The training schedules which appear in ‘Runner’s World’ and books about running do not consist solely of steady-pace running: they also include some faster-paced training. Although it is possible to do speed sessions on one’s own, this can be daunting and is likely to be much less enjoyable than going for another steady run. Part of the key to improving one’s running performances is finding training-partners of similar ability: this is valuable both physically and psychologically. Striders provide our members with the opportunity to do some speed training alongside runners of similar ability.
The advantages of training on a synthetic track are that it provides a comfortable surface and an accurately measured distance. The disadvantages are that running long repetitions on a track can be boring; some slower runners can be intimidated at being repeatedly overtaken by faster runners; and that you have to pay an admission fee.
Striders offer regular track sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Croydon Arena. (Croydon Council charge for admission: we recommend buying a season ticket if you wish to train here regularly.) We meet at 7.15pm at one of the football ‘dug-outs’ in the home straight. People are encouraged to warm up by jogging before we start a short session of ‘drills’, which are exercises designed to improve one’s stride-length, at about 7.25pm. We then continue the warm-up with two laps of jogging the bends and ‘striding’ the straights before starting the main session. Typical Tuesday sessions are:
Other, slightly longer, sessions which we have previously included (but dropped following feedback that the sessions were too hard for novice runners) include:
The total length of the sessions is usually 4000 metres and the recovery is fairly short. Runners are encouraged to run the repetitions slightly faster than their 10km race pace. Runners who find the recovery to be too short are encouraged to do only the first part of each rep: our coaches can give individual advice. The 400m reps are slightly faster again (ie they are slightly more anaerobic than the longer-distance reps).
The advantages of training of the road is that it is the surface which most Striders intend to race on. The roads are also free and readily available. The disadvantages are that you have to watch out for cars (particularly emerging from driveways), cyclists and pedestrians. Too much hard running on tarmac may lead to injuries (eg the tibialis anterior muscle in the front of the shin). And some runners can overestimate the distance of each repetition. Striders offer regular road sessions on Tuesday evenings from our Sandilands clubhouse, from September to March, starting at 7.30pm.
Grass is the most natural surface to train on. The main disadvantage is that running fast in a public park is likely to attract the attention of any dogs in the vicinity. It is also possible to sprain an ankle on a tree-root. And, as with road repetitions, some runners can overestimate the distance of each repetition.
Striders offer regular sessions on grass on Tuesday evenings from April to August, starting at 7.30pm. Some of these are on a grass track in Coombe playing fields (although this is not always available).
Most coaches recommend that athletes should do some fast running up hills. Sprinters tend to run fast up relatively gentle hills with a fairly long recovery (and don’t do hill training during their track season). But most coaches of long-distance runners recommend sessions of continuous running (ie running hard up a hill and relatively gently down it). Being on the edge of the North Downs, Striders have plenty of hills close at hand. Among the popular off-road hills are:
Among the local roads which we have used for hill repetitions are Upfield, Brownlow Road, Water Tower Hill, Coombe Road, Coombe Lane, Ballards Way, Upper Shirley Road and Gravel Hill. Be aware of traffic if you intend to do hill repetitions on any roads.
Although hill training helps to strengthen the quadriceps muscles, and to prepare the runner for running up hills in races, too much running up steep hills can shorten a runner’s stride-length.
Some of our Tuesday sessions from Sandilands take the form of hill training.
Most Striders prefer to race at longer distances, but we also compete in the Veterans Track & Field League and have a few athletes who like to compete at shorter distances (1500m and below). We provide short-distance sessions at Croydon Arena on Thursday evenings. As with our Tuesday sessions, we meet at one of the football ‘dug-outs’ in the home straight. People are encouraged to warm up by jogging before we start a short session of ‘drills’, which are exercises designed to improve one’s stride-length, at 7.30pm. We then continue the warm-up with two laps of jogging the bends and ‘striding’ the straights before starting the main session at about 7.40pm. (It is possible to do the track session and then get to Trinity in time for the club’s weekly swim later in the evening.) Our winter sessions are aimed at 800 and 1500 metres, and include sessions of 200 metre repetitions with a very short recovery, followed by fast ‘time-trials’ over 400m and 600m, as well as sessions of 300m reps with a slightly longer recovery. . Typical winter sessions are:
In the summer we stop doing the sessions of 200m reps with a very short recovery, and instead do reps from 240m to 300m with a slightly longer recovery, such as:
One way of ascertaining one’s fitness is to run a short race as a ‘time-trial’. Such races are a form of speed training. The 5km parkruns are ideal for this, as are 3000 metre track races and our own Mile Time Trials, which are held monthly in the summer months.
We recommend that runners who are doing long repetitions (such as 1000m or a mile) should use a digital stopwatch to enable them to measure their performance.
Most of Striders’ speed sessions are supervised by one of the following coaches:
There are many books which give advice on speed training. Ones which are particularly recommended include:
Faster Road Racing by Pete Pfitzinger and Philip Latter (published by Human Kinetics). This was reviewed in the June 2018 club magazine.