Training for a 15km Road Race

by Patti and Warren Finke, Team Oregon
When pointing toward any race you should determine its specific requirements. The physical training needs include, first and foremost, the endurance to run the distance, the ability to run any major hills, the speed to take you to your best performance and, perhaps, the ability to run in adverse weather conditions. Psychologically, self control is the most important need. In large races, this includes staying under control at the beginning and coping with lots of other runners. It is also important to set a number of realistic race goals that take into account the size of the race, its terrain and potential race conditions.

WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

The next step in planning your program is to determine where you are now and what your training needs might be to allow you to achieve a top 15km performance. We will define three runner catagories based on where you are now and devise three different training plans appropriate for these runners.

"BEGINNER"

You are a beginning runner if you have just started to run , are just running occasionally for fitness and are covering less than 10 miles per week of running or walking. For the beginner, a "best" will be to finish since you've never done the event before. Your basic need is the endurance to go 9.3 miles A second goal for the beginner should be to have an enjoyable experience during the event.

"INTERMEDIATE"

If you are an intermediate runner, you may have completed a similar length race before but it was probably one of the longest races you have done. You most likely run occasional 8 or 10 K races for the enjoyment of finishing and being with your running friends. You run between 10 and 20 miles per week and classify yourself as a recreational runner. Your race goals will call for bettering your previous time, having the strength to race rather than just run the entire distance and being able to deal well with any obstacles such as hills. Your needs are the endurance to run 9.3 miles and the stamina to run it at a fast controlled pace.

"ADVANCED"

You are an advanced runner if you race often, are running over 30 miles a week and routinely race 15k or longer. You are reaching to improve your performances and classify yourself as a competitive runner. Your goals for this race will be for a "best time, the strength to race through any obstacles and the speed to carry you to that "PR". Your needs will be more specific training to optimize your strength and speed for this particular race.

TRAINING SCHEDULES

The training programs shown are 20 weeks long. If you are already running at a mileage level beyond the first week, you can shorten the program by starting at a week consistent with your current training at the time.

All three levels will begin with basebuilding. The BEGINNER level will all be basebuilding since the major goal is endurance. The INTERMEDIATE levels will have basebuilding with emphasis on more strength and some speed ; while the ADVANCED level will include more specific speedwork.

BEGINNER

The goal is to increase endurance through increasing mileage. All runs are done at an easy pace. If you have not raced, the pulse rates are the easiest way to gauge pace (see Pulse Rate Monitor article). Remember the way to stay healthy during basebuilding is to not worry about speed, increase mileage slowly and back off, ice, and rest at any sign of trouble. It might be helpful to do at least a couple of your long runs on the race course, if possible, just so that you know what the course is like and where the major terrain features are.

The schedule shows 5 days per week of running; if you want to only run 4 days, omit a Tuesday or Thursday run. Maintain the progression of the long runs is the key to finishing the race. Between weeks 10 and 15 you could run an event that is the distance of the long run with the goal of simply finishing. This would give you experience in self control and crowd interaction. The last 6 to 8 long weekend runs are critical to finish and feel good.

		    MILES

Week      S    M    T    W    T    F    S         Total      
 1        2    0    1    2    1    2    0            8
 2        3    0    1    2    1    2    0            9
 3        3    0    1    2    1    2    0            9
 4        4    0    1    2    1    2    0           10
 5        4    0    1    3    1    2    0           11
 6        4    0    1    3    1    3    0           12
 7        4    0    1    3    1    3    0           12
 8        5    0    1    3    1    3    0           13
 9        5    0    1    3    1    3    0           13
10        6    0    1    3    1    3    0           14
11        6    0    1    4    1    3    0           15
12        7    0    1    4    1    3    0           16
13        7    0    1    4    1    4    0           17
14        8    0    1    4    1    4    0           18
15        8    0    2    4    1    4    0           19
16        8    0    2    4    2    4    0           20
17        9    0    2    4    2    4    0           21
18        9    0    2    5    2    4    0           22
19        9    0    2    5    2    5    0           23
20        6    0    2    3    1    2    0           18
     RACE DAY !

INTERMEDIATE

The goals of this program are to increase endurance and strength by increasing the overall mileage base and to improve aerobic glycogen metabolism and efficiency by increasing the longest runs to distances beyond race length. Some of the long runs should be done on hilly terrain to develop strength.

