I bet you’ve been here before…

You’ve entered a Run / Race and set out to crack a PB. You have trained and feel reasonably confident that you can go pretty quick. Perhaps you have chosen a set pace and use your GPS watch to track your speed. Perhaps you prefer to run by feel and listen to your body. All is going well and the final few kms are upon you. You realise your engine is revving high but hope you can hold on.

Then it happens…

Suddenly your legs get heavier and your breathing more laboured. Your pace has dropped and there is nothing you can do about it. People begin to pass you.

Is this what it feels like to hit the wall? What did I do wrong? Why can’t I pick up my pace?

Questions and more questions, but your body is not answering.

There are a stack of reasons why this can happen; most commonly it is a lack of knowing your Redline.

If you were to drive your car with the engine revving on or above the redline for too long, it is pretty obvious what will happen. It blows up – and so will you.

Your body’s engine is no different, you can run it at full pace for a certain amount of time and eventually it will present you with two options. 1) You cook yourself and come to a screeching halt, or 2) You are forced to slow down and recover.

Ideally neither of these things will occur but the only way to be able to effectively run at the top of your potential without burning up, is to know without a doubt what your top cruising speed is.

How do you work this out?

Well, you could calculate a specific percentage of your max heart rate, multiply it  by your best 10km time, divide it by the number of races you have run this year and subtract the weight of your shoelaces, OR you could take your machine out on the road and see what it can do. Run it hot for as long as you can, several times, until you get to know exactly what maxing out feels like. Then and only then will you learn to know what your magic speed feels like.

From a training perspective, including speed sessions into your routine is an absolute must for any distance runner. It is easy to get caught up in logging the bigger runs and counting kms, but if we don’t add some speed into the mix, we won’t have any on the day that it counts.

Interval training, Tempo runs, Sprints, there are lots of ways to ensure you build your speed.

For the trail runners that I coach, I like to include speed training into the same session as other lower intensity training methods so that the session replicates what can happen in a typical trail running race. Once again, training like you race is a great way to prepare yourself for the big day.

If distance running is your bag, chances are you probably don’t like speed training, but incorporate it for 4 to 6 weeks and see what it can do for your PB’s!


Run long,

Shaun Brewster.








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