Why Speed Training Makes Marathon Running Seem Much Easier [17]

speed training

Speed Training

Discover how to get the best results from marathon speed training in what we call the Faster Zone.

Carefully timed speed work can provide the ‘icing on the cake’ in a successful marathon campaign.

Be warned though… Spending too much time in this zone can lead to injury or burnout.

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Mark: So now we’re onto the last of the four zones. What’s so special about this one?

Dave: Well this is called the Faster zone.

Notice I didn’t say the fast zone because I believe with marathon training it’s all about running faster rather than flat out.

Getting in the Speed Training Zone 

Having said that. Finally you’ve got your way here with the speech thing!

This will get to the point where you’re saying single words and possibly even swear words or silence.

Which is why I call it the sworn silence zone!

You are now doing hard running

The key point there is hard. Not flat out but hard.

Mark: So you know you’re working?

Dave: Yes! These are usually repeated-based sessions as well because of the intensity of the training…

We talked earlier about lactate threshold…

Well in these you are actually having lactate accumulation in your blood in the muscles.

That brings with its own health warning!

Not doing too much of it because that causes a lot of stress on the body.

Benefits from Speed Training for Marathons

Mark: It all sounds rather uncomfortable! So why would you want to go through it?

Dave: Great question!

What I would say is unlike the Longer Zone which is absolutely paramount…

This is what I’d call the icing on the cake…

It’s not absolutely essential.

It does help if you’re pushing on for faster times.

You’ve got to be careful with it because of the safety issues.

But what it does is it allows you to run fast for longer.

Mark: You’re in a zone where it’s going to give you the edge over competitors who are in a similar position?

Dave: Yeah. But where people sometimes get this wrong is it’s not as trivial as being able to do sprint finishes to suddenly get below four hours or something like that…

Although it will help!

It’s a bit more subtle than that.

Improving your VO2 Max

It effectively improves something called VO2 max…

Which is the ability of your body to transfer oxygen to your muscles and for your muscles to take that oxygen up.

It’s all about improving that process.

Lactate Tolerance

And as we talked about earlier with the lactic acid story…

It actually gives you more tolerance for this lactate and the hydrogen ion accumulation in your body.

Faster Marathon Finishes

But moving from physiology to practicality…

What it does is it really improves your running efficiency.

It improves your ability to stay in there in the later stages of marathons.

Because it stops you pegging out and it keeps you strong.

Better Running Form

And to add to the positive mix of benefits, it improves your running form.

It’s forcing you to run with a more economical action which translates into good running form in the marathon.

Pace Perception Advantages

And, as ever, because I always like to bring the psychology into this as well…

You get this fantastic pace perception advantage…

Where you’re thinking to yourself…

“Ok. I’ve got to run 26.2 miles, but…”

“This feels really easy! I remember those Faster Repeat sessions!”.

You’ve got that nice contrast between those reps you were doing earlier…

And what you’re being asked to do in the marathon.

So it’s really good for that. And that breeds confidence.

I know a lot of people who have originally shunned away from doing this session…

Thinking it wasn’t relevant to their marathon training…

Being really glad they did when they got to marathon day and couldn’t believe how easy the pace was!

Mark: So again you’ve been through a lot of information…

What are the main takeaways people should bear in mind?

Do Speed Training Sparingly

Dave: These should be done sparingly…

You should only do a few of these Faster Repeat sessions in any given schedule.

Include Form Repeats or Strides

What I would also include in this zone is something called Form Repeats or strides…

You often do these at the end of a Steady Run…

You can do these because they’re so short so they’re unlikely to cause any damage…

And they’re actually good for sharpening you up and encouraging good running form.

Getting back to the Faster Repeats you must really respect them in terms of recovery afterwards.

And also make sure you’re fresh for them.

Mark: So we’ve obviously been through a lot of information there…

Covering the different zones and so on…

What would you say again would be the overall thing that people should take away from all that?

Getting More from the Training Zones

Dave: I would say the overall conclusion I’ve been hinting at all the way through this is…

Fastest is not always the best!

And what you should be looking at is your pace…

Over time…

And how that feels.

That is a better guide than being obsessed with absolute distances.

Mark: So there you go we’ve now looked t all the zones!

I dare say we’ll be coming back to these from time to time…

Dave: What we’re going to be doing is looking more specifically at the sessions you would be doing in those zones.

Please leave any comments below on your experiences with marathon speed training. [/spp-transcript]

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