Some speed work at race pace can be done to improve efficiency. This will also help with self control; you need to know what it feels like to run at race pace so as not to go out too fast. Many of the runners from our Portland Marathon Clinic have trained to this level and run 15km PRs at our local June race without any speedwork just because of the increased strength and endurance from the increased mileage base. We have added in some optional pace runs; the rest are run at easy pace. The pace runs should be run at your goal race pace.. Pick a goal 2 -3 minutes (10-15 seconds/mile) faster than your previous 15k best.

If the course is hilly and you are uncomfortable with running hills try doing the hill drill (see inset) on one or two of your easy days during the last 8 weeks of training. If you plan to do some other races during your training, use them to replace the long run that weekend. Do not attempt to do both; allow at least 2 weeks of recovery between any race and the 15k where you want to run your best.

		    MILES
		     
Week      S    M    T    W    T    F    S         Total     
 1        7    0    2    5    2    5    0           21
 2        8    0    2    5    2    5    0           22
 3        8    0    2    6    2    6    0           23
 4        8    0    2    6    2    6    0           24
 5        9    0    2    6    2    6    0           25
 6        9    0    3    6    2    6    0           26
 7        9    0    3    6    3    6    0           27
 8       10    0    3    6    3    6    0           28
 9       10    0    4    6    3    6    0           29
10       10    0    4    6    4    6    0           30
11       12    0    4    6    4    6    0           32
12       12    0    4    6    4    6    2           34
13       14    0    4    6    4    6    2           36
14       14    0    4    7    4    7    2           38
15       15    0    4/HD 7    4    7/P  4           37-41
16       15    0    4    7    2    7/P  4           35-39
17       15    0    4/HD 7    4    7/P  4           38-41
18       15    0    4    7    4    7/P  4           38-41
19       15    0    4    7    4    7/P  4           38-41
20       10    0    4    6    2    3    2           27
     RACE DAY !

HD = can substitute the optional Hill Technique Drill for the run

P = can substitute a Pace Run

Pace Run: 1 mile easy warm up      
  n miles at goal race pace     
  recovery walk  to heart rate(HR) under 100 
  n miles at goal race pace
  1 mile easy cool down

  n = 1 mile first week, add 0.25 miles each week to a
      total of 2.

Example:  Week 19 Pace Run
  1 mile easy warm up
  2 miles at  goal race pace
  recovery walk to HR under 100
  2 miles at  goal race pace 
  1 mile easy cool down

ADVANCED

The goals are to maximize strength and endurance by increasing the mileage base; to optimize aerobic glycogen metabolism through over race distance longest runs; and to enhance efficiency with race pace runs.

To further optimize efficiency and glyogen metabolism for hilly courses, some of the pace runs can be done on hills on the course or similar terrain, and some optional speed work on anerobic threshold will be done to allow quick recovery from hills and surging or other tactics for racing.

Select a realistic goal pace. If you have been racing for years, it's not realistic to expect a major breakthrough. We recommend that you set a goal time about 1 minute faster than your 15 K best and use this pace for your pace training speed. You should also set a second goal which may be to simply run a PR.

Except for the speed workouts, all runs should be done at an easy ( conversational) pace. You are encourage to run one or two shorter races (8K, 10K) between weeks 13 and 18 to get you psychologically prepared to race. On weekends when you race, replace your long run with the race; do not do both.

		    MILES                               

Week      S    M    T    W    T    F    S         Total      
 1       10    0    3    6    3    6    2           30
 2       11    0    3    6    3    7    2           32
 3       11    0    3    7    3    7    2           33
 4       12    0    3    7    3    8    2           35
 5       12    0    3    8    3    8    2           36
 6       13    0    3    8    3    8    3           38
 7       13    0    4    8    3    8    3           39
 8       14    0    4    8    4    8    3           41
 9       14    0    4    9    4    9    3           43
10       15    0    4/HD 9    4    9    4           45
11       15    0    4    9    4    P    4           40
12       15    0    4/HD 9    4    P    4           40
13       15*   0    4    9    4    P    4           40
14       15*   0    4    9/S  4    P    4           35-41
15       15*   0    4    9/S  4    P    4           35-41
16       15*   0    4    9/S  4    HP   4           36-41
17       15*   0    4    9/S  4    HP   4           37-42
18       15*   0    4    9/S  4    HP   4           39-42
19       15*   0    4    9/S  4    HP   4           39-42
20       10    0    4    7    2    3    2           28
     RACE DAY!

