There are many ways of improving your speed endurance. The ability to run for the extended period of time at a fast pace to complete a race has several components, which include:
• a high aerobic energy capacity;
• an efficient running style;
• good pace judgement, and;
• a willingness to tolerate discomfit for the time the race takes.
The following session is aimed at improving 5k race times. It could be done once a week, complementing a session that is composed of shorter distance, faster pace repetitions that are aimed at improving anaerobic capacity and power.
Warm up thoroughly before starting the interval session, then aim to do:
5 x 1000m @, first and last 100m @ 95% effort, middle 800m @ 5k target race pace, 4-6 minute recovery between intervals.
The first thing to stress is that you should be realistic about your target race pace. This is not the pace you want to be running at in 12 months time. It should be a modest, achievable, but challenging pace that you want to achieve over a period of 4-6 weeks.
By the time you have completed the session, you will have run the equivalent of a 5k race in terms of total distance. Each 1000m repetition requires that you run the first and last 100m (you can vary this from 60 to 100m, there is nothing magic about the 100m distance) at faster than race pace. The middle of the repetition is then run at what should be an aerobic pace. Why do this?
In most races, people tend to run faster than their average race pace at the start. This may be because they want to get into a good position for the rest of the race or an attempt to stay with a particular competitor. In a large field it may be a tactic to avoid congestion. It may simply be that a rush of enthusiasm overwhelms pace judgement. Whatever the reason, planned or unplanned, it happens. There is therefore a need to be able to cope with the anaerobic demand that this places on the body and not to slow below target race pace after the fast start. At the end of a race there is often the need to lift the pace to try to overtake someone or to meet a challenge from someone who is trying to do that to you. This has to be done after a period of running at what should have been the best aerobic pace you can sustain for 5km.
The set of 5 x 1000m described above is essentially training in running a 5k race. If the “middle bit” is run at your best sustainable 5k pace, it should not matter whether it is 800m or 4.8km. The fast, sustained aerobic pace, fast sequence is what you are going to have to do in a race. Check your time over the middle 800m to make sure that you do not slow below 5k race pace after the initial sprint. You want to fix this pace in your running memory as your 5k race pace. There will be a tendency to back off the pace too much the first few times you do the session as the brain tries to get the pace back into a comfort zone. Racing at your best pace isn’t comfortable and your training should help you to tolerate discomfit.
The recovery period between the repetitions should initially enable you to fully recover between repetitions. This may make things seem easier, but it has the consequence that your breathing and heart rates will fall and have to increase again when you start the next repetition. You can progressively reduce the recovery period down to around 60s when you feel comfortable about being able to complete the session. Then, set a slightly faster 5k target pace and repeat the sequence. Alternatively, you may want to try 3x2000m with the same fast start and end and the same 5k target pace and the longer recoveries.