After watching the track and field Olympic trials, I’ve come to the conclusion that distance runners need to implement sprint training into their workouts.  I saw more distance races at the trials that came down to sprinting.  

And if your distant runner can’t sprint effectively, you better hope he/she has built up a big lead because they might not be able to outkick their opponent.

One of my athletes, Aziza Ayoub, started off her track career as a sprinter running the 100M up to the 400M.  Her junior year in high school, she moved up to the 800M and became a two time state champion.I remember her telling me that with about 200M to go if she was anywhere within contention she felt that she would win the race.  Because of her sprint background, she felt if she had the lead she was going to outkick anybody to the finish.  If she was within 10-20M of the leader, she felt she could catch that person and win.

All because she had sprinting ability.

Obviously, not all sprinters have the sprinting background that Aziza had.  Side note, her junior year she qualified in the state meet for both the 100M and the 800M.  How often do you see that?

Anyway, the point is that if we can work on some sprint mechanics and training for our distance runners, we might be able to improve their overall performance when they need to do the following:

  • Be in the front pack when the cut-in happens at the beginning of a race.
  • As noted before, when they call on that kick, they have a powerful kick that will not get them caught from behind.  But they might be able to catch someone from behind themselves and win a race.

How much sprint training are we talking here?

To be honest, I have no clue.  I haven’t done this with a distance runner yet.  This is really a hypothesis, but I’ve got an idea how to implement it.

In the off-season, you could implement it twice a week.  Maybe one time is done after a light workout.  And the other time would be before a workout as a warmup before a run that isn’t high intensity, but doesn’t have to be a recovery day.

Treat these sprint workouts like they were sprinters.  Meaning, work on running mechanics and try to develop a top end speed.  And make sure they have an appropriate rest so they can work on the sprint mechanics, not their conditioning.

They need to feel what it is like to run at a top speed because it is different then running the 5th lap of a 3200M.  If they get more comfortable running these sprint workouts, then they know what to rely on when they have to use it in competition.

Once the season begins though, I would probably only do it once a week.  I’d try to work it in only if you were able to complete the majority of what you needed to focus on that week.  I wouldn’t re-arrange items to focus on your sprint work.

For example, the pre-season (those three weeks or so before meets begin), you could probably get it in once a week.  Maybe twice if you desired.  Once the meets begin, it might be tough to get sprint work in.

That is when you might consider running them in some sprint events in meets that aren’t important.  I try to schedule two meets a week.  One is a big invitational typically on a Friday/Saturday.  The other would be a dual/tri earlier in the week.

The dual or tri would be where you might want to implement some sprint work with an off-event.  Maybe they do a 200M or a 400M race.  Work it in with the 800M which is before or after those events.  When they run the sprint race, it isn’t about conditioning.  It is about running for speed with proper mechanics.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m way off my rocker and a distance coach might think that is a waste of an event.  Or they could injure themselves running at such a fast speed.  But, I think it is something to consider.

If your distance runners have any abilities, they might be progressing to some big time races.  You want them to be able to call on that sprinting ability when they can if it becomes a tight race all the way to the finish.

Trust me, I’ve seen it a lot this year with distance runners.  Having that sprinting ability would certainly have come in handy for a lot of them to place better in races.