Warm up this winter and up your speed with this acceleration run session from 2:18-marathon runner Nigel Leighton

Winter Triathlon Training - Winter Running

Slowly building your pace lets you warm up and then run fast with less chance of injury

During an acceleration run you progressively increase the pace in measured blocks, so that the final part of the session is at race pace or faster.

The flexibility of the session means that it can be as long or short as you like to suit your target race distance. Over the years I have been able to work alongside some great coaches and athletes and this is a session that is always included. It has huge physiological benefits and can also give a great psychological boost if performed as it is meant to, helping you to know just how fast you can run.

Kenyan runners are renowned for their acceleration runs, constantly ramping up the pace until only the fittest and fastest are left at the front. Have a go and feel the benefits – after all, if it’s good enough for the Kenyans…


This session teaches your body how to cope with race pace running (or faster) when you are already tired from having spent a significant period of time on your feet. Because the opening miles are at a steady pace it warms the muscles up ready for the final efforts, reducing the risk of injury.


You can do the session by feel but I would advocate using a heart-rate monitor. At the end of each phase concentrate on ramping up the pace to the next level and then settle in, initially it will feel tough but your body has a great ability to settle into a rhythm. Only pick it up out of the zone in the final segment if you feel strong. If the session is during an intense period of training be aware of fatigue and adjust paces so that you get the benefits of the shifts in pace but are not digging into your energy levels.


For an athlete running 3-4 times a week, I would recommend an acceleration run every 10 days. Try it every two weeks if you’re someone who runs once or twice per week. These can be tough sessions, so avoid doing them too near a race.


  • Time 30mins to 1 hour, depending on your speed
  • Ideal For Olympic distance or Ironman 70.3 training
  • How Often Fortnightly or every 10 days
  • Mile 1 Easy/steady pace. Approx 70% of maximum heart rate (HR)
  • Mile 2 Steady pace. Approx 75% of max HR
  • Mile 3 Steady/tempo pace. Approx 80% of max HR
  • Mile 4 Tempo pace. Approx 85% of max HR.
  • Mile 5 Hard pace. Approx 90% of max HR.

You could use time rather than distance for this session. For example, if you think your 10K pace is about 8 minutes per mile, break it into five eight-minute sections, instead of using miles.

How to work out your maximum heart rate

Heart rate is one way to help you gauge your effort during an acceleration run. To work out a rough max heart rate in beats per minute deduce your age from 220. So the max heart rate for a 40-year-old is (220-40) betas per minute, which equals 180.

You could also get a professional lab test or run to exhaustion over a 6- to 10-minute effort while wearing a heart-rate monitor to record data. If you do perform your own test, ensure you do it on a track or safe location with a partner for supervision and include a proper warm-up. The highest heart rate recorded will be your max heart rate from which to work out your training zones.

You can find more winter triathlon training articles here