/ Marathon: any point in short intervals?

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Mark Torrance on 16 Mar 2012
Several interesting threads about intervals recently. I thought I'd start another:

I want a quick (by my standards) marathon time, and have no 5k or 10k aspirations. I've got plenty of base miles. My typical midweek sessions since January has involved something intervals not shorter than 1 mile (so 6 x 1 miles at about 6:20/m this week with 3 miles slow either side).

I've noticed I have "speed" written at the top of my schedule in a couple of weeks time. Any benefit from doing some shorter, faster intervals? If so, why?
Anonymous on 16 Mar 2012 - cpc7-brad20-2-0-cust85.barn.cable.virginmedia.com
In reply to Mark Torrance:

I've done 70-odd marathons. I did 2:52 aged 41. (I'm 60 now)

I think the relevant quote is:

"If you can do a 5-minute mile, you can do 6-minute miles all bloody day."

Dunno who said it, mind, but it's very, very true.

Realising the importance of speed sessions kicked my running onto the next level, definitely.

CJ.
alicia - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:

Yes, definitely--look up Yasso 800s.
alicia - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:

p.s. I just noticed you were doing 3 miles slow in between your mile intervals--that sounds like too much recovery; could you have about 800m rest instead? When I do 5 minute intervals, I do 3 minutes of recovery in between.
Liam M - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to alicia:
> (In reply to Mark Torrance)
>
> p.s. I just noticed you were doing 3 miles slow in between your mile intervals--that sounds like too much recovery; could you have about 800m rest instead? When I do 5 minute intervals, I do 3 minutes of recovery in between.

I assumed that was a typo (3mins maybe) otherwise the interval sessions would be 24miles +.

I don't know if there is any specific advantage to shorter reps/intervals compared to miles, though I think I'd find it psychologically useful to have a few shorter intervals to stop me turning into a one pace runner.

I can imagine 200m sprint intervals might be of less use, though no doubt some coaching schools disagree.
Alan Breck on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: I certainly wouldn't do anything shorter than 800m. Mile intervals are good. As long as you can keep them all about the same time. I.e. No point in doing one at say 5 mins if the rest are at say 6.5 mins. Rest....aim eventually for about half of your interval time. Take longer if you're not doing the reps at a similar time.

Best of luck with the marathon. If it's your first don't go balls out and then blow up. Whatever way you look at it it's a fairly long way.
IainRUK - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Yeah agree with the others. 800m, k's, 1200's miles, and possibly 2k's are great reps..

The odd 200m > 400m session is OK as it shows you what pace you can run and just gets you to run faster.

But the bulk of your workouts should be 800's > 1 milers.. but one session a week, then maybe hills or 3-4 mile tempo runs..

I mix longish runs at tempo's.. so 3-4 miles steady.. 2 miles tempo, 2 miles easy, 2 miles tempo.. 3-4 miles steady. It helps the miles go.

But if you are marathon training a hard long run is an effort session in itself so take it easy and don't do 2-3 hard sessions a week until you stabilise at a set mileage, i.e. don't run shattered all the time..

Quick 5k > 10k's should definitly be part of your training programme, get you used to racing, pace estimation, provide confidence but also provide good honest hard sessions.

IainRUK - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Liam M:
> (In reply to alicia)
> [...]
>
> I assumed that was a typo (3mins maybe) otherwise the interval sessions would be 24miles +.
>
> I don't know if there is any specific advantage to shorter reps/intervals compared to miles, though I think I'd find it psychologically useful to have a few shorter intervals to stop me turning into a one pace runner.
>

A good fun session is 4 x 200m, 200m jog, then 3 x 1k reps.. then 2 x 400's to end.. it provides a decent mileage, around 15 minutes of efforts, but passes quickly and is good to start your early season sessions with before you move onto the 8 x 8's stuff.

I do yasso's occassionally 800's in 2:35ish, 400 job in 2:35 ish, so match and repeat 8 times. But normally do them off 4 mins, so 800 hard, 80-90 sec standing rest..
Mark Torrance on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to alicia:
> p.s. I just noticed you were doing 3 miles slow in between your mile intervals--that sounds like too much recovery;

That would be an interesting (and rather long) session. I actually meant 3 miles warmup, 6 miles reps with about .25 mile jog recovery, 3 miles warmdown. This varies, but reps are always 1 mile or multiples thereof.
alicia - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:

That does make a bit more sense:)
outtathaway - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Anonymous:
> (In reply to Mark Torrance)

> "If you can do a 5-minute mile, you can do 6-minute miles all bloody day."


does 6the same kind of principle apply to cycling?

