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 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:

  • 1 x 1200m followed by 3 x 800m and 1 x 400m (time between start of reps: 7 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes, 5 minutes)
  • 5 x 800m (starting a rep each 5 minutes)
  • 3 x 800m (starting a rep each 5 minutes): then 1 x 1600m
  • 10 x 400m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)

 

Other, slightly longer, sessions which we have previously included (but dropped following feedback that the sessions were too hard for novice runners) include:

  • 5 x 1000m (starting a rep each 6 minutes)
  • 4 x 1200m (starting a rep each 7 minutes)
  • 3 x 1200m (starting a rep each 7 minutes); then 3 x 400m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)

 

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).

 

 

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:

  • 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 second 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 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:

  • 8 x 200m (starting a rep each 90 seconds): 3 minutes’ rest after last rep then 1 x 400m fast
  • 6 x 200m (starting a rep each 90 seconds): 3 minutes’ rest after last rep then 1 x 600m fast
  • 6 x 300m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)

 

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:

  • 6 x 300m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)
  • 6 x 270m (starting a rep each 3 minutes)
  • 5 x 240m (starting a rep each 3 minutes): then 1 x 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 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.
  • Chris Morton –  Supervises most Striders’ road and parkland sessions. Joined Striders in 2000. Served for many years as 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.

Faster Road Racing by Pete Pfitzinger and Philip Latter (published by Human Kinetics). This was reviewed in the June 2018 club magazine.