HD = can substitute the optional Hill Technique Drill for the run

P = Pace runs done at average goal race pace

* = If possible, do these runs on terrain simulating your race course.

HP = Pace Runs done on hills, uphill at average goal race pace
     plus 20  to 30 seconds/mile, downhill at average goal race pace
     minus 15  to 20 seconds/mile

S = can subsitute speed workout

Pace Run: 1 mile easy warm up        
          n miles at goal race pace       
          recovery walk to HR under 100 
          n miles at goal race pace
          1 mile easy cool down

          n = 1 mile first week, add 0.25 miles each week to a
              total of 2

Example: Week 15 Pace Run
          1 mile easy warm up
          2 miles at goal race pace 
          recovery walk  to HR under100
          2 miles at  goal race pace 
          1 mile easy cool down

Speed work:  ( to be done on a 400 m track)   
          2 miles easy warm up
          4 x 100m @ 5K - 10K race pace with 100m jog in between
          2 x 200m @ 5K - 10K race pace with 100m jog in between
          n x 400m @ 5K - 10K race pace with 200m jog in between
          2 miles slow jog cool down    

          n = 2 the first week, add 2 x 400 each week to a
              maximum of 8 x 400m

HILL RUNNING

If your race course has major hills, good hill running technique is essential for a top performance. You should practice your hill running by doing some of your training runs on course like terrain, (possibly the course itself), and by doing some specific training drills such as the one below.

Hill Technique Drill

This drill can be done on one of your easy training days. It should be performed on a moderate hill 50 -100 yards long. A moderate hill is one that is steep enough that you might feel uncomfortable running down it but you are still able to remain in control. After warming up by running a mile or so on the flat, run three to four continuous circuits of the hill (up, turn around, down, turn around). Notice how your body feels going up and down and while making the transitions from up to down and vice versa. Do you feel like you're working too hard, tense, awkward or out of control? Now concentrate on the following images:

Uphill: Take short quick steps (baby steps) as if riding a bicycle in low gear. Use your arms in a straight back and forward and up motion to help lift your legs. Concentrate on relaxing your upper body and particularly down the back of your legs.

Downhill: Go for it! Lengthen out your stride to take advantage of the hill. Land on the balls of your feet with your knees bent. Swing your arms more across your body to help keep your balance and to rotate your hips to improve stride length. Concentrate on using the muscles in the backs of your legs to push you forward. Remember you can go a lot faster than you think and still be under control.

Transitions: Strive to make a smooth but immediate transition in your form as you go from uphill to downhill or as the slope changes. Anticipate the changes in terrain and change your form and stride length accordingly.

Now run several circuits of the hill using these images and see how your hill running improves. Watch for these common mistake:

Attacking the Uphill: A quick ticket to oxygen debt. Hill races are rarely won by the person who is the fastest at the bottom . You must concentrate on relaxing and metering out your energy over the hill. Many hills are steepest at the bottom and flatten out near the top. A well run hill has you picking it up at the top and into the downhill transition.

Overstriding Uphill: Remember that the muscles of the legs are major pumps for the blood supply of oxygen and fuel while running. A short quick stride helps supply more fuel and oxygen than a long slow one uphill. This is the same reason that it is more efficient to use low gears and fast cadence when riding a bicycle uphill rather than high gears and a slow cadence.

Resting or Holding Back on the Downhill: If you do not accelerate on the downhill, you will lose the opportunity to get something for nothing. If you don't believe this , try running downhill with a pulse rate monitor and notice how much faster you can run at the same pulse rate than on the flat. A sure sign that you are holding back is the sound of "plopping" from your feet as you run downhill. Work on increasing stride length and using your armswing for balance.

Not Thinking Ahead: Look ahead for variations in the slope up or down and adapt to them immediately. If you have to wait until you are tying up from lactic acid uphill or hear the "plopping feet" downhill to change your form, it's too late and you have already wasted energy.

Repeat the drill concentrating on the images and performing the running circuits until you can bring up the images as you run (i.e. picture yourself running easily and relaxed uphill while you are actually doing it).


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