Mark Torrance on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to all:

Thanks. This has got me motivated. I can't get to a track session easily, but the park has a 1 mile loop and I can get my watch to beep on 1/4 miles.

So next week I have the following pencilled in

400 x 4 in 90s with 60s recovery
800 x 2 in 3:05 with 2min recovery
1600 x 1 in 6:20 with 3min recovery
800 x 2 in 3:05 with 2min recovery
400 x 4 in 90s with 60s recovery

which looks like similar effort to 6 x 1 mile in 6:20, which I know and I can manage. Does that look sensible? Too much?



Alan Breck on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Everybody's different so what suited me might not suit you. From my point of view I would say that it's too much especially if you've only done mile intervals prior to the proposed session. You would have to look carefully at the possible injury if "jumping in" to speed work.

I'd break it up into two different sessions a few days apart...recovery time is important. Perhaps miles in one session & say 400s in another.

As regards your proposed times you would really have to think about your end goal. If it's under three hours then you'll have to get quicker.
IainRUK - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: It's OK as a marathon runner you want volume, but I'd keep it simpler... maybe a tad heavy... drop to 4 miles of efforts, that's 5 miles of efforts..

8 x 8's.. 5 x 12's.. 4 x 16's..

IainRUK - on 16 Mar 2012
In reply to Alan Breck: Yeah a mate who has just ran 2:56 was running 2:55's..


Your 800's time is remarkably close to your marathon time.. hence yasso 800's..

Mark Torrance on 17 Mar 2012
In reply to Alan / Iain:

Thanks. I really value your input

Those times are from MacMillan based on a 1:30:40 half (my only race time, from last weekend on an undulating course) / 3:10 marathon (my marathon wish time, though I'll settle for 3:15). Sub 3 is beyond me, I think.

I'll reduce the distance to 4 miles. Although I can manage, and quite enjoy, big midweek sessions, I end up shattered at the weekend, with a resulting loss of quality (as evidenced by a rubbish hill session this morning). I also take the point about injury. The mile reps I've been doing have all been solidly aerobic, I think. Faster is kind of unknown territory.


wbo - on 19 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: An honest piece of advice for a faster marathon would be to regain an interest in the shorter races. They are useful in so many ways - you will learn to race, and they will function very nicely as a longer speed session (a 10 mile race will effecctively be a 10 mile tempo run for you).
Also it is nice to have intermediate targets, and if (like mine consistently were) the marathon is a ball's up at least you got some decent runs in on the way. Very, very few people can run a good marathon without some kind of intermediate races, and novice racers are least likely to do so.
Mark Torrance on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to wbo:

I don't like shorter races (in my very limited experience) because they are painful. I'm guessing that kind of makes your point.

Have I understood this Yasso thing correctly? If I can run 800m in less that 3 minutes I can claim a sub 3 marathon? I'm thinking that would save a lot of hassle.
The New NickB - on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:

Surely all races hurt, just not always in the same way.
Mark Torrance on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to The New NickB:

True. Short-race pain is wrong pain, though.
IainRUK - on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: If you can do 8 - 10 of them... with a matched rest..

Most seem to think its not totally accurate, its just roughly.. I reckon its 5 minutes out.. maybe a touch more..

I run sub 2:35 for 800's, if pushed I'll run sub 2:30 but my pb is 2:42 for a relatively hilly marathon.
Alan Breck on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: I wouldn't get too hung up on the Yasso thing if I were you. If you put everything together well. I.e. the long runs, the tempo runs, the intervals etc etc then you should be ready for the event.

I was told two things that I found useful:
1) Some of us are blessed with a Ferrari engine & some of us are blessed with a Volkswagen engine. You might never beat the Ferrari but if you train well then you might not be far off.
2) Run your first marathon just to see what it's like. Once you've got the distance sussed then you can race your next event.

I always though that I had the Volks engine but I put a lot into the training. First event was 3.08.32. My last event was as a vet & I had overtrained was 2.40.04.

Just enjoy it.
IainRUK - on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:
> (In reply to The New NickB)
>
> True. Short-race pain is wrong pain, though.

I'm not sure it is.. I don't think they are needed though.. a mate just did 2:55/2:56 off no races despite us all telling him otherwise..

I thought he'd struggle but he's an honest trainer. I'm not. I need races for confidence but also hard tempo sessions. This year I've ran pb's at every distance I've raced. So I know I'm fitter than I have been..

But I'm shattered too. i can't wait for Boston to come and I can get back on soft trails and grass.. I've not rested for any races and still ran better times, so I think come the day, if I run a smart race 2:38 ish is possible.. but we'll see... I'm yet to run a clever well paced marathon..
Mark Torrance on 20 Mar 2012
In reply to Alan Breck:


Unfortunately, this is the next event. It's the last one I'm ever going to do. So I want a good time. Then I can relax and go back to just running and the odd fell race where times don't matter.

