Apple Pie asked me about intervals. I've run plenty of them, obviously. Like everything else in this world, intervals have become increasingly complicated. I've never had the patience or memory or even ability to focus long enough on the numbers or the science to know what they all mean. I know that stressing your system just enough will help you get stronger and faster. Do I really need to know all the rest? Maybe I'd be the next Yoshihisa Hosaka if I did. But I'm just Dave, so...
I do remember a couple of things like when I stumbled on an old RW article with the Hansons Brothers, discussing intervals. They posted a few examples of some workouts they'd developed. At the time (2014) I was putting together a plan for my first serious run at BQ-ing, so I took those ideas and their Intermediate training schedule (modified to fit my life) and made what I call the Marshall Plan (homage to the former Secretary of State - look him up and treat yourself to a little history lesson), since I was going to see if this crazy idea of nearly doubling my mileage would work in Huntington, WV that fall. I figured I didn't have anything to lose. It wasn't going to be my last marathon and what I'd done before hadn't really gotten me very close. Either I'd get to Boston or I'd blow up trying.
Of course it worked. Of course I use the same basic plan now every time, assuming I have time for a full 18 week schedule, not counting whatever I need to build up mileage for the start of the program, since it starts with 37 miles in Week 1.
Over the 18 weeks, I divide the intervals into 4 blocks, 2 blocks of 5 weeks focusing on speed and 2 blocks of 4 weeks for strength. Speed workouts are shorter and faster and come first on the schedule. The difference between two Speed blocks (1 & 2) is simply the distances of the reps. Same with the two Strength blocks (3 & 4).
How fast? Depends.
Generally, Speed workouts are done at current 5K pace. Of course you need to have an idea of what that is. A recent 5K time that you're happy with is great, but if you want to use a VO2max calculator to verify the numbers, that's good, too. Whatever you use to start with, it needs to be a speed that you can maintain for the whole workout. If you're running 7:00 pace for the first few reps and run out of gas, then you're going too fast. And don't use your goal pace to determine your workout splits. Chances are you won't be ready to run that fast in the early weeks. Straining after interval paces will only discourage you, burn you out or get you injured. Just being in the neighborhood is fine.
For the Strength workouts, you'll be going farther but not as fast. Plan on 10 seconds faster than goal pace. Again, though, you have to: #1, be able to finish the reps at the same pace you started; and 2#, be able to run the recovery miles next day. Those runs are supposed to be slow anyway. There's a fine line, like with everything, but in my experience, if you can blow through a recovery run at GMP or faster, then you didn't do the previous workout hard enough. OTOH, if you can't even run those 5-10 easy miles on the plan, then you went too hard. Be smart.
Anyway, I'm risking going through my whole training plan and this was just supposed to be about intervals. So, here are the workouts I try to do. Normally, I'll do 400-800s on the track, but the longer stuff I'll program into my watch and do it on the roads. Don't know if that matters.
SPEED BLOCK (1):
- 2 miles w/u, 3 x 1200 w/ 400 jogging recoveries, 2 miles c/d - 7 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 20 x 400, alternating fast/easy, 1.5 miles c/d - 7.75 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 6 x 800 w/ 400 jogging recoveries (Yassos), 1.5 miles c/d - 6.25 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 3 x 1600 w/ 600 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 6 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 400-800-1200-1600-1200-800-400 ladder w/ 200 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 7.5 total
SPEED BLOCK (2):
- 1.5 miles w/u, 4 x 1200 w/ 400 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 7.75 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 24 x 400, alternating fast/easy, 1.5 miles c/d - 7.75 total
- 1.0 miles w/u, 8 x 800 w/ 400 jogging recoveries (Yassos), 1.0 miles c/d - 7.75 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 4 x 1600 w/ 600 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 7 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 800-1200-1600-2400-1600-1200-800 ladder w/ 400 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 7.5 total
STRENGTH BLOCK (3):
- 2.0 miles w/u, 4 x 2400 w/ 800 jogging recoveries, 2.0 miles c/d - 12 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 10 x 800 w/ 400 jogging recoveries (Yassos), 1.5 miles c/d - 9.25 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 6 x 1600 w/ 600 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 12 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 3 x 3200 w/ 1600 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 11 total
STRENGTH BLOCK (4):
- 1.5 miles w/u, 5 x 2400 w/ 600 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 12 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 12 x 800 w/ 400 jogging recoveries (Yassos w/ the Marshall Twist*), 1.5 miles c/d - 12 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 2 x 3200 w/ 1600 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 7.75 total
- 1.5 miles w/u, 2 x 2400 w/ 800 jogging recoveries, 1.5 miles c/d - 6.5 total
* - The Marshall Twist: each 4th 800 done faster than the other 3.