Striders, Tempo Runs, and Races
Also known as pickups, striders are generally done following your warm-up jog prior to the beginning of an interval session or a road race to prepare your legs and cardiovascular system for the fast-paced running to immediately follow. Like a race car driver revving up the engine prior to the beginning of the Daytona 500, striders get your oxygen and blood flowing at an increased rate so you can perform optimally.
The distance of striders is approximately 80 meters in length. These are best run on a straightaway rather than around curves. Begin by gradually increasing your pace so that you're running with a full stride (but not at full speed) by the 30–40 meters mark. Hold the pace for the next 10 meters before gradually reducing your speed to a jog by the end of the 80 meters.
The purpose of the strider is to achieve a long, full-stride length at a comfortable speed. You do not want to sprint all out in a strider. Turn around and repeat this process 4 times (for a beginner) to 10 times (for an advanced competitor). Time your striders so that your speed workout or race follows a couple of minutes later.
The primary purpose of including tempo runs in your regimen is to increase your anaerobic threshold to maintain a faster pace over longer periods of time. The pace of the tempo run should be about 10–15 seconds slower than your present 10K race pace. Depending upon your race goals, the tempo segment of your run can be anywhere from 6–20 minutes or more. When training for longer races such as half-marathons and marathons, you can perform tempo runs of 30 minutes or even longer, running the fast-paced segments at approximately your goal race pace.
Rather than doing a structured warm-up that includes stretching and striders, start out your tempo workout by running easily for at least 12 minutes or longer before cruising into the fast segment. An example of a tempo run workout is to run 12 minutes at tempo pace followed by a 6-minute recovery jog. You could then tack on another 12-minute segment at tempo pace before concluding the balance of your workout with easy running.
Besides being a fun way to run at a faster pace, incorporating races into your long-term training program provides several other benefits. Races are a good way to measure your progress and improvement. Races also allow a beginner to step up from a mileage buildup phase to learning to run a bit faster. The novice and experienced runner can both use early to midseason races as tempo workouts.
Regardless of your rationale for including races as part of your training program, it is important to schedule your races based on the following tenet: Prior to running your next race, allow a day of no racing for each mile you race. For example, if you are running a 10K (6.2 miles), don't run another 10K race for at least seven days afterward. You could, however, run a 5K race the following weekend.
Similarly, if you run a half-marathon (13.1 miles), don't run another race of any distance for the following fourteen days. Of course, you need to listen to your body when it comes to running speed workouts within a few days of a race. If your legs feel shot, rest them with easier runs until they feel fresh enough for a hard workout.