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The Benefits of Speed Training for Long Distance Runners | Find Your Stride | Edinburgh Podiatrist

Speed training is an essential component of training for long-distance runners that can greatly benefit overall performance and endurance. A recent article in Runners World Magazine by Sam Murphy, author of "Run Your Best Marathon," highlights the importance of speed training in marathon preparation, referencing the concept of honing a runners "speed base" a concept developed by US performance coach Steve Magness.

A runner heading out for a run
Long distance runners will benefit from a change of pace

Magness' "speed base" concept emphasises the need to build a foundation of speed through maximal speed work. This approach involves incorporating various types of speed work into marathon training programs to enhance runners' overall speed and endurance. As marathon training advances, the focus of speed work shifts from maximal speed work to traditional intervals and slower, longer reps that challenge the body in a way that closely mimics the demands of the marathon.

In the initial stages of training, speed work is incorporated alongside long runs and is characterised by high intensity but low volume. This ensures that the speed work does not drain the runner's energy, allowing them to gradually build up their speed and endurance while avoiding overexertion.

The benefits of speed training for long-distance runners are numerous. Firstly, speed training improves cardiovascular fitness and lung capacity, allowing runners to maintain a faster pace for longer periods. It also helps in building muscular strength and power, which are essential for sustaining long-distance running efforts. Additionally, speed training aids in improving running economy by teaching the body to use oxygen more efficiently and reducing the amount of energy expended at a given pace.

Moreover, incorporating speed training into marathon preparation can enhance mental toughness and race confidence, as runners become accustomed to running at faster speeds and pushing their limits during training. This mental resilience can be crucial during the latter stages of a marathon when fatigue sets in, and the ability to maintain pace becomes increasingly challenging.

Furthermore, speed training can help prevent injury by strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are often neglected during long, slow distance runs. It also promotes better running form and mechanics, reducing the risk of overuse injuries that are common amongst long-distance runners.

In conclusion, the benefits of incorporating speed training into marathon preparation are well-documented and supported by experts such as Steve Magness and Sam Murphy. By building a foundation of speed and incorporating various speed work techniques into their training programs, long-distance runners can improve their overall performance, endurance, and mental resilience. As such, speed training should be an integral part of every long-distance runner's training regimen, offering substantial benefits that can significantly impact their race day performance.

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