The track can be an intimidating place. Most runners identify as either road runners or trackies, and it’s difficult to encourage the two types of runners to mingle. But, spending time on the track can help make you faster, regardless of the distance you enjoy running.
The track provides a softer surface for runners, giving the body a break from pounding the pavement. It’s also a place away from traffic, where runners can focus on their workout, not avoiding cars. Runners are creatures of habit, and doing some track work is a great way to switch up your workout. Variation in workouts helps avoid getting bored by running the same route over and over again. Because most tracks have marked distances, it’s easy to set goals for yourself, and monitor your improvement.
Many of the best elite road runners use track work to improve their speed over the half and even full marathon distances. Rachel Cliff has run many under distance races in 2018, which has served her well. She was crowned the Canadian 10K Champion last weekend, and also holds the Canadian half-marathon record.
Here are some ideas of how to start incorporating track work into your weekly routine:
- Start with strides. A stride is a 60-100m “pick-up” that is usually done before a workout or race. When you’re just starting out, instead of doing strides before your run, consider adding them onto the end. Finish your run at a track, and try three to four strides. Don’t time them, just run by feel. The pace should be somewhere between sprinting and your running pace. The goal is to feel smooth and in-control.
- Add some intervals. Once you’re comfortable with strides, and they begin to feel easier, consider adding some 200m intervals. Start with 2x200m repeats. Take about four minutes between each. Don’t worry about pace at first – just see how running a little faster, for a shorter period of time feels.
- Try a workout. After you’ve got the 200m repeat down, try 5x200m and take two minutes between each. By starting with strides, and then intervals before working your way up to a full-fledged workout, you should have an idea and the pace you can hold. The goal is to be able to complete all five repeats, so make sure you’re starting at a challenging pace, but not so difficult that you won’t be able to complete the workout.