Category Archives: Races

Struggling With Your Mile or 1500? Two Key Workouts:

The mile (or the 1500 meters outside of the US) is a tough nugget for runners. A common time trial and a popular racing distance at all levels of Track & Field Athletics, the mile comes closest to pushing your absolute anaerobic limits versus just challenging your raw power and speed like the sprints. It’s typically run at a cut above your VO2max and typically redlines your heart rate to its max.

As various coaches have said about racing, your speed is not the problem. Most runners, especially elite runners, have great speed. The problem is developing the specific endurance to sustain as much of your speed as you can over your needed distance.

Most coaches over-polarize middle distance training. They go to three different workout buckets: Hard, usually all-out intervals… tempo runs of a few miles… and your typical extended easy runs.

While all of the above are great for general fitness and development, your goal with the mile is a lot more specific than the above covers. The speed in your hard intervals are not being carried over 1500-1600m (and it can’t, and shouldn’t). The tempo runs are not as hard as you need to run in the mile, and the easy running definitely isn’t hard enough. You’re not working specifically on what you need to do once it’s Go Time.

Again, all of the above are generally valuable, and shouldn’t disappear. But as race season approaches, as you approach time for your mile time trials, your qualifiers, your key races… none of these elements are being suitably combined in your training, and race/trial day becomes 4-8 minutes of misery as you strain to stretch speed that lacks strechability, and you’re going (necessarily but) way too hard for your tempo/easy aerobic work to really help you.

Meathead Coach Mindset claims that such divergent training approaches will somehow come together within your body on race day when you need it. That’s not how most things work, and barring exceptional natural talent that’s not how training for the mile works on race day.

Obviously, I don’t think the answer is to run mile time trials several times in one sitting as a 4×1500 or 3×1600 workout to practice. That’s far too brutal, and totally unnecessary. There is a better, and more human, approach.

I previously covered an approach to racing or time trialing the mile that can help you focus through the strain and difficulty. But I realize most could benefit from one additional key step: Specific endurance training for the mile.

There are two quality workouts I think are valuable for specific endurance. Deep into training, these can replace your 200-400m repeats, and (if this isn’t a time trial but an event you actually compete in) can even replace whatever extended tempo runs you do. I think the easy runs and other cross training remain valuable for generating recovery and maintaining your aerobic fitness, but once you reach the end-game of peak training, your quality workouts need to specifically prep you for the 1500 or the mile.

Both of these workouts are best done on a standard Olympic size running track with full markings.


Workout #1: 2000 Meter Fast Finish Cruisers

Preface: This will push you beyond the mile distance and not only get you comfortable running hard for 1500-1600 meters, but to finish with a strong, hopefully max effort once it’s Go Time.

Depending on your running volume, you probably want to only do 2-3 of these in a single workout. If you do a good amount of easy running each week and can handle it, I’d do 3 in a workout. You want to be tired but in good enough shape to (if you had to) go for an easy run the next day, and to be able to do another long or quality workout in 3 days.

The Workout: After a good warm-up… start the 1st repeat at 10K pace (about 85% of your race effort) and run this for 2 laps (800 meters).

On lap 3 you may step it up a bit, up to 5K pace, for the next couple laps until through one mile (1600 meters). If 10K pace incidentally feels tough, you’re welcome to stay at this 10K pace into laps 3-4.

Once you get to the final lap (final 400 meters), pick up the pace and finish as fast as you can reasonably sustain for the last 400 meters. Don’t sprint all out but definitely go as fast(er) as you can kick, surge, stride, however you approach it.

Hold this extra speed through the final lap and then take an easy lap around the track.

Repeat the above for the next 2000 meters, and again until you’ve finished all your repeats.

NOTE: If you’re elite-caliber, and you’re only doing a couple of these repeats, you are welcome to start at 5K pace and step the middle laps 3-4 up to 3K race pace. I recommended 5K-10K pace if you’re doing 3 or more reps because this is a sizable enough volume of fairly hard running and too much could negatively impact future workouts.

OPTION: If you want to do 3 or more reps in a workout, you can (and probably should) only do the final two reps with the surge/fast final lap, while the prior repeats are done entirely at 5k/10K pace (so they’re basically just 5K pace reps or 10K pace reps). For example, let’s say you do 4 of these repeats in a workout. So you do the 1st and 2nd 2000’s entirely at 5K/10K pace, and then do the fast final lap as I described above for the 3rd and 4th 2000’s.

This ensures you have energy to successfully surge in your final repeats, while also ensuring all your work with those final surge lap reps is done when tired.


