This is a classic workout that tests your muscular and metabolic abilities to go at a good clip for a good long time.
6x 1 mile @ your 10k race pace (2mins recovery jogs)
Terrain: Flat, measurable pathway.
Feels: Time in the zone.
The length of this workout makes the end goal and the way that you approach it very similar to a tempo run. We’re after time-on-feet here to develop not only your muscular ability to run a good clip for a long time but also train body to process the fuel needed to get you there.
Runners have done this exact workout for decades, so why is it such a classic? Mile intervals are designed to test your body’s ability to endure. They shouldn’t feel difficult when you set out, but the fatigue mounts as you go—each interval getting a little harder than the one before. In this way, the workout beautifully replicates the sort of fatigue you’re going to feel in a half marathon or marathon.
First point, keep a lid on that pace for the first few intervals by setting off imagining that you’re doing a tempo run but you’re just including some 2-minute recovery jogs along the way.
Second point, if your 10k time if 50 minutes or more, just do 4-5 mile reps today so you’re not out there for too long. This session is a long one!
THOUGHT-FOR-THE-WEEK: WHAT’S HARDER, THE MILE, THE MARATHON OR ULTRAS?
This is a classic topic for a runners’ fireside chat or backyard banter. There’s no real right answer but it’s fun to ask the question so we can better understand what makes each event unique. So, here are my thoughts …
The Mile: Of almost all the marathon runners that I’ve coached and have convinced to race first mile, they agree that the mile is more painful. But it’s only painful for a minute or two. That pain is super intense and then disappears fast, leaving you feeling pretty good for the rest of the day.
Also, the pre-race nerves of a mile race are like nothing else. On the start line, you know that incredible pain is only a lap or two away and that dread is enough to bring your lunch up!
The Marathon: Unlike the mile, I feel so relaxed and chilled before a marathon. If you’ve trained right, you know you’ve got at least an hour of quality running ahead of you before it will get tough. But then the screws tighten … And, boy, do they tighten!
The final 10k of a well-paced marathon is horrific. It’s like you have the flu; you’re overheating and dehydrated or maybe over hydrated or just hungry … it’s hard to know what’s wrong, everything is sore. All you know is that something is wrong and you HAVE TO finish. And, unlike the mile, once you do finish, the pain lingers, for hours, days and weeks.
Ultras: I’ve never done an ultra-marathon personally, so I’m not super qualified to say anything other than via second-hand knowledge from athletes I’ve coached. The thing with the ultra is that just finishing is a big part of the challenge—it’s much less about speed. As such, it’s the niggly things that make your day especially hard: the blisters, the cramping, that troublesome IT band, the old man hobble you developed at the halfway mark.
Then there’s the training with ultras: runs measured in multiple hours rather than minutes, double long run weekends, running in the dark, being called “crazy runner guy” from your workmates.
Overall, it’s very difficult to pick a winner for hardest. They each have their own uniquely beautiful elements of suffering. But if I have to choose, I would have to say a road marathon where you have to drop a crazy fast last mile to get a new personal best. Trouble is, if you hit the PB, it suddenly goes from the hardest day of your life to one of the best … so go figure! We’re runners. We’re all mad and all suckers for punishment.