How An Average Runner Qualified for the Boston Marathon Part 4: Speed

Speed Speed Speed.

Track had been noticeably absent from my marathon training plans for a few years. It seemed to be a main cause for my injuries, so speed training had been relegated to a minor portion of my schedule and was done in the form of tempo runs during the sharpening phase — about 6-8 weeks. Other than that, I stayed off the track and followed the common strategy that increasing mileage would build up my speed. Well, as mentioned in the previous post, I significantly decreased my mileage…so where was the speed going to come from? Yup, it was back to the track. And hills. And speed and agility work. More stuff I had either never done or neglected to do for several years.

This is probably a good time to note that my trainer’s nickname is “Dr. Speed.” So it’s not like I thought I would get out of doing track work, but not gonna lie, I didn’t think it would be so intense. I had been part of a track group that met on Tuesday nights many moons ago, and while I remember it being difficult, I never remembered wanting to puke or black out. More on that later.

First of all, there was no waiting until sharpening phase. It was on the track that I first tested my new midfoot/forefoot strike (see BQ Part 2), which began with strides on the grass before moving to the actual track. Thereafter, running track  became a regular weekly part of my routine, and I will tell you it never got easier. As a distance runner who had been used to just kicking it at easy pace for miles and years, pushing myself to run that fast filled me with dread on those mornings, and I would have to give myself pep talks on the way to the track. But the results were immediate, and I don’t mean my times in the 400s/800s. Almost instantly my long run times began to get faster .


Then, shortly after my first half marathon working with my trainer, we added hill work. Now prior to this, my hill work consisted of driving to one of the many hilly areas in Los Angeles and running them at the same easy effort as my usual runs. This hill work was not that. Nope, these were hill sprints. Was it possible that something could be more miserable than track? Apparently, yes. The really awful ones were on dirt hills with uneven footing. To be honest, I actually didn’t mind the sprints on the hill behind the track because they were much shorter in distance…and also because that meant I didn’t have to run 600s. Ha.

Finally, the last piece — and one that is not a part of any marathon program I know of — was speed and agility training. This type of work is usually associated with soccer and football; basically change-of-direction sports. While marathons are pretty much a straight forward line, speed and agility training was beneficial in increasing my coordination, balance, and mobility. It helped to develop my body control and overall athleticism which in turn made me a stronger runner. Plus it was super fun!

So the caveat to the track, hill sprints, and speed and agility training is that I had to be doing all the other stuff (see BQ Part 3) to ensure my body was strong enough to take on the stress of this type of running. There is no way I could have done the speed training necessary to make me a faster runner without all the prehab, recovery, and maintenance. When I thought about all the factors that went into me finally BQing, there wasn’t one that I could say was *the* most important because they had a symbiotic relationship. It is not easy to BQ, especially at this age, and so the commitment was to do all of it, because it was all essential to me hitting that magical number.

Next week the final piece.

And, if you are in the West San Fernando Valley and looking to get faster or improve your overall athleticism for your sport, please check out Dr. Speed will get you right.


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