Workout #2: 3×500 Race Pace Repeats

Preface: This takes a page from Greg McMillan’s 5K and 10K workouts, and practices your ability to handle mile/1500 race pace in smaller, more easily digestible portions.

The Workout: Simply put, you run your goal race pace for 500 meters three (3) times, taking a recovery jog or walk between each rep.

Find the 1500 meter start line (or the 100M marker) on the track. Start the repeat here, running your mile pace through the main finish line, around the first turn and past where you started, until you reach the nearby 200 meter mark.

Turn around and jog or walk back to the 1500m start line. Turn back around, and start the next repeat. It’s important the recovery be short (albeit useful).

You do three of these repeats. I’ll argue as McMillan does with his workouts that if you run the 1500m, and you can evenly run your goal pace in all three of these repeats without significant trouble, you will hit your time goal on race/trial day.

NOTE: For those doing the mile, you may turn this into a 4×400 workout or a 3×600 workout. Obviously you’ll need to adjust the start, procedure and finish from the 500m repeats, but this is actually a bit easier than the above.

For 4×400: Run a lap. Simple as that. Instead of jogging a full lap, I would jog for about 100 meters (however you wish) before running the next lap. Since you’re doing exactly one lap, it doesn’t matter where the next rep starts since you’re stopping at the same spot.

For 3×600: Find the 200 meter mark halfway around the track and start your repeat there. You obviously get to the main finish line and continue with an additional full lap from there. Once you return to the main finish line and the rep’s done, continue along the track and jog back to the 200m line, then repeat the process until finished.

Final Note: Why start at the 1500m start line for the 3×500’s, instead of the main start line and just finishing at the 100m mark? For competitive 1500m runners, I like the pattern and sense memory work of physically starting at the line that a 1500m runner will start at. This helps with the mental patterning and prep for race day. Trust me on that. It will feel more natural and help with your nerves on race day to start these reps at the same place you’d start the race.


Scheduling These Workouts:

These workouts are best done about 2-6 weeks before a race or time trial, as peak training.

If you have multiple mile/1500 races, and you don’t compete at other distances, you could schedule these accordingly between races provided at least 2-3 weeks of time before your next race.

As with any training, you need about 8-12 days to see initial benefits from a key workout, so burning through these between races when your races are a week apart probably won’t help you. Do this before a block of races, and then let your races serve as your quality workouts from there.

I would do these workouts no more than three times a week, and ideally I’d do each one once a week, spaced at least 3 days apart. If you compete at this distance, you can’t go too far wrong during peak training doing the 3x500s in midweek and doing the 2000’s on the weekend.

Once again, remember that you don’t see benefits from a workout until 8-12 days later, so taper off and cease these about 8-10 days before your next trial or race, or block of races.


I hope this helps you run a better mile, whether you’re just trying to do so for your own fulfillment, or you run this distance competitively for glory, medals, and such. Best of luck.

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A Training Plan Need Not Be So Structured

man sitting on bench

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Ideally when deciding to run a goal race, you find or write a training plan (with or without a coach), and then you follow it.

But maybe no training plan out there is an ideal fit and you don’t have a coach. Maybe you had a plan and found out much too late that the plan is not working for you (and because none of us can rewind time, you can’t start over!).

Of course, it is entirely possible for a runner to train for a race without following a hard-set defined training plan. It might not adequately prepare you for the race, and therein lies the risk.

But then again there’s always a non-zero chance that following a given training plan doesn’t quite prepare you for a goal race either. Any approach to training comes with its set of risks. What would be the fun and accomplishment in training for a race if any recipe or approach made doing it foolproof or easy?

Still, if you want to run a race and you have at least a couple months to generally train, you could prepare for that race without a specified written training plan. It’s as simple as a consistent habit of multiple workouts per week, with as many of them as reasonably possible being specific endurance workouts: Workouts that specifically work on things you need to do in the actual race.

It helps if you’re already running regularly and in some degree of condition to race, but even if not you could adequately train with a general, consistent schedule provided you have enough time before the race.

Again, training for a race involves executing with these acute factors:

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The Marathon Training Mistake People Make In Organized 20 Mile Runs

CARAready2run

Logo for the Chicago Area Runner’s Association’s annual Ready To Run 20 Miler, held about 3-4 weeks before the annual Chicago Marathon.

In many major cities with major marathons, organizations will hold an official pay-to-play 20 mile run 3-4 weeks before the marathon, to coincide with most participants’ final planned long run before their taper. The official events mark out a course and provide aid stations every 3K or so, much like an actual race.

