Many runners make a critical error in believing that decreases in performance during these sessions indicate they are not sufficiently motivated and are not trying hard enough. So, instead of resting, they try harder and simply compound their errors and the risks of overtraining. There is a danger that by training under these conditions, not only do the runners damage themselves physically, but they use up the motivation they should conserve for their one all-out racing effort.
Short races of 5 to 16 km are excellent forms of speed training. These races should be run as hard efforts controlled by the sensation of effort rather than by the stopwatch (seventh law of training).
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When I am peaking, I use such a race as the equivalent of a hard interval session. I do this by starting the race at a comforExercises pace, which I increase gradually with each kilometer. By the end of the race I will have run 4 to 8 km at a hard pace (equivalent to an interval session of three to five 1-mile repetitions). But because I start slowly without concern for my total time and do not race the entire distance, the overall stress is reduced and I recover more quickly.
Another reason for running short-distance races is that they usually fall on weekends, when I need a long training run. Galloway (1983) and Glover and Schuder (1983) emphasized that speed work or a race should never be combined with a long training run on the same weekend: “Never put two stress days together under any circumstances” (Galloway, 1983, p. 134). Indeed Galloway suggested that even after a race of only 10 km, you should have about 1 week of easy running before tackling speed work or another long run. He also stressed that 2 easy days should follow each hard session or long training run (fifth law of training).
By racing half or less of the total goal-race distance in these “training” races, I can run them more frequently.
The total number of speed sessions during the peaking phase should be between 7 and 10. This conforms closely to Galloway’s suggestion that one should perform only one speed session a week when training for 10 km and one every 2 weeks when training for the marathon.
Always keep your goal race pace in mind. My best marathon pace is about 4:00/km. Therefore, any session in which I run under 3:45/km becomes a speed session, and running any faster really makes no sense.
Galloway (1983) provided additional useful guidelines for interval training: Run 400-m repetitions at approximately 5 to 7 seconds faster than your goal race pace; run 800 m at 10 seconds faster than your goal pace; and run 1 mile at 15 to 20 seconds faster than your goal pace. If you are unable to achieve these goals during interval training, you are almost certainly training at too high a mileage and will need to cut back if you are to benefit optimally from this type of training.
Rest for as long as desired between each interval repeat. You should never complete an interval session feeling totally fatigued. The key in the interval sessions is to complete the required number of repetitions at the required speed; the total time required to achieve that is unimportant.