Picture: Shaun Creighton was the Australian 10000m Record Holder for over a decade and still holds the Australian 3000m Steeplechase record. He is one of my hero’s who buried all of the younger challengers on this night in 2002.

Running mile repeats on the track has been one of my favorite workouts. I have done them for the past 18 years and today was a chance to re-visit this workout and check back in with my old friend, “the track”.

A 400m track is not really that scary. In decades gone by it was where all running happened. I have read accounts of the great Emil Zatopek turning up the track and proceeding to perform 40 x 400m reps with a 200m jog recovery, go home for a nap then return in the afternoon to perform it again. This kind of track use IS scary.  Zatopek was one of a kind however, and modern day runners owe much to him as he used the ’trail and error’ method on himself to find out what worked. Modern day “interval training” has it’s roots in the experiments of Emil Zatopek and the mile session is a classic example.

Today I performed miles (1600m or 4 x 400m continuous laps) with another athlete preparing for some overseas races. Her 5k pace is very similar to my marathon pace so it was a nice compromise. I threw in a couple of extra mile reps at my 5k pace for good measure.

Good session. I used moderation as my guide and am better off for it. I wasn’t always this smart…

Running on a track is wonderful for those who like constant feedback. Every 100m is marked so maintaining a target pace is easy. No need for GPS devices. Similarly, mile repeats are wonderful for developing mental toughness. They are longer than the popular 1km distance and take a runner into the zone where they ’hurt’ for a solid couple of minutes. This combination suited me perfectly and I used to love pushing myself hard over 1600m looking only briefly at my watch as I few past the finish line every lap.

In my early and mid-twenties, I performed 4 X mile or 5 X mile regularly. I became very good at this workout and on a few occasions threw absolutely everything I had into it thinking I was doing what was needed to bring about peak fitness. No moderation required, right?

Wrong. My best ever mile session was about 12 days before a national 10k championship in 2002. I had an audience and willing training partners and went for it. 12 days later I was humbled by Shaun Creighton and a host of others. The un-restrained approach to training and in particular my 4 x mile workout had cost me dearly as I was ’flat’ during that race.

I still do mile workouts and I still love the track, but today in the bright May sunshine I was glad that the tough lesson of “less is often better” had already been learned.