Barrier Busting Workouts

Sometimes, you take the physical science, combine it with the mental game and design workouts which not only enhance conditioning, but get you race ready and mentally tough.

No doubt, great races do not happen by accident. PRs are not accidents. Boston Qualifying is not luck. The best race times from age group PRs to the elite world records have been well documented. The optimal way to reach these milestones is even pacing with a faster last half of the race. (NOTE: This is different than racing individuals which may involve specific tactics in pacing contrary to “PR” pacing.) If you look closely at elite level records, the “negative split” (faster second half of race than first half) is actually an extremely evenly paced race with a fast finish (laps/kilometers/miles) which skews the second half time to the faster side. So in reality, it is not a surge at the half way mark to make the second half faster, it is great pacing with a furious last 20% (approximately) of the race to top it off.

Often training programs involve running many miles (or laps in the case of shorter races) at your goal pace. The objective is to become comfortable mentally and physically at your goal pace. You become physiologically more efficient and mentally disciplined so you “know” your pace and you are not drawn out to fast. So, goal pacing – even pacing – is indeed critical to training and your best racing.

However, there are times that something else is needed. This concept of negative splits applied to training can take a number of forms. Here are some of my favorite approaches.

The Negative Split Goal Run. Most often I use the workout for marathoners and half-marathoners. This is a long run designed to be both endurance (increase time running under your belt) as well as stamina (ability to hold pace of a specified distance.) The specific distance will vary over the course of a training program. It might start with a 10 mile run; 5 miles easy then the last 5 miles at goal pace. Late in a training program it may be a 20-22 miler with the last 10 at goal pace. The purpose is to get used to comfortable running goal paced miles while fatigued. This is a great opportunity to rehearse how to mentally handle late race fatigue.

The Bust it Out Last 20% Run. I use forms of this for runners training at almost every distance. The purpose is to get runners to run hard while fatigued. The object is to run either easy or at goal pace (This depends on the time of season as well as aspect you are trying to develop.) then push the last approximately 20% of the run. Often this is a 6-10 mile run with the first 4.5-8 miles run at a modest pace. The objective is to blast the rest of the run to the end. It does not need to be “all out” though sometimes that is exactly what is called for. I recommend timing those last miles and comparing that segment (not the rest of the run) over time to gauge improvement.

The Nobody Beats me in the Last Mile Run. This is an ideal workout for 10k and longer racers. The workout can be of varying distances but similar to the 20% bust out run, the objective is to “race” for time the last mile. Of course, since it is a shorter distance it will be faster yet.

The last version is the Downhill Blast. This is ideal with an out and back course that is predominantly uphill the first half and then of course downhill the second half. Run comfortably up that first half. And then, you guessed it I’m sure, take advantage of gravity and fly downhill. See how much of a negative split you can run. Track your progress. I had an ideal 10 mile course I used in Tucson for this workout. You will amaze yourself with the development of leg speed. With the gravity advantage it is one version of what can be called “over-speed” training. You will be able to maintain a pace with a given effort that you otherwise could not maintain. The neuro-muscular effect is demonstrable.

These workouts may yield some soreness, especially the last three workouts. Treat these as quality workouts and be sure to have easy days to follow. I would recommend only doing these once a week or 10 days, even every other week.

I probably shouldn’t tell all my secrets but, during my competitive years, it is in fact from these last three workouts listed I developed a formidable kick. It is also where my mantra was developed (that many of you know about) – “nobody, but NOBODY, beats me in the last mile.” This is what I repeated to myself as I did these workouts. While racing, regardless of the level of fatigue I experienced, whether it was a good day or bad day, I never saved anything for a kick; but it was always there as was my confidence in it. And it rarely let me down.

So, for mental and physical race-ready training – do the negative split workouts and tell yourself how powerful you are… and that nobody… but NOBODY… will beat you in the last mile!

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