Legendary triathlete Spencer Smith tells you how to super-charge your speed by hitting the running track.
I know many people fear training at the track, but you shouldn’t. You need to embrace it and see it as your secret weapon in gaining run speed. By doing a track session every week during your racing season, you will increase your speed, learn about pace, and become a more efficient runner.
I think track sessions are essential in order to become a faster runner at any distance. I remember once I had to do a run benchmark test on the track at St Mary’s College in Twickenham. Some Kenyan runners were training there, and they said I was too big to run fast. They certainly had a good laugh at me.
What they didn’t know was that my coach, Bill Black, had got me doing weekly speed sessions on the track for the previous six weeks. To their amazement I did run fast. Black’s track sessions had got me running better than I thought possible and I believe running at the track can do exactly the same thing for you.
Two or three weeks before I get on the track, I begin doing ‘striders’ (or ‘strides’) at the end of some of my easier runs. A ‘strider’ is just a fast run that lasts for about 100 metres. The idea is to build into the 100 metres so that by the last 25 metres, you are running at about 80 to 90%. Don’t go all out on these efforts. The idea is to get the legs moving quickly – to get some good fast turnover with the legs. I suggest doing 4×100 metre striders after an aerobic run. You can walk or jog 100 metres in between the striders to recover. This is an excellent way to get legs ready for the track.
GET ON TRACK
I always begin my track sessions about six weeks before I want to be at peak speed. There is a real science to track workouts, so I would recommend either hiring a coach with a good knowledge of this type of training, or joining a local running club that has a weekly track workout session.
If you attend a weekly track workout, make sure that it fits into your running or triathlon goals. Speak with the coach who is running the track sessions and let them know what your training and racing goals are for the season.
One note of caution when running with a group on the track: for some reason, the track brings out the racehorse in all of us. It is a workout and NOT a race! I have seen so many people get on the track and go way too hard. This can be a very dangerous thing. Going too hard on the track will be tough to recover from and often leads to serious, season ending injuries. So, leave your pride at the gate when stepping on to the track. Stick to your pace and avoid getting into a foot race.