A blog by runners. For runners.

Speedwork for beginners (or stubborn veterans)


I’ve never been great with doing hard workouts to get the results I ultimately want to see on the clock at the finish line. But I know getting better requires work. Slowly, I have come to understand and accept this fact. I’ve been trying to incorporate more speedwork into my regular training routine.

It’s not always easy to know where to start, so I asked my husband — who has much more discipline than I do, as well as all the crazy fast PRs to show it — to give me some speed workouts for the 5K, 10K, and half marathon distances (marathons are another beast entirely).

Here’s what he shared:


400 meter repeats at a gut-busting, slightly faster than mile pace (think about the kick you get at the end of a race — that fast). In the first week of your training, start with just 4 repeats separated by equal time recovery (if the 400 meters took you 2 minutes, rest 2 minutes). Increase up to 10 to 12, depending on the length of your training cycle and goal.

Fartleks. Warm up with an easy mile. Run for 20 minutes alternating between a.) 30 seconds at 20 seconds per mile faster than 5K pace and b.) 30 seconds at an easy/recovery pace. Cool down with another slow mile. This one simulates the beginning and ending of the 5K race, when you might be going faster due to all that adrenaline.


800 meter repeats at 5K pace (or, if you’re new to speedwork, your goal 10K pace). As with the 400 repeats, you’ll want to start easy with just 4 total and build to 8 – 10 repeats, separated by equal time recovery. To increase the challenge, only rest for half the time it took you to complete the 800 meter distance, which will emulate the muscle fatigue you’ll experience late in your race.

Floating tempo run. Warm up with one mile easy. Run a mile at tempo pace (basically your 10K pace plus 10 seconds). Easy jog for 1 minute. Then another mile at your tempo pace. Start with 3 miles like this and build over the course of your training to 6. Don’t forget to jog it out with an easy mile afterward.

Half marathon

Tempo workout, consisting of a mile easy warmup, then anywhere from 3 to 8 miles of “comfortably hard” pace, and another mile cool down. Comfortably hard, in more specific terms, is threshold pace. It’s a speed where you cannot hold a conversation, possibly your half marathon goal pace or even 10 seconds faster.

Mile repeats at 10K pace. Recover with 800 meters of easy jogging in-between them. Start with 3 or 4 repeats and work up to doing 6 or 7. They sound tame, but these guys are an amazing way to prepare for those middle miles of the half.

They key with these workouts is steering clear of injury. If you’re new to speedwork, try doing just one a week and remember (as mentioned many times in this article) to warm up and cool down. Also, heading to a local track can be helpful, but it isn’t necessary with all the great devices that track distance and time these days.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.

Related: Speed workouts for your running personality | 5 reasons you’re not getting faster