Speed workouts make you faster in races. My best year racing , 2006, when I set or came close to all my PRs, I did track workouts once a week pretty much all year. That speed work that year made me run at age 54 like I was 48 again, when I started racing.
So last Wednesday evening, after doing six and a half miles on the Mall on noon, I went to my club's regularly scheduled weekly track workout so I could lead my half-marathon training group in the prescribed workout, three single-miles at a ten-mile race pace with a 400M recovery jog between each split. The target race is in mid-March and we're trying to build up the group slowly, so no one gets injured.
The regulars from the half-marathon Program were there. A bunch of marathon Program trainees were also there, and coaches Katie, Eric and Andrew led them on their rounds.
Matt was there, the fast coach in my Program. He's a modest guy who isn't whippet thin like many obvious runners. He gets the competitive, fast trainees who always run faster and faster at the end of training runs to show how bad they really are. But Matt always finishes right behind them on their shoulder, smiling and talking, no matter how much they crank up the pace at the end. Then they enter a race with him and he crushes them. Last year our best trainee did a 1:31 half, an outstanding effort. (He went to all the track workouts.) He finished ten minutes behind Matt.
I was a little sore from my earlier run but it was a nice evening for running, cool and not windy. The group was happy with eight-minute miles and we took turns leading, putting the burden on a new pace-setter each lap to figure out a two-minute turn (I know, a 400-meter track is about three yards shy of a true 440, but we try not to get totally obsessed at these workouts).
We hit each mile at a pretty steady pace, about 7:50. The very last lap of the workout, the competitive juices started flowing and a couple of the participants announced that they intended to nail a 7:30 last 1600. So with half a lap to go, off three of us went on our horses. Matt didn't come along on our ending sprint as he, in fact, is not competitive in that way. Just fast. The fit and fast woman in the group, a triathlete by preference, led the charge and I was hard pressed to stay glued to her shoulder.
But I did.