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How to Boost Your Running With Race-Specific Workouts

Updated: May 20


women running in race

At some stage in your training programme you are going to want to incorporate some race specific sessions into your training. Regardless of your goals and ability, event or race specific training will help prepare your body and mind for your event and what event day may bring.


When you will do this will depend on how far away your event is and the type of event you are doing. However, an event specific block of training usually occurs before your taper and can last anywhere between 2 weeks to 6 weeks.


At the very least you could structure your week into the following types of runs:

  • An interval session

  • An easy run

  • A long run


What each session involves will depend on what distance you are doing e.g. a long run for someone doing the marathon is usually going to be longer in duration than someone training for a 10km event. So let’s look at some examples of event specific running sessions that you can do.


Race specific intervals

Marathon workouts


Even though some people can run a marathon very fast, the marathon pace is typically a sub threshold/tempo pace. Thus these intervals should not be run at an all out pace.


For the marathon, you will want to focus on long efforts at your goal race pace. For example, including a period of 20-25 mins at a comfortably hard effort as part of a 60 min run. You can also include a race pace effort in the final 90 mins of a long run.


Half marathon workouts


The above suggestions also hold true for those training for the half marathon - just the “effort” and pace should be a little higher and faster than your marathon pace/effort..


Another session idea is to include hills in your training. Even for a flat course this will help build leg strength and make the flat running seem even easier. An example session would be:

  • a set of 4-6 x 4 min hill repeats with the recovery on the way back down (same hill); or

  • a Fartlek (speed play) style session where every time you approach a hill you attack it with a bit of pace and then recover on the way down (as part of a continuous run). This is also a good session to do as part of a long run every other week.


10km workouts


Assuming that you have already been doing some base building running and are not starting right from the beginning, then you may benefit from adding in some speed work to help improve your 10km time.


Most 10km training plans will incorporate some form of speed work into their weekly runs to help improve your top end speed. For example 5 x 800m with with 3 mins recovery or 10 x 80 sec with 2-3 mins recovery. As these intervals are relatively short in duration the idea is to do them at a hard effort (i.e faster than goal race pace). So not something to do if you are nursing an injury or are prone to injury.


The other popular session is a longer interval session e.g. 5 x 1km with 3 mins recovery or a longer 2-3km tempo paced interval. Again, these longer interval sessions can be done at your goal race pace in the build up to your event.


Easy runs


These are simply as the name suggests, a run done at an easy pace or effort. If you have an easy run planned it remains easy even as you approach your event date.


There are a variety of ways to measure this:

  • Heart rate zones

  • pace /training zones

  • Rate of perceived exertion


But it is important to realise that what pace feels easy one week may not feel so easy the next week. This can be due to a number of factors such as stress, the intensity of your other runs, and everything else going on in your life. So you do need to be flexible with this run and adjust your pace and duration so that it does feel easy.


you can never run too slowly

Long runs


No matter what distance you are training for, you’ll have a run in your week that is longer than the rest and this is called your “long run”. Over the course of your training you are aiming to gradually build the duration of your long run to at least 75% of your goal time or expected time for your event. The exact amount will vary as more seasoned runners may be able to run much longer and if you are training for a marathon it may be more detrimental to be consistently trying to run close to 42.2km every week if you need many days to recover.


A long run is usually done at an easy pace, but this pace can start to feel harder because of the duration of the run. However, you can also incorporate race pace intensities into your long runs as discussed above. 


Use these long runs to dial in your race day strategy:

  • Test out your race day outfit to avoid unexpected chafing.

  • Practice your event day nutrition and hydration plan.

  • Fine-tune your pre-race breakfast and routine.


This way you'll be ready for anything on race day!


Looking for a coach?


A coach can help you with planning not just your week but your build up to your event. They can also tailor a plan to not just the distance you are doing but also your individual circumstances and lifestyle.


For more information on my coaching services click here.


Have you recently had a baby and are looking for advice on how to return to running? Click here for my free downloadable guide with the info you need to get started!


References:


Jogging with Lydiard, Arthur Lydiard and Garth Gilmore (2002)




 


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