Go Long or Go Fast, What's an Athlete to Do?
A decision many athletes have to make is whether to train for short, fast races or long, slow races. Often training for both is impossible. You might be saying--no it's not silly, I am a-ok fitting in speed work and long runs, but I'm here to say nay-nay. You can't have your speed cake and eat it too --without risk of injury. Athletes are faced with the tough decision of whether to go fast or go long.
Say it aint so! Why is it hard to fit in enough speed work to be fast in a 5k while still reserving enough energy, muscle fitness, and time to fit in long runs for a marathon or beyond?
1. The type of speed work needed for a fast 5k or 10k is very different from the speed work need for a marathon or longer. Training for a 5k typically involves 200's, 400's, 800's at 5k or faster pace, check out Hal Higdon's Advance 5k Training program here. However, training for a marathon involves 800's, mile repeats, hill work, and longer tempo runs at a lessor intensity. Check out Hal Higdon's Advanced Marathon Training Program here.
2. You can't get in the mileage needed to train properly for a marathon while training for a 5k. Doing really short and fast speed work requires lowering your overall run volume. A training cycle typically follows a Base, Build, Peak, Race schedule. The Peak phase is when you focus on race specific speed as you reduce volume thereby increasing rest. Yes, napping is really part of proper training! Tell your boss we said so.
3. Overall the risk of injury from doing both short and very fast AND long runs is really high. Both speed work and long distance running puts a lot of strain on your body. Combining the two is a recipe for disaster, not the fun cake recipe your were hoping for.
What should I do??
Plan your year race calendar so that you can fit in a 5k training cycle AND a marathon training cycle. In fact I recommend training for short and fast stuff first so that you go in to your marathon training with some speed in your legs. You can also do a 10k race as part of your marathon training to sub in for a speed work/tempo day. If you have speed in your legs, then your marathon pace will feel even easier! Win. Win.