Speedwork: Why It Matters

Training for the Blue Ox Half Marathon started this week! Similar to the Half in May, I am using a modified version of the Hal Higdon Advanced Half Marathon plan.

While training for and racing my first half marathon this spring, I learned so much about the importance of speed work and specific training runs... And how much I have lacked training intensity while training for full marathons.

With the full marathon, my main focus had been on hitting a certain amount of mileage per week. I hit the mileage but the runs lacked intensity and I had a "just get it done" mentality. Running the half has changed my training philosophy from mileage-focused to quality-focused.

If you want to race fast, you have to train fast!

Here are a few key workouts that I'm working with each week (or alternating weeks for speed/hill days). For more detailed information, check out Hal Higdon's website. I really like his plans because they are free and they have worked for me in the past.

  • Speedwork: Run 400-, 800-, or 1600-meter repeats at a specific effort (ex. 10k, 5k, or 1-mile pace) with walking or jogging in between each repeat.
  • Hills: Find a hill about 200 to 400 meters long. Run up the hill and jog/walk an equal distance in between each repeat. If you live in a hill-less area like me, try running on the treadmill with incline for repeats of 400 to 800 meters with recovery in between repeats.
  • Tempo Runs: Begin with 5-10 minutes of easy running, build speed for the mid-part of the run, and gradually slow down to an easy pace for the last 5-10 minutes. Peak near your 10k race pace.
  • Long Runs: Keep a comfortable, conversational pace on long runs and don't get hung up on hitting a specific mileage. Higdon also schedules a 3/1 run where you run the first three-fourths of the run at a conversational pace and accelerate to near race pace for the last quarter of the run.
Weekly Training Structure

MON: Speedwork OR Hill Intervals

TUES: Strength Training + Optional 3-mile run

WED: Tempo run for time

THURS: Strength Training + Optional 3-mile run

FRI: Easy OR Race Pace Run

SAT: Long run for time

Speed work and more specific training have helped even while racing with the jogging stroller this summer! Running a 7:00-min pace has been a rare occurrence for me in the past, but now I can even hit it while running with the stroller. It's not because I'm a super-fast runner - It's because speed-work works!

I look forward to running my next full marathon with this more-focused approach to long-distance training!

Approaching the 10k finish line as a family :)

What is your favorite workout?
What lessons have you learned from training?

Linking up at Tuesdays on the Run.


  1. I love Hal Higdon. I've used his plans for both of my marathons and am currently working with his intermediate 2 plan for marathons (even though I may not run an actual marathon this fall LOL).

    Thanks for linking up with our Tuesdays on the Run link up. Next week's topic is fueling on the run and we appreciate links back to the link up.

    1. Hope training goes well for you! I look forward to linking up again this week!

  2. I've looked at Hal Higdon's plans before but I hadn't picked up on the 3/1 technique. I really like that approach to the long run and I'm going to try it out next time! Thanks for linking up with us today!

    1. Thanks, April! The 3/1 technique has been really helpful for me.


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