Marathon training is an intricate blend of endurance, speed, and strategy. While long runs and consistent mileage lay the foundation, incorporating speed workouts into your training regimen is essential to enhance your pace, stamina, and race-day performance. In this article, we’ll explore the best speed workouts for marathon training. These are tried and true workouts that have helped thousands of armature and pro runners reach their marathon goals. Whether you’re aiming for a personal record or simply looking to improve your marathon experience, these workouts can help you reach your goals.
The 10 Best Speed Workouts for Marathon Training
Key Takeaways Before You Start
- Incorporate a variety of speed workouts to develop different aspects of your running performance.
- Focus on completing the workouts with proper form and technique, prioritizing volume over extreme speed.
- Gradually increase the intensity and volume of speed workouts to avoid overtraining and injury.
- Use speed workouts to simulate race conditions, practice pacing, and enhance race-day strategy.
- Adapt these workouts to your fitness level and tailor them to your specific marathon goals.
1. Cruise Intervals
Jack Daniels’ “cruise intervals” offer a gentle introduction to intense marathon training. Run 6 to 8 sets of 1,000 meters at a pace between 10K and 15K race pace. Take a 200-meter recovery jog between each repeat. Start at a slightly slower pace and progress to your target pace over the sets.
Benefit: Cruise intervals introduce your body to higher intensities without causing excessive fatigue. Running at 10K to 15K pace improves your aerobic capacity, trains your body to clear lactic acid more efficiently, and builds running economy.
2. Tempo Intervals
Extend your repeat distance in Workout 2 to 2,000 meters, maintaining a strong, steady pace. Run 4 to 5 sets with a 400-meter recovery jog. Begin at half marathon pace and progress towards 10K race pace.
Benefit: Tempo intervals extend the time you spend at a challenging pace. This workout enhances your lactate threshold, allowing you to sustain a faster pace for longer periods. Gradually progressing your pace improves your body’s ability to handle fatigue and maintain speed.
3. Yasso 800s
An iconic workout named after Bart Yasso, this workout aids fitness improvement and predicts marathon potential. Run 8 to 10 sets of 800 meters at your goal marathon time, followed by an equal time recovery jog. Focus on hitting your target time consistently.
Benefit: Yasso 800s provide both fitness improvement and a potential marathon time predictor. Running at your goal marathon pace improves your familiarity with the desired pace and builds mental and physical resilience for race day.
4. Tempo Run or Progressive Run
Stretch the tempo run to 5 to 7 miles, starting slightly slower than half marathon pace and progressing to slightly faster than half marathon pace. Prioritize completing the distance over extreme speed.
Benefit: Tempo runs are essential for enhancing your ability to manage race pace for extended distances. Gradually progressing your pace over 5 to 7 miles teaches your body to adapt to different levels of intensity and fatigue.
5. Goal Pace Run
Practice race-day pacing by running 8 to 12 miles at your marathon goal pace. This not only familiarizes you with your desired pace but also enhances your economy and endurance.
Benefit: Goal pace runs simulate race conditions and fine-tune your pacing strategy. Running at marathon pace for 8 to 12 miles enhances your stamina, trains your body to utilize energy more efficiently, and refines your sense of pace.
6. Fartlek Run
After a warm up, vary your pace with 8 to 10 sets of 2-minute bursts at 5K effort, followed by 1-minute recovery jogs. This “speed play” boosts your marathon pace perception and early-race comfort.
Benefit: Fartlek runs improve your body’s ability to switch between different paces. Varying your effort level with short bursts followed by recovery jogs mimics race scenarios, teaching your body to maintain a comfortable pace even after surges.
Improve running economy and build your VO2 max by completing 16 to 20 sets of 400 meters at 5K pace or slightly faster. Take a full lap jog between repetitions to accumulate fatigue resistance.
Benefit: Quarters are an effective way to enhance running economy, VO2 max, and fatigue resistance. Repeatedly running at 5K pace or faster improves your oxygen utilization and builds strength for the latter stages of a marathon.
8. Interval Training
Alternate high-intensity running with recovery periods. Start with shorter intervals (e.g., 400 meters) and gradually increase the number of sets and interval distance. This workout enhances speed and cardiovascular fitness.
Benefit: Interval training enhances both speed and cardiovascular fitness. Alternating high-intensity efforts with recovery periods boosts your anaerobic capacity, increasing your overall running performance.
9. Hill Repeats
Sprint uphill for 30 to 60 seconds, followed by a recovery period. Typically until your heart rate comes back a zone 2 rate or below. Repeat for several sets to build strength, power, and speed.
Benefit: Hill repeats are a strength-building workout that complements marathon training. Sprinting uphill improves muscle power, enhances running form, and translates into improved efficiency on flat terrain.
10. Mile Repeats
Add mile repeats to your regular runs. Run a mile at a fast pace, followed by an 800-meter recovery jog. This simple yet effective workout helps integrate speed training into your routine.
Benefit: Mile repeats offer an opportunity to blend speed work with regular runs. Running a mile at a fast pace followed by recovery builds your capacity for faster-paced efforts within longer distances.
Closing Thoughts on the Best Speed Workouts for Marathon Training
Integrating this list of the best speed workouts for marathon training can transform your journey from ordinary to extraordinary. Remember that marathon training is a long-term commitment that requires patience, consistency, and careful planning. As you lace up your shoes for each speed session, you’re not just building speed; you’re building mental fortitude, discipline, and resilience.
Moreover, the benefits of these workouts extend beyond race day. They mold you into a more complete and confident runner, capable of tackling not only the marathon distance but also any running challenge you encounter. Embrace the discomfort, celebrate your achievements in training, and trust the process. With a well-rounded training approach that includes these carefully selected speed workouts, you’re well on your way to crossing that marathon finish line stronger and faster than ever before. Your journey towards your marathon goal is an inspiring story waiting to be written, one speed workout at a time.