Today’s question is from Suzie in Oklahoma. She says:
"Speed training, especially for marathons: I laugh when people talk about getting the right time for their marathon (unless it's a marathon that you have to time into). When I run, I have no focus on my speed, I just run. Should speed be a focus for marathon training and how important is that?"
Every runner has different goals and approaches running from different points of view. Some run just for stress release, others run to set PRs. In terms of a marathon, the goal is usually to finish (in one piece). Other times it’s to qualify for Boston Marathon.
In regards to speed training, I do recommend that no matter what kind of runner you are (casual or competitive) to incorporate some kind of speed work. This will make you a stronger and healthier runner in the long run (no pun intended).
You don’t have to go super fast, but pick up the pace on at least one run per week. If you are training for a marathon, speed work will help you finish strong! Yes, the goal is to finish, but you don’t want to be out there all day :).
Speed work can be tempo runs, hill repeats, track workouts, and as simple as picking a far away object (like a mailbox or light pole or tree) and sprinting towards it. Repeat a few times.
Speed work is absolutely essential to being a better runner. Running at the same speed day in, day out puts your body in a rut. Just like eating a variety of nutrient dense foods is essential to well-being, so is varying your runs. Or think of a car. It uses different gears to get up hills. Same with our body. Running the same 5 miles every day actually can do damage in the long end. Running one speed all the time doesn’t use all the muscles needed - in fact it overuses the muscles making more prone to injury.
For marathon training, speed work is especially crucial. You are training your legs and body to keep going when all you want to do is take a nap on the side of the road. A good marathon training plan will include speed workouts, long runs, tempo runs, hill repeats, faster pace during the last 4 miles of a 20 miler - these all use different muscles and build you into a strong(er), happy, runner!
So if you haven’t varied your runs recently, go start this weekend!