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, â€œthe trackâ€.
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 â€œinterval 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 smartâ€¦
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 â€œless is often betterâ€ had already been learned.