Speed Training

Let’s talk about speed training. No matter what distance you compete in, speed is crucial if you are racing for a medal. It’s important in the 800m because you’ll never run a 1:44 if you don’t have the speed to break 52 in the 400m. It’s important in the 10000m because you can’t keep up in a 53 last lap if you don’t have the speed to go that fast even without having run 9600m first.

How to develop speed

Running is a pretty straight forward sport sometimes. In order to develop speed you have to run fast by doing sprint sessions. Optimally they should be done on a track or a fast flat surface, and the runs should be a “controlled maximum” effort which means as fast as you can sprint without compromising technique. Other ways to develop speed are by doing hill running, plyometrics and/or strength training.

There are of course many different views on speed training, but in my view every runner from 800m to 10000m should include a weekly sprint workout in their training program. Both to develop and maintain speed. A sprint session can go like this:

  1. 15 min jog warmup
  2. Stretching (hamstring, glutes, quads, calves, hip flexors) + drills + 3-5 strides
  3. Sprinting. For example: 3 x 5 x 60m with walk-back between runs and 5 minutes between sets. Another example is 4 x 100m + 4 x 80m + 2 x 60m. Another one is 8 x 100m. Another one is 10 x 80m uphill
  4. 5-10 minute jog cool-down
speed training for distance runners

“And on the final straightaway, like a fighter jet, he took of. He won easily and was happy he had done all that speed training”


To prevent injury, it is VERY IMPORTANT to warm up well and stretch before before a sprint session.

How to maintain speed

The danger of doing a lot of training and a lot of milage (which by the way is essential to succeed at the 1500m and above) is that it might hurt your speed and make you slow. This is because of the way your muscles work. When you sprint or run fast you use your fast twitch muscle fibers, but most aerobic interval training and continuous runs and aerobic capacity building in general is not fast enough to properly stimulate these fibers. This leads to them irreversibly transforming into slow twitch fibers which are more suited for running at slower paces, and you losing speed. In order to prevent this and maintain speed even when doing a lot of slower running, it is important to always keep the fast twitch fibers “ticking”. You accomplish this by taking on the habit of always doing 3-5 fast striders after every workout where you don’t run fast. This is in most cases aerobic interval workouts, threshold workouts and aerobic runs.

If you haven’t previously done any speed training, the habit described above might even alone improve your speed.

As always, if you have any questions, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as fast as I can.

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