With the Brooklyn Half in the rear view mirror, many people start thinking about their summer racing schedule. For the most part, that means hitting the track or racing shorter distances (5k, 4-miles, 5-miles) at their favorite summer race. But how does one go about training for these shorter distances?
In my experience, the biggest hurdle is themselves. Let me explain. Much of an athlete’s view on running has to do with when they started running. For people like myself – ran in HS and/or college at shorter distances – I am much more comfortable running fast while breathing heavy and pushing through when wanting to stop. For many, their introduction to running started later in life thus they gravitated toward the half/ full marathon distance which involves learning to run further. In that instance, battling thru the fatigue – not the breathlessness – is the training goal.
In coaching people “down” from the marathon, convincing an athlete to take chances and run workouts at speeds they think are unfeasible is the first step. The second step is determining those workout goals. For example, let’s say you’re a 3:30 marathoner (8:00/ mile) so common race calculators would predict a 5K time of ~21:35 (6:55/ mile). And let’s say this week’s track workout is 6 x 800m – just short of 5k in distance – with 2:00 rest. My suggestion would be to run the 800s at 3:20-25 (6:40-6:50 pace) and see how it goes. And this means not running the first one in 3:30 to ‘ease into the workout.’ The times have to be achieved right from the get go. I am confident a 3:30 marathoner could do this workout; it’s the marathoner who needs to believe it.
With the summer coming, the interval length in our track workouts will be shorter in distance because of the heat. They provide the perfect opportunity to take chances to see if you can handle the pace. So what if you DNF? If you’re trying to get faster, I’d rather see that then be able to finish semi-comfortably.
If you have to DNF a workout, cooldown and live for another day. Don’t attempt another workout until the next scheduled one. Keep to your normal training schedule in the days in between; maybe add on a mile or two to any easy days to make up for the missed distance from workout day.
With planned vacations, warm temps, dining/ drinking outside with family/ friends, summer is the perfect time to leave your comfort zone because it is likely to be the least stressful time of the training year: no weekend long run requirement, short/ fast interval workouts, fun summertime races. Take advantage and try something new.