Introducing speed to your workouts

By Dana Stetson


Ray Krolewicz said it best. He said Ultra runner’s need speedwork to run ultras like chess players need weight lifting to play chess. Most long distance runners, today, seem to agree with this philosophy.

This is why, with a few notable exceptions, I always look at the back of a marathon’s results for the ultra-guys. The leg speed and exertion required for a good marathon seems to be slightly beyond the grasp of most ultra runners. This is one of the reasons it is so important for long distance runners who wish to run faster to run shorter races. The shorter/faster distances force higher leg turnover. Going from a 50k or 50-miler to a marathon is quite a big change.

Last month, Gary Griffin ran a 3:23:00 at a not-so-easy Callaway Gardens marathon. In doing this, he showed a great deal of endurance (as expected) plus leg speed. You can only run a faster paced race if you have practiced lots of shorter, faster drills. The easiest, most common, speed drill available today could be the common 5k.

A warm-up, a 5k race, and a cool down are a natural set to increase speed. You just incorporate the weekly 5k into your workout. The beauty of this system is that you have so much fun racing your 5k; that you hardly notice that it’s speed work. The natural competition that develops will keep your effort level as high as possible.

There are other ways to introduce speed work to your workouts. For several years, I have added dogs to my run to increase the speed and limit its length. Both dogs can out-run me easily for at least four miles. So, we run at most two little Overstreet loops. We do a warm-up and then a fast loop. The dogs have a fun time mocking my best efforts and I usually try to impress them slightly with my times.

My most recent attempts to combat dead legs involves human type jackrabbits. One day while running at what I considered a decent enough rate of speed, I was smoked off the trail by a human speedball named Allison Eagan. Later on, I joined her for trail speed work.

On this day she was going to do two high speed Overstreet little loops. I joined in, one loop later I wisely selected not to do the second lap. Instead, I just laid there and tried not to follow the white light. I have since done portions of this workout for three weeks and can already feel the difference.

Last week, running with Reid Vannoy, I even managed the second half of the second high speed lap. The addition of a speed component to your weekly workout adds an end goal of faster times and a decent number of challenging workouts on the way to that goal. Who could wish for anything more?