The Thursday Runs: Speedwork

photo (37)

As shown in my marathon training plan there are numerous types of runs used to prepare for a race. In this series I’m breaking down the types of runs, what they mean and their purpose, and also talking about other important such running things.

I’m about a week behind in starting my speedwork, I decided to get more hill running in before starting a few weeks of speedwork. I’ve felt my tempo runs have been quite quick, so I don’t feel like I’m setting myself back by missing a week of speedwork; also, speedwork should be the least amount of running done per week, so since my tempo’s are speedy, I’m sort of accomplishing my speedwork.


(All images from John Stanton’s marathon training program)

Let’s see what our friend John has to say about speedwork (Toronto Waterfront Training Program):


This means “Speed Play”. This type of training can be a great way to break up the monotony of regular intervals.

  • A continuous session including changes of pace for various distances of the athletes choosing. Short bursts at 70-80% effort, plus recovery periods to bring the heart rate down to 120 bpm. The nature of fartlek places it in both sections, depending on how the athlete chooses to do it.


To build determination and strength. Fartlek teaches a runner to run at a varied tempo instead of locking into one pace. This will make a runner stronger over a course with varying terrain, and can help a runner learn to stay with their competitors when he or she throw a surge in the middle of a race.

The are a few different ways to perform speedwork in a running program. The one mentioned above is a fartlek where the time/distance of speed varies throughout the run. Another option is intervals where a set time/distance at a target speed/effort is performed with rest periods throughout.

From Runner’s World:


Fartlek Workouts are not only fun to say out loud, but they’re fun to run. Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play,” and that is exactly what it’s all about. Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. After a warmup, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign) followed by easy-effort running to recover. It’s fun in a group setting as you can alternate the leader and mix up the pace and time. And in doing so, you reap the mental benefits of being pushed by your buddies through an unpredictable workout. The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace.

Tempo (see also my post on tempo runs)

Tempo Workouts are like an Oreo cookie, with the warmup and cooldown as the cookie, and a run at an effort at or slightly above your anaerobic threshold (the place where your body shifts to using more glycogen for energy) as the filling. This is the effort level just outside your comfort zone—you can hear your breathing, but you’re not gasping for air. If you can talk easily, you’re not in the tempo zone, and if you can’t talk at all, you’re above the zone. It should be at an effort somewhere in the middle, so you can talk in broken words. Pace is not an effective means for running a tempo workout, as there are many variables that can affect pace including heat, wind, fatigue, and terrain. Learn how to find your threshold and run a tempo workout that is spot on every time here.


Interval Workouts are short, intense efforts followed by equal or slightly longer recovery time. For example, after a warmup, run two minutes at a hard effort, followed by two to three minutes of easy jogging or walking to catch your breath. Unlike tempo workouts, you’re running above your red line and at an effort where you are reaching hard for air and counting the seconds until you can stop—a controlled fast effort followed by a truly easy jog. The secret is in the recovery as patience and discipline while you’re running easy allows you to run the next interval strong and finish the entire workout fatigued but not completely spent. Just like rest, your body adapts and gets stronger in the recovery mode.

speed 1`

(All images from John Stanton’s marathon training program)

The marathon training program recommends 10km of fartlek work, which I find challenging for two reasons: 1) I’m running by myself and fartlek’s in groups are normally done where the leader changes to set the pace/distance and 2) I’m pretty Type A and like to know what the heck I’m getting myself into before starting my run, I find having no plan means I quit sooner.

When I was training for my half marathon the speedwork was 1mile (or 1.6km) repeats, with 1.6km at a hard effort and then active rest of 1.6km back to the starting point. This is the approach I’m taking to my speedwork for my marathon and each week I’ll increase the number of intervals ran.

speed 2

(All images from John Stanton’s marathon training program)



Half Marathon

  1:45 2:00 2:15 2:30 To complete
Tempo/Hills (min/km) 5:00 6:15 6:36 7:17 8:37
Tempo/Hills (min/mile) 8:00 10:00 10:30 11:13 13:52
LSD* (min/km) 5:33-6:16 6:56-7:47 7:19-8:12 8:03-9:00 9:29-10:53
LSD* (min/mile) 8:53-10:02 11:06-12:27 11:42-13:07 12:53-14:24 15:10-17:25
Steady (min/km) 5:33 6:56 7:19 8:03 9:29
Steady (min/mile) 8:53 11:06 11:42 12:53 15:10
Speed (min/km) 4:21 5:25 5:46 6:23 7:36
Speed (min/mile) 6:57 8:40 9:14 10:13 12:10

*note all LSD times are adjusted for a 10 minute run/1 minute walk interval, so if you’re not doing 10:1 you can adjust your times accordingly


  3:45 4:00 4:15 4:30 4:45 5:00
Tempo/Hills (min/km) 5:24 5:44 6:05 6:26 6:47 7:07
Tempo/Hills (min/mile) 8:38 9:10 9:45 10:18 10:51 11:24
LSD* (min/km) 6:00-6:45 6:22-7:11 6:45-7:45 7:08-8:00 7:30-8:25 7:52-8:49
LSD* (min/mile) 9:36-10:48 10:11-11:30 10:48-12:24 11:25-12:48 12:00-13:28 12:35-14:06
Steady (min/km) 6:00 6:22 6:45 7:08 7:30 7:52
Steady (min/mile) 9:36 10:11 10:48 11:25 12:00 12:35
Speed (min/km) 4:42 5:00 5:19 5:37 5:56 6:14
Speed (min/mile) 7:31 8:00 10:06 9:00 9:30 9:58

*note all LSD times are adjusted for a 10 minute run/1 minute walk interval, so if you’re not doing 10:1 you can adjust your times accordingly





3 thoughts on “The Thursday Runs: Speedwork

  1. Pingback: The Thursday Runs: Rest Days | Cowgirl Runs

  2. Pingback: The Thursday Runs: Tapering | Cowgirl Runs

  3. Pingback: Running Lately | Cowgirl Runs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s