SPEED TRAINING FOR STRIDERS

 

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.

 

TRACK SESSIONS

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 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 sessions are:

  • 5 x 1000m (starting a rep each 6 minutes)
  • 3 x 1200m (starting a rep each 7 minutes); then 3 x 400m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)
  • 6 x 800m (starting a rep each 5 minutes)
  • 10 x 400m or 10 x 300m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)

The total length of the sessions is usually about three miles 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 and 300m reps are slightly faster again (ie they are slightly more anaerobic than the longer-distance reps).

 

ROAD REPETITIONS

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.

 

TRAINING ON GRASS

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).

 

HILL TRAINING

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:

  • Vineyard Hill (in the south of Lloyd Park: this is the first hill on our club cross-country course: the parkrun course and the current Harriers course now avoid it)
  • Hammonds Hill (in the northwest of Lloyd Park: this is the main hill on the parkrun course)
  • Ricketts Hill (in the southeast of Lloyd Park: this is the third hill on our club cross-country course)
  • The Switchback (in Addington Hills; a series of short climbs and descents on loose gravel)
  • Breakneck Hill (a steep hill in the southwest of Croham Hurst)

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.

 

TRAINING FOR SHORTER DISTANCES (1500M AND BELOW)

Most Striders prefer to race at longer distances, but we also compete in the Veterans Track & Field Leagues 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. From April to August we change the emphasis, focusing mainly on repetitions at distances from 240m to 300m.

 

TIME TRIALS

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.

 

STOPWATCHES

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.

 

STRIDERS’ COACHES

Most of Striders’ speed sessions are supervised by one or more of the following coaches:

Alan Dolton – Supervises most Striders’ track sessions. Ran first ten-mile race in 1980, running just over 65 minutes off relatively light training. Five years later, after regular speed training, ran a lifetime best of 51 minutes 32. Other personal bests include 3.56.1 for 1500m and 31.01 for 10000 metres. Qualified as a coach in 1989 and was upgraded to UKA Level 3 in 2002. Helped to coach the Surrey Under-17 squad from 2005 to 2007.

David Batten –  Assists with Striders’ track sessions. Joined Striders in 2000. Current holder of the club over-50 records for 100m and 800m. Surrey over-50 5km road champion in 2007. Upgraded to UKA Level 2 coach in 2007.

Chris Morton –  Supervises most Striders’ road and parkland sessions. Joined Striders in 2000. Currently men’s team manager and club secretary. Personal best of 3.10 for marathon. UKA Level 2 coach.

 

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

There are many books which give advice on speed training. Ones which are particularly recommended include:

  • Endurance Running Events by Norman Brook (published by UKA). This is the UKA’s official guide to training for 800 metres to the marathon. Some Striders may find it a bit too track-oriented, but it has some very interesting information about physiology and conditioning.
  • Road Racing for Serious Runners by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas (published by Human Kinetics). This is a very readable book which provides advice on training schedules for distances from 5 kilometres to the marathon (and despite its title, it also includes cross-country).
  • Better Training for Distance Runners by Peter Coe and David Martin (published by Human Kinetics). Peter Coe is the father of Lord Sebastian Coe, while David Martin is a leading American coach. This is a very detailed book: some Striders may find that it is a bit too track-oriented and is too geared to the elite runner rather than the club runner. But it has a lot of detail on the physiology of running and is definitely the book to read if you want a detailed scientific explanation of the effects of hard training.