Update on my 800m training – May 2022

Was it the hills?  I entered the month feeling positive after some very quick short intervals in April but throughout May my legs have struggled. I started doing hills in April to build speed and they’re certainly feeling stronger but they also tend to take a few days to fully recover.

I’ve never been a decent sprinter but I think I probably should have been. Firstly because I find it easy to put on muscle, and secondly because I’ve never found it easy to be good at distance running. Once I got on Strava I began to see how often quicker runners are able to get better results despite training half as hard as I do. I seem to lack the natural aerobic capacity that many distance runners have.

This is all behind the reason why I decided to give 800m running a try. It’s an event that still needs decent sprint speed backing it up. But when I started following a plan by Jack Daniels eighteen months ago, it didn’t do much for speed recruitment and I made a deliberate decision not to overdo things as I found it easy to run quicker than expected. This again is another reason why I think I’m better suited to short distance racing.

Even so I felt my top-end speed was missing as I could barely get my peak speed below five minute mile. Last February, I started looking at how to improve cadence in the hope this would improve my form for sprinting and top end speed. Six months ago I started doing ten minutes of sprint drills twice per week to clean up my technique. It’s made a huge difference.


So here I am doing Summer Training to build speed and peak for my next 800m attempt. With my aerobic base enabling me to run seven minute miles for an hour in the winter, I decided it was time to introduce hill and flat sprints on a Monday to recruit more running muscle and get faster at the top end. It seems to be working.

Six years ago, I was doing the same set of workouts and my times then for 60m, 80m and 100m approx. were 10½ secs, 12 secs, 16½ secs. Admittedly I tended to do these after another session but this year I’ve recorded times of 8.75s (60m), 11.5s (80m), 14.6s (100m). A definite improvement and fairly good considering I’ve barely done anything like this in the past half-decade and I’m now in my fifties.

I also found on the most recent block of flat sprints I was hitting some high cadences with the two highest values coming in at 262 and 278 on different efforts. I’m slightly wary of whether the cadence monitor is wholly accurate but if it is these are genuine sprint numbers. Again this backs up the belief my form is improving.

The rest of May’s training was something of a slog to hit target paces. Quite often I missed my faster targets but the legs always seemed sluggish after the sprints. This resulted in a decision – I’ve decided though that working on speed over this summer is the priority so if other sessions are a little behind because of that, so be it. Overall my numbers are still an improvement over where they were a year ago.

On into June. This is the hardest block of training. I’ve felt tight and slow on recovery days but hopefully I’ll get through it!

Short sprint – Hitting top speed

The last three weeks at Upton House I’ve been taking the parkruns at a comfortable pace. It’s never felt too effortful as I run times in the mid-20s. About a mile into the run we have a steep downhill into the mini-loop and I just let my legs do whatever they want. I don’t go at it, I just take the brakes off and fly down the hill past those with more caution. I’ve seen myself hitting pace around 5:20-30 over the weeks. This interests me because a few years back I simply couldn’t go this fast even on downhills.

I was coming off a core muscle injury that forced me to take three months off. I’d tried to keep running but eventually I admitted defeat and took time off for it to heal. When I returned, I began to build up carefully. I deliberately didn’t do any speed sessions as I wanted to test whether I could build Endurance from the ground up – much like Maffetone suggests – long story short, you can’t but that’s for other days.

At the end of my second week I ran a tentative 33-min parkrun and the following week it was 29-minutes. I then went to visit friends and gave Chichester parkrun a try. It’s a surprisingly tough course, mostly on grass, around rugby pitches, with a gradual climb uphill before you run down a path back to the start-finish three times over. At the end of the third lap, I was sweating and came charging down into the finish trying to break twenty-seven minutes but couldn’t quite do it. What was surprising was my top end speed on this final downhill, going as fast as I could, trying to sprint, I could only hit 6:30/mile. Free energy yet I had nothing like the downhill speed I’m getting nowadays.

I’m not entirely sure what the reason behind this is other than it’s connected to being stronger and fitter than I was three years ago. I don’t think it’s that my legs are more resilient on the downhills but I do think they may be striding longer because of all the strides and speedwork I’ve been doing with my 800m training. I also have a much better aerobic base. My recent parkruns have felt comfortable while being faster than Chichester. At the latter, with all the hills and effort I was putting in I was working more anaerobically, which creates by-products that causes the legs to tie up. It may be this. Either way it’s nice to fly down the hills effortlessly.