 

Though these events are technically held and run like an official race, the clear idea is that participants will do this as their longest training run before the marathon, since most training plans typically ask for runners to peak with a 20 mile long run a few weeks before the race. The idea is not just so runners can do their long run with a like minded group of runners, but that they get support along the way with water and electrolyte sugar fluid every 3K or so, as well as the usual commemorative gear like a bib number and race shirt.

While I totally support the staging and usage of official 20 miler runs for marathon preparation (provided your training plan calls for said 20 mile run), there is a significant mistake most runners make when doing the 20 miler.

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Adjusting the Hanson Marathon Method for tune-up races

sunset men sunrise jogging

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Like many coaches, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fundamentally alter training plans.

By this I mean:

  • Substantially extending or reducing the length of assigned training runs, especially the long run
  • Adding or subtracting multiple speed or tempo workouts to the schedule
  • Changing the order of assigned workouts and rest days
  • Adding races to a defined schedule, beyond any provided in the schedule… unless the plan specifically allows for adding tune-up races.

The Hanson Marathon Method is a plan that specifically asks you not to run any races during training. The schedule is fairly demanding and the Hansons’ writing on the plan specifically discourages any racing while training through one of their plans.

It’s one thing to realize before starting a training plan that you want to race during the training schedule. You can decide to pivot and follow a different plan that’s more permissive towards tune-up races.

But what if you dive into the Hanson plan and discover a few weeks in that you really want to run a race during training? Obviously it’s rarely ever a good idea to ditch a training plan for another in mid-stream. However, the Hanson plan basically forbids tune up races.

Presuming you really want to run another race during training and you don’t just want to jog it out… or the distance is shorter/longer than the planned long run for that week, and you want to remain committed to the Hanson plan, is there anything you can do to adjust the plan and stay on track?

Yes, there is. Here is what you need to do:

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Are you sure you want to run a marathon? Let’s talk about the Beginner and the Marathon.

female and male runners on a marathon

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A lot of new and novice runners get hooked with the desire to run a marathon. While admirable, a marathon is not a 5K, 10K or half marathon, and unlike those races this is probably biting off a lot more than one really wants to chew.

As an experienced runner, I didn’t dare attempt a marathon until I had been running seriously for a few years, and had already completed many races ranging in distance from the 5K to the Half Marathon.

For me, the marathon was far and away a much bigger physical challenge than even the half marathon. This is no surprise to most experienced runners, and even knowing that going in… the shock to my system was substantial and new.

To detail why the marathon is so much harder, let me go into some of the basic science behind how the body generates energy for running, how it impacts marathon training, and why it may present a beginner too steep a challenge training for a marathon:

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10 Tips For Running the Las Vegas Rock + Roll Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K

attraction building city hotel

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Oh, right. The Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon races are this weekend. Always held in mid-November, this is not only the biggest Las Vegas race weekend of the year but also one of the nation’s most popular running races. This is of course thanks to the chance to run along the famous Las Vegas Strip, making the course one of the most scenic courses in the world.

I live here in Las Vegas now, but I’m not running the race this weekend. I’ve run the Half Marathon before (in fact, my half PR was at this race). I certainly have a few tips that can help others running this weekend, whether you’re local or visiting from out of town.

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12 Tips For Running The Las Vegas Turkey Trot 12K

Las Vegas Turkey TrotBBSC Endurance Running is hosting their annual Las Vegas Turkey Trot at the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail near Hoover Dam on Thanksgiving Day. They’re hosting multiple distances from 5K to a half marathon for the trot.

I’m running the 12K this Thanksgiving Day along with my soon to be brother in law (an avid 1:35-ish half marathoner who will probably run a much faster time than I will). I’m still ramping back up to marathon training fitness ahead of starting training for the 2020 Vancouver Marathon, and this race for me is more of a look-see tune up race… plus a neat opportunity to run a trail race at a distance (12K, 7.46 miles) you don’t generally see.

I’ve recently traveled to Boulder City and run the Railroad Tunnel course to get acquainted. I’ll probably run it a few more times before race day.

There’s 12 unique strategic elements I’ve discovered to running this 12K, and don’t mind giving away to other runners of this year’s Turkey Trot. Whether or not you’re in the running for any race prizes, keeping these 12 elements in mind will at least help you enjoy this race to this fullest.

Plus, even if you’re not running the 12K, these may still help you some: The 12K course is part of the Half Marathon course. And I have some bonus advice for you as well!

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