Simple question: How fast do your feet need to be moving in training for you to race well?
For instance, if you’ve never done any training at mile pace can you expect to run a local road road mile well? Sure, you may have done 10 x 400m with 30-60 seconds recovery, but in that workout you’re probably running closer to 5,000m pace rather than mile pace.
The point I’m trying to make is simple: if you want to race to your potential, then you have to do some running that is as fast, or even faster than, the given race distance.
In Simple Marathon Training the assignments for strides are never faster than 5k pace. On Monday and Friday athletes are assigned five 20, 25 or 30 second strides with roughly 60-90 seconds of easy jogging between them. Makes sense, right? If you are going to run a marathon then you need to be able to run 5k pace, yet you don’t need to be able to run mile pace.
While the above no doubt makes sense to you, my guess is that there is a very good chance that you are not doing 30 second strides at 5k pace in your training. If this is the case, then remind yourself about the neuromuscular system and how it impacts training.
Neuromuscular means exactly what it sounds like it means. It’s the intersection between the nervous system and the musculature of the human body. A sprinter has a fantastic neuromuscular system because they not only have to react to the starter’s pistol, but they have to exert a huge amount of force into the ground.
A high school 1,600m runner needs to be able to run 100m strides at 800m pace, perhaps even 600m pace. This ability to run paces faster than the 1,600m will allow the athlete to both feel more comfortable running 1,600m, but also give them a chance to “kick” at the end of the race.
In my coaching, all athletes do strides, strides that are at a pace much shorter than their primary race distance. So the adult marathoner does strides at 5k pace. The collegiate 5k runner does strides at 1,600m or 800m pace.
John O’Malley, boys cross country and track coach at Sandburg High School simply says, “Our feet are moving fast every day.” He is one of the few coaches who has boys teams competing at both the national level in cross country, as well as in relays like the 4xMile 4x800m. His athletes have their feet moving fast every day; they are one of the best boys distance programs in the country because of this focus.
If you aren’t doing strides, you need to do them. If you aren’t doing fast enough strides, consider your primary race distance and do strides a bit faster than you want to run for that race. That’s it! Do strides and do them a bit faster than your primary race distance.