Interval Training

Intervals are nothing new Emil Zatopek was interval training for the 1952 Olympics. Started with 20 x 200 + 20 x 400 + 20 x 200 @ race pace, with a 150m jog between. He then went on to win the 5km, 10km and Marathon Gold. After this his 400m intervals changed to 40 x 400m but his still was not enough and at one stage he was running 50 x 400m intervals. Of course there are those who say, he was doing so much more than his competition, he won. He said he did not see the point in running long slower runs than race pace. I say, you should train at race pace in small bite size chunks, which is just what he did. I was fortunate enough to meet a friend if Emil Zatopek and found out about  the Zatopek Gold week. The Czechs celebrate his 1952 3 gold medals every year, by having a race week. An opportunity to travel and race, fabulous.

These sessions are liable to be at a different pace to your normal training. Intervals may be of any distance from 100m to 2000m. The distance of the intervals depends to a certain extent on your goal distance. The longer race you are training for the greater the distance of the intervals. This is certainly the case when looking at shorter intervals such as 200m reps. These may be done on a weekly basis for a 1500m or mile runner but are not liable to be done for a marathon runner. If however we look at the longer distances say 2000m then these may be done by both athletes, why ! Because the longer reps build endurance and the shorter reps tend to build speed. Every athlete who runs further than 350m needs endurance training.

Speed Work

When we talk about speed work, we tend to think about shorter intervals, say 200, 300 and 400m reps. Whilst if someone says interval training, they usually mean longer reps of say 1000m. Although many coaches and runners mix the two, as I do. Basically the idea is to have an athlete running at a different pace to their normal racing speed. Generally this means  a shorter distance and faster pace or a longer distance and slower pace.

Middle Distance Runner

Intervals are generally done at 80% ( as most training ) Example of these are

  • 16 x 200m @80%
  • 9 x 300m @ 80%
  • 10 x 400m @ 80%
  • 6 x 600m @ 80%
  • 5 x 1000m @ 80%
  • 3 x 2000m @ 5km pace

ok, so how do we calculate 80% effort. Well some of the above are documented across the internet.

The ones which are documented are as follows

300m intervals @ your 800m pace

400m intervals @ your Mile pace

1000m intervals @ your 5km pace.

All we need to do now is calculate 80% effort. Before you start you need to know just how fast you can complete one of the above. Example, run 200m as fast as possible.  Record the time, lets say it is 30 secs. If you wish to run 200m now at 80% multiply by 1.172 which gives 35.16

The 2000m intervals may be done @ either your 5km or 10km pace. However 5km paced running at very good, so I always do as much training as possible at my 5km pace. A good distance to start interval training is 400m, as this is relatively short and you can see the finish line.  You may however be training for a Marathon, that's ok, these are fabulous for that. It is not the distance but the pace you train at that counts. As I have just said, 5km paced training is the business. As these are not too fast you will be able to complete Lots of these. At your first attempt, you are liable to do 10 x 400m @ your 5km pace. All you do now is add two per week until 50 x 400m or 1hour 40min, which ever comes first. Why so many, you are training for a Marathon and need long sessions to build your endurance.

Apart from building endurance, intervals strengthen your core and give you a better form for running. This in turn makes you a more economical runner and for a Marathon this is important.