This is the most overlooked and under utilized type of training, yet has the potential to significantly improve your marathon performance. Whether you are a novice or advanced, I highly recommend that you spend one session per week in your marathon build-up phase to interval training.
Last May I posted this short article comparing intervals to tempo training. Compared to the tempo trained group, interval runners experienced a much larger increase in V02 Max. How does this translate to a better marathon?
Along with a rise in V02, your anaerobic threshold (that speed or heart rate at which you begin to produce lactic acid) also receives a boost. That means you can run comfortably at a slightly faster pace.
I also find long intervals (800 meters) the most effective way get my body accustomed to faster-paced racing. 800 meter repeats are more intense than tempo training, and as the number of repetitions build, so does my ability to race at a faster pace. This is the workout that I also use to work on running form. Staying relaxed and minimizing energy cost while running fast takes practice!
What I really like about intervals is the opportunity to vary the workout several different ways. You can increase the number, decrease the rest interval, lengthen the interval distance, or increase the speed. You can always introduce ladder workouts (200, 400, 600, 800) or pyramids (200, 400, 600, 800, 600, 400, 200).
Here is a sample 12 week progression for introducing interval training to your marathon build-up.
Week 12..... 6 x 400, rest 2 minute between reps.
Week 11..... 8 x 400, rest 2 minute between reps.
Week 10..... 6 x 400, rest 90 sec between reps.
Week 9...... 8 x 400, rest 90 sec between reps.
Week 8...... 4 x 800, rest 2 min between reps.
Week 7...... 6 x 800, rest 2 min between reps.
Week 6...... 8 x 400, 5 sec faster than week 1, rest 9 sec between reps
Week 5...... 6 x 800, rest 90 sec between reps
Week 4...... 10 x 400, rest 90 sec between reps (same pace as week
Week 3...... 8 x 800, rest 2 min between reps
Week 2...... 6 x 800, rest 2 min between reps
Week 1...... 4 x 800, rest 2 min between reps
You want to be fresh for this workout,so schedule an easy workout or take off the day before. I've found that you can easily do a long easy run the day following this workout.
If you've never heard of Yasso 800s, then read this! from runnersworld.com
(c) Dave Elger 2008 All rights reserved