to see the connection between the quick results of elite runners and the deadly 5k, marathon, or even ultra running training, let me explain.
While the connection isn’t that simple, all of the ongoing steps are connected. Improving your 3 mile pace can result in a faster marathon pace. A faster marathon pace can improve your 50 km pace.
So as you increase your top speed, you can increase your 5k, marathon, and even 50k pace. While this is an over-simplification, it is important that every runner practice any speed, regardless of your track.
Power hill sprints
One of my favorite maximal effort workouts is 10-second power hill sprints, a workout popularized by treadmill Brad Hudson. Hudson noted, “This is not a stand-alone workout. It should be done after an easy run. “
Running with maximum effort, even for a very short period of time, will work on your central nervous system and learn to use more muscle fibers while running, which improves sequencing and the rate of contraction. Repeating these challenges to your muscles will improve running performance so you can use less energy on slower strides.
Hill sprint workout for distance runners
For most runners, I like hill sprints better than steps. Believe it or not, you are less likely to get injured running up a hill at maximum speed than running up a hill with the same effort on level ground.
Two things I am very warning: Do not run for more than 10 seconds and always Do the full 90 to 120 second recovery.
This training shouldn’t be strenuous. When you are working at 100% of your top speed, you should always be fresh. This workout can be done twice a week after easy to moderate runs. These are perfect for the day before a hard run, interval session, or long run.
Power Hill Sprints Training
- Run 3-10 miles easy to moderate (or whatever you have planned for the day)
- At some point within the last mile of your run, you will find a steep hill (6-10% incline) on concrete or asphalt
- Rest for 2-5 minutes as needed to catch your breath and recover
- Run up the hill for 8-10 seconds at 100% maximum intensity
- Turn around and go down the hill. Allow 90-120 seconds to relax or walk
- Repeat the mountain sprints 4-8 times
Note: To see the results of this training, it must be done regularly over 4 weeks.