Whether you want to run a mile without stopping or train for London, it's best to follow a plan that capitalises on what you do best. If endurance is your thing, find a plan that focuses more on mileage and tempo runs and less on interval training. If speed is on your side, do the reverse: focus on intervals and not mileage.
"Tempo training raises the lactate threshold, allowing athletes to recover faster," says Ben McIlroy, sprints and hurdles coach at Brunel University (hps-training.co.uk). It should feel comfortably hard: for recreational runners, this is 10-15 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace. For speedy racers (those with a sub-20 5K PB), it's 25-30 seconds
per mile slower.
Get used to varying your pace with three miles over rolling terrain, changing from easy, to comfortably hard, to hard.
Do 4-5 x 1-mile intervals on flat terrain at tempo pace with a 1-minute recovery jog in between. This will improve your ability to hold a hard pace.
Run 4-5 miles at consistent tempo pace. "This is about hitting target times while being in complete control," says McIlroy.
Of all training runs, intervals are the most potent for improving your fitness. Short, hard efforts increase the volume of oxygen-rich blood your heart pumps with each beat. Muscles can then work harder.
Run repeats by time, rather than distance, and do them hard (it should be difficult to talk). Try 4 x 3-minute hard runs with 2 minutes of easy recovery running in between.
Run 4-6 x 800m at 5K race pace. More formal workouts help you practise race pace.
Match the speed of the hard efforts to the purpose of the workout. To enhance endurance, run 800-1000m repeats slightly faster than your 5K pace, says Veronique Billat, director of the Exercise Physiology Lab at the University of Evry-Val d'Essonne in France. To increase speed, run 8 x 400m fast with a 2-minute recovery jog, or 5 x 400m
very fast with a 3-minute recovery jog.
Running long drains your muscles' supply of carbohydrates (glycogen). Nearing empty signals your body to stock even more glycogen, so you have more fuel to draw on in the future. "Long runs also develop your ability to transport and use oxygen, which allows you to run longer without fatigue," says Billat.
Run one-and-a-half times to twice as long as your average run at an easy pace. When it comes to improving endurance, time on your feet is more important than the number of miles you run.
Log 10 miles at moderate pace. For intermediates, endurance isn't just about running longer - it's also about being able to hold a slightly faster pace.
Complete 15-16 miles, with the first 12 miles at an easy pace and the last 3-4 miles at tempo pace (about 10K race pace or slightly faster).