Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Fast Track

I always been impressed with running friends who incorporate track sessions as part of their training. It gives the impression of seriousness, dedication and a desire to improve. It is a specific activity only designed to work on speed, and a runner wouldn't generally do it for the sake of it, like you might just go for a spur of the moment run in the park or around the block.

That's probably why I have managed to avoid it for all of my running life (not hard granted as tracks aren't that abundant - all my CT friends train on a grass field which is now underwater!). However, in the home of Nike, where no one seems to run without purpose, tracks are common place. I have a great springy, spongy track exactly 1 kilometre from my apartment. It's not even far enough to warm up properly. It's well kept, there's water, a clock and the surface is good.

Eventually I gave in and asked the CT running guru Dion Middlekoop for some advice on sessions designed to help my speed from half marathon upto 50k. He came back with distances and split times which were hard to imagine for someone used to one pace, unless it's a race.

7 minutes of hell (with 60 seconds of heavenly recovery)
My first attempt was 400m reps with 60 second recovery. 75-80 secs was my target, and I averaged about 78 seconds a lap. Every second hurt, and 7 minutes of running can never have felt so bad. By 6 rep I was done and could jog slowly home. The second session sounded 'easier' 1km reps at about 3.15-3.20 a km. Still faster than I've ever raced any distance, but at least it wasn't completely full throttle. I hung on for 5 reps and got a lost of satisfaction from finishing the last one within 2 seconds of the first. It hurt, especially the first 200m of each but felt more manageable than flat out 400m reps.

Duniway track, 1km from home
When you run on the road or trail you perhaps don't get an appreciation for just how fast the pro's run. I was lapping at SLOWER than world record pace for the marathon, for a 400m lap. I was sprinting, full out, and could only do that knowing I have a minute break at the end of each lap. I lasted 6 laps.

Will this help in races and over longer distances? I hope, but even if it doesn't a 30 minute track workout is harder and therefore more satisying than any other session, bar maybe a long, draining training run. This could be the start of something.....


  1. Sounds painful! I don't think that many people fully comprehend how fast a 2:55/km split is. And to do that for for 42.2km is almost inhuman. But then again, it's almost more impressive to be able to run 160km at 6:15/km with 5000m ascent, on a trail run. I suppose that's why we love the sport...

  2. Haven't been on the track for some time now, it's just too wet... all our session have been on the road. Hope UCT get a track before I leave!!!