This article appeared in American Track & Field during the editorial direction of the late James Dunaway. James was a life long contributor to Track & Field News, attended 54 NCAA Outdoor Championships, 14 Summer Olympics, and World Championships from 1983 to 2013.
James was the editor of American Track & Field from 2003 until 2014. James mentored me into appreciating the fact that a coach must get at least 2-3 ideas from each article that we published. I LIked this piece. David Lowes, a fine UK Endurance coach (you can find him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-lowes-392a9131/?originalSubdomain=uk), has written for Athletics Weekly and American Track & Field. Reprinted with permission of publisher, Fortius Media Group, LLC.
Keeping his cool, listening to his coach, Joe Bosshard, Scott Fauble ran 1:04.26, then, ran the exact same split the second half marathon, moving from 22nd to 7th, photo by Kevin Morris/ @kevmofoto
You’re Not As Tired As You Think
-by David Lowes, Great Britain
How do you cope with those killing fast starts and high-speed finishes? We asked Northern Division endurance coach David Lowes to pass on some of his vast knowledge:
You can’t really train for a fast start, you either have the speed, or you don’t. What you can train for is the ability to keep going after the initial fast start.
Anyone can run a fast 400m in an 800m race and then never be seen again at the front. Likewise-anyone can run quickly for four laps of 5,000 meters and then fade away.
Another example can be seen in marathons. How many runners are quite comfortable at halfway and finish 10, 20, or 30 minutes behind the winner?
Obviously, what we are aiming for is to get a good start and get into the position you want to be and still feel comfortable.
One of the first considerations for an athlete is to get him/her running reps at the desired pace throughout a session, for example, 14x400m (60 sec recovery) in 63 seconds.
The first three or four reps should feel very easy when fresh. A lot of runners find it hard to restrain themselves at this point, but when it comes to reps 11 and 12, it becomes much harder to run at the desired pace due to tiredness.
If everyone ran how he(they) felt, then he(they) would have a huge lead on the first lap of whatever distance. The key is to learn to run with the brakes on (in control).
To train for a fast start and beyond you must have a good solid base of aerobic training-long runs and interval work being the prime sessions. These will improve your V02 max greatly-then you can start to get into some specific sessions for this.
BUILDING THE BASE
A good session my squad does IS:
Two minutes @ 3km pace (98-100% MHR) then changing to two minutes @ 5km pace (95% MHR). Then they have 30 seconds recovery and go straight into 12 x one minute @ 3km pace (30 seconds recovery). This gets them used to race assimilation whereby they start fairly quickly and then begin to cruise (relax) after the initial rush but still have to keep the momentum going.
They need great strength and aerobic capacity to complete this particular session as the heart rate is kept fairly high throughout the session.
Another couple of variants are to run, say, eight times three minutes with 30 seconds recovery, dividing the three minutes into 90 seconds @ 3km pace and 90 seconds @ 5km pace.
Finally, running up a one-minute hill of medium intensity fairly hard and running over the top of the hill for a further two minutes at a hard but relaxed pace is an excellent way of training for fast starts and holding on to form after the initial rush. This can be done with anywhere between four and eight reps.
Fast-finish training is what will ensure that you win the race or beat your rivals-i.e., the final quarter of the race-perhaps the most important element of racing.
What we are asking our body to do is to run at its fastest when it is most fatigued, i.e., at the end of a race.
In one session my squad does as a sting in the tail-which the athletes don’t know about (for psychological reasons) until they have finished the first part of the session.
They run for 10 minutes @ 10km pace (90% MHR) with 30 seconds recovery. We then finish with three minutes @ 3km pace. It is at this point when some, or all, of the athletes, are fatigued (or think they are) when I tell them they have 90 seconds before they have to run as hard as they possibly can for 400m.
This session is done sporadically (once every 2 1/2-3 weeks) and has to have the element of surprise or they will keep something in reserve by trying to save something for the end.
A couple of weeks ago we did this session and one particular athlete complained he couldn’t do the 400m as he was too tired. He then proceeded to run like a scared rabbit, going through 200m in 26.5 seconds. Although slowing towards the end, he still managed 58 seconds-not bad for someone who thought he couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes the session will be modified, so the final three minutes are run at an increasing pace, so the last minute and the final 30 seconds, in particular, are built up so they are running flat-out.
Although these are tremendously hard sessions, when finished, they can have a tremendous psychological boost for the athletes. They help them realize that perhaps when feeling almost dead on their legs, with lactate at intolerable levels and their lungs bursting with lack of oxygen, they have far more left than they imagined.
There are many variants of these sessions that I use; indeed, it is essential to vary them so that the unexpected is expected. It is also vital not just in these sessions, but in all sessions that the athlete knows why a particular one is being done at a particular time and that their beliefs are constantly reviewed.
No one is ever as tired as they think- there is always something left in reserve somewhere. The athletes have to search for it and have the belief that it is always there to put to good use at the end of a race.