Training paces and cake
Running training is a lot like a layer cake, bear with me as I combine two of my favourite things to explain all about why training for different distances of running events varies!
Many runners I meet to work with individually or through this brilliant running club are doing most of their running at around the same pace - and often that pace isn’t gentle enough to properly build endurance base, but at the same time isn’t fast enough to improve speed.
The quickest way to improve your running is to work on different running paces in different sessions. This also allows you to work on different aspects of your fitness in each training session, and gives variety to your training which makes things more interesting and challenging; physically and mentally!
Different training paces have different goals; from conversational, gentle long runs to build endurance to flat out sprints for top end speed, power and good running form. Just doing a few different paces and adding variety into your running will benefit you and your running, almost regardless of what exactly you do, and especially if you do most of your running at one pace at the moment/the rest of the time.
When it comes to training for a specific distance goal the shapes of the cakes and the sizes of the layers start to change; so you spend different amounts of time training at different paces so your sessions throughout the week will be different, and more specific to the event you are training for. The speed work session you do each week also varies in terms of the paces, durations and distances you work at for different goals and event distances. It’s a sliding scale, and it’s still true to say that any speed work will improve your running, but a speed session for a 5k will look (and feel!) quite different to the sort of sessions you do for a marathon.
Marathon speed work spends very little time working at top end speed, perhaps a little sprinkling or non at all. Your gentle long run pace makes up the bulk of your miles and your speed work is a little lower effort level but you have to hold on for longer distance or duration of reps.
For half marathons the balance starts to shift and the middle layers of your cake become a little more important. Effort level for speed work increases, and duration/distance drops a little. Faster mid week runs in the middle layers of the cake become more important.
For the 10k the cake looks much more like a tower, with the size of the layers getting closer together. The focus for speed work sessions shifts much more towards the top two effort levels as top end speed becomes more important. To get the most out of your training faster pace mid week runs are key training sessions now, in addition to speed work.
The 5k cake look very different, especially when you compare it to the marathon and half marathons! You’ll be spending a lot of your time in training at the higher effort levels, distance or runs is not as important as pace. Your speed work will be fast and furious a lot of the time and most of your other runs in the week will have different pacing elements to them.
I hope this helps to explain why training plans and speed work sessions look and feel quite different for the different distance events!