A workout you'll like when it's over
Another plausible arrangement of the required parameters
I thought of another workout slanted toward those inclined to long road races, one few people are situated perform properly because of its demand for high base fitness as well as a realistic knowledge of that fitness. This one asks you to run at a systematically erratic speed for 40 minutes such that your overall pace is close to your half-marathon pace. It’s like fartlek with rules, although given the traditional definition of fartlek, that description encroaches on “crawling around at breakneck speed” territory.
I adapted this one from a session that showed up on the schedule every few weeks when Kathy Butler was coaching me in 2018. It was my favorite of the “bespoke” workouts she assigned, as evidenced by the fact that I did it very slightly differently each time (sadly, a snowflake trait). It’s a lot easier to do in a group, or with at least one other person, but that other person must either be very close to a running-fitness clone or someone willing to ease off the throttle on the day for your benefit. And again, not only must you be keenly aware of your own racing fitness, but you also have to be honest with yourself about those capabilities or you won’t get through both sets.
If you just want the basics, alternate harder and easier running in the following pattern, with numbers representing time in whole American minutes:
“Harder” means something like 10K pace, or a pace you call “threshold pace” while knowingly cheating by an internally acceptable margin—just as you probably do when required to disclose your height, weight, annual income, lifetime total of sexual partners, or penis size on a dating site, on Instagram, or during a Zoom work gathering (concepts soon to become indistinguishable). “Easier” means similar to your everyday maintenance-run pace—not a jog or even a trot.
The workout that will be entered into the official canon at the next Council of Competitive Cardio, on the other hand, is two sets of 5-4-3-2-1 minutes at 10K pace, with one minute at 75 percent of that pace for recovery and two minutes at that recovery pace between sets.
Example: If you have a recent 10K at 6:00 pace to your credit, you’d run that pace for the faster portions and 8:00 pace for the slower ones (6.0 ÷ 0.75 = 8.0). You’d cover 6.25 miles in all—5.0 at 6:00 pace and 1.25 at 8:00 pace. And if you care, 40 minutes ÷ 6.25 miles = 6.4 min/mi = 6:24 pace, very close what you should be able to run for a half-marathon if you’re trained for the distance.
It may occur to you that an elite male runner would wind up running more than ten kilometers at 10K pace in this workout. That’s easier than it sounds for someone fit enough to run ~4:40 pace for a half an hour. The whole idea behind training is to do as much work at as high an intensity as possible while allowing for an overall pattern of physiological adaptations prevailing over physiological breakdown. Emil Zatopek would have snickered at the “difficulty” of this workout well into his career, but he wouldn’t have waltzed through it when he was just getting started.
If you include ten minutes of easy running before and after the workout, you can get all of this done in an hour. You should it on flat ground, obviously, and you essentially need a GPS watch—a track is more helpful than unmarked roads, but you’d be starting and ending each “rep” at a random spot. And if you live around here, you may want to either wait a few days or use a treadmill.