I said exactly the same thing last year, of course.
Alan Breck on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:
>
>
> Unfortunately, this is the next event. It's the last one I'm ever going to do. So I want a good time. Then I can relax and go back to just running and the odd fell race where times don't matter.
>
> I said exactly the same thing last year, of course.

Ah I see. All eggs.....one basket. You're probably not going to win the event then so no point in worrying too much. What you put in you'll get out. Have fun.

Mark Torrance on 21 Mar 2012

So, do all eight of these 8 x 800 need to be done on the same day?

I managed 2:50, 2:45, 2:52, 2:50 this morning, but now need a bit of a lie down.

I realised that I have no clue how to pace these.
mountainbagger - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Yes, all 8 in a row with at least 2 mins rest between them maybe longer - i.e. the length of time you took to run one. Those times are pretty good though - nice one! Just need to do another 4 in the same session...
mountainbagger - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to mountainbagger: On my attempt at 8 x 800, with 1'30 rests (so, not long enough), I had an average time of about 2:55, but my best marathon time is 3:25. I've only run 3, 2 competitively both on hot days with lots of mistakes regarding drinking and eating during the race. I still don't believe I can do sub-3 though even on a good day. I reckon I might be able to squeeze out 3:10 - 3:15.

Maybe the 800s times mean that I have the potential to do sub-3 and I need to believe it and train harder!
Mark Torrance on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to mountainbagger:

Bugger. I thought maybe something like 4x(800,3mins rest,800m,24hrs rest).

Seriously, though, I could probably have managed a couple more at around that pace but was tightening up alarmingly and didn't want to do any damage. I'm just not used to running at anaerobic threshold (I guess that that's what these are). Also, I'm sure this was too quick. I might have been able to sustain 3:00 but I've no idea how to pace that. Easier in a group, I guess.
mountainbagger - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Have you got a running watch, like a Garmin or something? That keeps me "on pace" and also makes me run a little harder when I'm starting to flag, just to stay "on pace". It does mean I'm sometimes running an 800m just staring at the watch half the time, which is probably dangerous as I do them on roads/pavements, not at the track! People also probably think I'm a bit odd when I sprint past them, then collapse in a heap a few metres ahead of them, then do it again 2 minutes later.

I think as you interval train more regularly (once a week), the tightness might improve. That and some stretching maybe, but I'm no expert on that!
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Jim at Work on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Don't know if this is of any interest - I don't know what time you plan on, so maybe I'm way off your pace but.. Years ago i did a 2.55 time in my mid forties off the back of maxing at 45 miles a week for a few weeks (I also pulled a muscle after 7 miles, which slowed me a bit :( ). My speed work was simply to run at one minute a mile pace faster than normal for half a mile or so during one of my medium distance mid-week runs, say at mile 4 of a 7 mile run. I felt this worked really well.
Mark Torrance on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Jim at Work:

No, that's just depressing! Could you pretend that that was a typo and that you were actually in your mid twenties?
Mark Torrance on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to mountainbagger:

Yes, I have a Garmin. I just need a better strategy for using it to pace these. Running looking constantly looking at "current pace" has too much of a negative effect on my current pace.

All good fun, though.
Liam M - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Could you set up a preset pace window into it, so if you move outside the window it beeps at you? I'm sure I've seen that in the instructions at some point, but can't recall the detail.
Mark Torrance on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Liam M:
> (In reply to Mark Torrance) Could you set up a preset pace window into it, so if you move outside the window it beeps at you?

Yes, definitely possible (on a 305, at least). I think though it's more about working out how running faster intervals should feel - what's useful and what's damaging and so forth. At the moment I wouldn't really know what window to set.
strudles - on 21 Mar 2012
I once passed out after a Yasso 800 session on the track.

so a thumbs up from me :)

Clint86 - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: For the two /three years I did speed work I did it within a group and it made a massive difference. I ran sessions I couldn't have come close to on my own.
mountainbagger - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: Oh I see what you mean. I found a thing a long time ago on the runners world website where you put in a recent race time and it tells you what pace to run the various interval sessions at. Here's a few weeks worth of interval sessions (one a week) for a marathon training plan (I haven't shown the other training runs below) with the suggested pace windows for someone with a 10K time of just over 40mins:

