Training, Page 2*
Speed Work vs. Pace Work
Okay, then. What are my beliefs? First, I'm a big believer in speed work. Most people think that they are doing speed work when in reality they are doing pace work. I thought that this was a trivial choice of words at first, but three years under this system taught me the value. Here's what it boils down to:
Speed Work -- Basically your top-end speed, generally intervals of 200-400m or less.
Pace Work -- Anything longer; running at date or goal pace (i.e. mile repeats).
One more point -- Running on the track does not imply speed work, only that you have the opportunity to carefully control pace. This is especially important to the 10k runners who won't step on the track till the first meet of the year.
Admittedly, my direct experience does not extend much beyond the 1500, but I maintain the importance of quality intervals for any track runner. I have seen too many very talented runners turn to the "dark side," the mentality that long, slow mileage makes a runner. I do believe mileage is important, but highly overrated. This is a case where quality is far more important than quantity.
I often point to the Kenyans as an example. It is hard to argue with their success over the past 20 to 30 years. People often cite the mileage that many Kenyans run, yet they omit the fact that that very same mileage is comprised largely of very high quality work. Owen Anderson claims in The Genetic Debate, "young Kenyan runners trained with astonishing intensity: About 50 to 60 percent of their total mileage was done at heart rates of 90 percent of maximum or higher! This was significantly higher than the Scandinavians' total and is much higher than anything European and American runners do generally." Furthermore, much of this is comprised of hill running at very high altitute.
Another article I read stated that the top Kenyans would spend the five months leading up to the cross country national championships running at least part of every run at 4:30 mile pace, generally the last mile at the very least least -- roughly the pace necessary to win the world championship. Speed work or pace work? Tough to say. But it is clearly very high quality.
As a coach of mine often said, "the only reason for a long run (i.e. 12 miles on Sunday), is if you are feeling too sharp." Running long just makes you slow. Fit, but slow. That has its place in the off-season, but not once the real racing begins. If you feel that you are peaking too soon (few people can hold a peak for more than two to three weeks), a slow run or two can be valuable in bringing you back from that edge. All things in moderation.
*Please note: All exercise, training, health, and nutritional information on this page and throughout Run-Down should be treated as educational in nature. Unless explicitly stated as otherwise, all advice contained within Run-Down's pages is non-medical opinion. Please consult a doctor before embarking on any exercise or training regimen. Run-Down and Dan Kaplan do not assume responsibility for any physical harm that may be caused as a result of advice given on these pages.