Speed Work for Distance Runners

Coach Casey · August 17, 2021

Running fast is fun. Whether you’re a pure sprinter or a marathoner, speed is an essential training element. There are a variety of ways to train speed and even more reason why ALL runners should do speed work. All distance runners, despite the common jokes, also need to be ready and able to accelerate up to a high speed. Training speed and developing a higher top-end pace and acceleration ability doesn’t have to all be done on the track. You don’t need to spend days sprinting 200 meter repeats to develop the required speed skills for distance running.

Check out 5 easy ways to add speed training elements to your weekly regimen below and then read further for examples of a few fundamental speed workouts. 

Form drills are essential for speed work and development.

5 Ways to Add Speed Work to Your Schedule

*Check out the full details of each speed work tip HERE

1) Utilize Form Drills

Add a 5-10min warmup routine including specific, dynamic form drills before starting any run or workout. This should be done EVERY day, no matter what type of exercise or run you have planned. These drills help increase your turnover, foot speed, and mechanical soundness. 

2) Build Power Output

Speed work is not just about how fast you move your legs but it is also all about how powerful each of your strides are. Add a bodyweight lifting routine after your daily runs and begin to utilize some weighted lifts 2-3 times per week.

3) Do Strides

Strides are a simple and fundamental way to fine-tune your foot speed and acceleration no matter what length of race you’re training for. These can be short 10-15 seconds at a time, but they should be done at a HIGH speed and focusing on strong, clean running form.

Gaining flexibility is important for speed.

4) Add Quality to Normal Runs

Add a bit of extra speed work or pickups to your normal base runs. Your weekly base runs, recovery runs, and even long runs can feature a bit of speed practice without changing the primary purpose of these workouts. Simply adding a 200 meter fast finish to the end of the run, as your home comes into view, can be enough.

5) Practice Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility is equally as important to producing speed as any of the above tips. A high level of flexibility throughout your lower body will allow to more efficiently utilize your power and leg speed over longer periods of time. This will ultimately produce your high speed results.

There are a few key speed workouts for all runners!

Fundamental Speed Work for Distance Runners

Fartlek

  • 1-2 Mile Warm Up + Warm Up Drills
  • 20-40 minutes 
    • Alternate between 3-5min @ 5k race pace + equal time @ comfortably easy pace
  • 1-2 Mile Cool Down 

400 Meter Repeats

  • 1-2 Mile Warm Up + Warm Up Drills
  • 1-4 sets of 4×400 meter reps
    • Take your recent 5k race result – divide per mile pace by 4 and then subtract 5-10 seconds to find your goal 400 meter repeat pace
    • 2-3 minute rest in between reps, 5 minute rest in between every set
  • 1-2 Mile Cool Down

150 Meter Flys

  • 2-4 Mile Warm Up + Warm Up Drills
  • 6-10 reps of 150 meter flys
    • Mark off 150 meters with cones/markers at every 50 meters
    • Start line to 50 meters = Acceleration
    • 50 meters to 100 meters = Max Velocity Sprint
    • 100 meters to 150 meters = Deceleration
    • Full Rest/Recovery after each 150 meter fly
  • 1-2 Mile Cool Down

Keep adding to your speed and fitness with Charge Running! Sign up now and get unlimited access to 20+ live runs/workouts each day led by professional running coaches!

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