Marathon training means a lot of miles spent running slowly. There are certainly some speed workouts peppered into training, but the bulk of your mileage is done at a moderate pace.
While key speed workouts are an important aspect of any marathon training plan, and a great way to improve your foot speed, there’s another way to keep your mileage high while improving getting faster. It’s call post-run strides.
Post-run strides only add about ten minutes to your run and can make a world of difference over the course of a build. The post-run stride is done after a longer run where you maintained a similar pace throughout. Find, preferably, a softer surface to do five to six accelerations. These roughly 100m strides, when done a few times a week, will hugely impact your foot speed by the end of a 12- to 16-week build.
Kate Van Buskirk is a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in the 1,500m and a two-time national champion. She’s used post-run strides to help her get fast throughout her running career. “I’ve found that the benefits of post-run strides are three-fold. First, they help teach your legs to turn over quickly when they’re fatigued, like at the end of a race or when throwing in a mid-race surge. Second, they are a sneaky way to get in some extra speed and form work without having to dedicate an entire training session to the track. Finally, changing up the stimulus can add more pep to your step, especially over time.”
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She cites the importance of mixing up the speed you run at to keep you strong. “When I’m in my base-training phase [usually 100K per week] and my main focus is on building mileage, I find I can get stuck in a “shuffle” stride pattern when I’m running approximately the same pace all the time. Taking the extra five minutes to throw in some gentle, post-run strides at a higher intensity and increased cadence leaves me feeling lighter and faster not only in the moment, but also throughout my training cycle.”
How to do them
After your run, take a couple of minutes to slow your heart rate: walk around, do some light skips or stretches, and have a drink of water. Find a relatively flat, straight stretch of road or grass, ideally without car or pedestrian traffic. Begin by running just faster than your easy run pace, and gradually progress the intensity to approximately 80 per cent of your all-out effort. Gradually decelerate towards the end of the stride to prevent injuries incurred by stopping abruptly from a fast pace.
Van Buskirk says, “I do 30-second strides and break them down into three segments: 10 seconds acceleration, 10 seconds at 80% intensity, 10 seconds deceleration. Take about one minute of walking rest after each stride. Repeat four to six times.”