Getting Up to Speed

by Karl Gruber
Unless you’re an elite runner, the term “getting up to speed” seems like an oxymoron. Seriously, the average marathon finishing time for American men is 4:30 and 5:10 for women. That’s a 10:18 per mile pace for men and 11:49 per mile pace for women over a 26.2 mile course. 

So “getting up to speed” is certainly a relative term — especially if you are a recreational runner who is running a full or half marathon to raise money for a worthy cause or in memory of a loved one. Keeping this in mind, I really believe the term “getting up to speed” can and should be completely relevant to your training and racing, no matter what your pace.

To me, “getting up to speed” means training correctly and putting in the necessary effort and workouts to allow you to run your best when racing 26.2 or 13.1 miles. As I have stated many times before, running your best requires a real commitment on your part. Not only to get in the required training but also staying consistent and focused so you can cross the finish line of your goal race feeling as good as possible and knowing that you gave it your best effort.

Still, there are a number of running workouts you can do sporadically, if not consistently, that really will help you to “get up to speed.” I don’t mean your pace per mile but rather running stronger, creating more endurance and strength, and more than likely, helping you to enjoy running more. This is because the higher intensity, harder run workouts can quickly raise your fitness level, resulting in you feeling less sore and tired.

Michael Sandrock’s book Running Tough offers 75 different and challenging training run workouts that can help you achieve a higher level of running fitness and provide you with a much more enjoyable experience come race day. Here are just a couple of the workouts from Sandrock’s book you could insert into your training program.

According to Sandrock, “Europeans often do their hard training on grass to decrease stress on their legs. Running on soft surface not only can save your legs and prevent injuries; it also makes the workouts more enjoyable.” One example of a hard grass running workout is Montana Cone to Cone. It is done at the beginning of your training season and can be run once a week. Here’s how it goes:
Total Distance: 10 miles
Pace: Hard
Instructions: Set up two cones at the corners of a field — roughly one quarter of a mile apart. Then run hard diagonally across a grass field, from one cone to the other, with a short recovery jog of one minute or less between each rep.
Reps: 20 reps of 60 seconds each

Another hard workout is running hills, and one such workout is Deek’s Thursday Hill Session. This is a workout you can do not only during marathon training but all year round to stay in great running shape. It was created by former marathon world record holder Rob De Castella who states that hill running “may be the best overall training you can do. It makes you strong, helps you get faster, and improves your running form.” His famous workout goes something like this:
Total Distance: 10 miles
Pace: Should be close to all-out during each hill sprint
Instructions: Start with a 20-minute warmup jog, progress to a two-mile up tempo run, followed by a five to 10 minute jog, and finish with eight reps of short hill sprints.

If you are new at running longer distance races and consider yourself to be just a recreational runner, these harder run workouts may not be something you wish to pursue. And that is entirely okay, depending on what your running goals are. 

However, most runners I know (including myself) eventually experience the urge to improve as a runner, both fitness and pace-wise, once they have been running for a while. Running regularly with a group can increase this urge when you see how well some of the other runners are doing and you want to see if you can keep up with them — especially for longer and longer distances.

As you continue your half or full marathon training, find out what “getting up to speed” means for you and then figure out what you need to make it happen.      

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