8 x 400m 5:30 - 5:55
4 x 1200m 5:45 - 6:10
6 x 800m 5:40 - 6:05
3 x 1600m 5:50 - 6:15
10 x 400m 5:30 - 5:55
5 x 1200m 5:45 - 6:10
7 x 800m 5:40 - 6:05
3 x 1600m 5:50 - 6:15
12 x 400m 5:30 - 5:55
8 x 800m 5:40 - 6:05
4 x 1600m 5:50 - 6:15
12 x 400m 5:30 - 5:55
6 x 1200m 5:45 - 6:10
7 x 800m 5:40 - 6:05
3 x 1600m 5:50 - 6:15

For 400m sessions I am close to the lower pace (5:30), but the mile sessions I struggle to get them under the upper pace (6:15), so I think I need to work on those more (but I don't like them).
mountainbagger - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: As to how they should feel - well, I guess you shouldn't push it if your muscles are tightening up, but in terms of breathing, you should be pretty maxed out but able to do all the intervals in a single session (with equivalent time or distance rests) and maintain the pace even in the last interval - so this is the one to puke up after. Until you've done a few sessions I think you will nearly always do the first ones too fast and be hanging on for grim death on the last few. With mile intervals, I find them all hard except the first one. But 400m ones I can keep boshing them out (well, up to a point). I would err on the slower pace side until you are comfortably doing them each week and not destroying your other training runs in the process.
chris bedford - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:
> (In reply to mountainbagger)
>
>Running looking constantly looking at "current pace" has too much of a negative effect on my current pace.
>

If you haven't done much speedwork on the track before, you'll get much better at judging what pace you're running at with practise. If on my own I tend to just glance at my watch every 200m which gives me an idea of whether I'm on target or not. But doing it with a group (eg. local running club) is by far the best way, for motivation and pacing (having done 7x800 off 5 minutes last night.....).
IainRUK - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to mountainbagger: A Yasso you traditionally match it, I slow jog 400 which works out the same and adds vulume...

Last night we did 3 sets of 600m effort, 100m jog, x 4, with a 400m job between each set, holding 4:55 sort of pace. Brutal session.

A friend here just ran 2:46 of 30 mile weeks in his early 40's.. but he's a gifted runner.

Mark Torrance on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to IainRUK:

Look, can we quit with the "I know someone who trained by running around the block a couple of times, but managed a world class time, despite having only one lung" stories.

If I can get a London good-for-age time (not that I ever want to actually run it) I will be happy, damn it!

And while we're at it, can we also avoid anything that gets me thinking "too late for this one, but maybe next time...".

On the club-running thing. I just can't fit this into my week. Completely agree, though. The couple of shorter-interval flat sessions I've done with with the club this year were both quick (by my standards) and fun.

mountainbagger - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to IainRUK: Brutal indeed!

Was that your friend's best ever marathon time? If so, that's inspiring stuff!
IainRUK - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to mountainbagger:
> (In reply to IainRUK) Brutal indeed!
>
> Was that your friend's best ever marathon time? If so, that's inspiring stuff!

Yeah, but he's gifted.. very quick short distance runner..

Totally agree Mark.. we all have exceptions.. but running is like that, what works for one doesn't work for others.. I think you start with what works for 90% and go from there..
IainRUK - on 21 Mar 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance: You won't like to hear this.. but that's what marathons and marathon training is like..

You learn. You learn in the training, you learn in the race. So that's why I wouldn't set your heart on no more. I'm down to 2:42 but have yet to run anything like a sensible race..

A mate for his first ran 1:14:35, 1:14:30 as his splits.. 2:29.. now he's running 80+ mile weeks, and a 1:10 half marathoner, former college funded athlete, but very very few will get a marathon so right off the bat..

I just think you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself to get this one right..

I've ran 3:03 (Snowdonia 08), 3:01 (Snowdonia 09), 2:57 (Snowdonia 10), 2:53 (Loch Ness 10), 2:51 (Snowdonia 11), 2:50 (Kiel 10), 2:46 (Dallas 09), 2:42 (Austin 12).

Only 2 of those have been adequate in terms of on the day performance, with Ok splits.. still a good 3-4 minutes off equals.

Loch Ness was a 1:22 and 1:31 split.. I should have been able to run a 2:48 at least in my sleep there... so the training is only part of the battle..



Mark Torrance on 22 Mar 2012
In reply to IainRUK:

Yes (to the learning thing). In fact, stronger, I'm thinking that for me it's the learning, and associated spreadsheet geekery, that's the interesting and rewarding part of this marathon thing. The times themselves have no value (and like someone said it's not like I'm going to win anything) and even the running is pretty unispiring - I'm running tired most of the time and a lot of it is city pavement.

With 36 hour days and limitless energy I would book in for an Autumn marathon now, and see each race as part of a progression rather than an end point. The problem is that it's so all-consuming, or at least consuming of all that's left after work and family. Partly the time actually on the road, but also mentally.

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