Using track running appropriately in your training


What determines how fast someone can run a 5k, 10k to half marathon (most common distances for triathletes to race)…..

Endurance – this is just keeping going, all triathlon’s are endurance events even super sprints, so you need a great endurance base. To get this you need to undertake long steady runs, ideally once a week. These should feel slow, and you should be able to chat whilst running, so fine an equal ability runner and run with them, time flies while your chatting, its social and get out in the countryside will make it nicer too. The aim of these runs is to build the endurance engine, so it needs to be slower than you think it should be. How far should you go… you need to take into account previous injuries and how long you’ve been running. Start lower than you may want and add 5 minutes on each week for 3 weeks, then drop back to the start for an easy week and repeat, so something like 25 minutes, 30min, 35min, 25 min, 35 min, 40min, 25min, 40min, 45min. Then plateau for 4 weeks at 45minutes. Even for experienced runners 90 minutes is good and 2 hours should be a maximum unless you have a specific training goal in mind. This should be the cornerstone of your running, on average once per week of this type of run and intermediates should build up to over an hour.

V02max (I-pace) – to simplify this, this is the very top end of aerobic running, so limits your pace for any triathlon running. Pushing this pace up higher, means your top speed is faster and therefore you’ll find it easier to run at slightly slower race paces. The problem is this is limited somewhat by genetics, and is only trainable to a certain degree. Running at this pace is also more likely to induce injuries so can be a slightly risky strategy. This is why the Beginner group on the track only do a little of this, and intermediates do a bit more and paul Savage’s group do the most.

Anaerobic Threshold Speed (t-pace roughly).

The pace you can keep going for an hour, so for slower runners this may be your 10k pace, for better runners more like 10 mile and for super elite runners half marathon pace. So when we do t-pace on the track as reps it feels a little easy, because your running below 10k pace, often for 5 minutes then you get to rest. If you try holding this pace for 20 minutes you start to see it is hard. The intention is that this pushes up the pace you can hold for an hour (pretty useful for a triathlete). The aim is to push this up as close as possible to your V02max, but it can obviously not go any higher.


You may have an amazing heart and lungs, strong muscles and great blood supply to them from years of cycling and swimming, but if your run form is poor, you will either get injured, or at best not run as fast as you could. Hence we do a lot of drills before sessions. As coaches we’d like to do more of this, as we see it as a big limiter. There are plans for some workshops later in the year.

So with all that in mind what should you do…

Long steady run with similar ability groups away from track sessions

Track session – Advanced more I-pace, Intermediates and novice T-pace (with a dash of i-pace) and lots of drills

For intermediates and advanced – a third session, possibly off the bike, which should be race pace (tempo/t-pace effort) maybe 20-30 minutes.

The advantage of the track is that you can do your fast running, with other people to spur you on, and under the guidance of coaches.


Track running can be the icing on the cake and take your running to the next level as each rep becomes a mini-race as you try to hold on and battle with your fellow athletes. Trying to keep up with faster athletes is a great way of getting faster. But don’t even think about stepping on the track and running hard if you’re carrying an injury and if you don’t have a solid base of steady and long runs.


I think this is quite relevant at the moment as I think quite a lot of our runners just run on track. I think this could be due to them not wanting to run on the streets in the dark, or aren’t motivated to go for a run on their own. Most beginners believe that all running should be done at a fast pace and unless they are breathing heavy then they are not working hard enough or long enough, which could be why they don’t do it because they think its hard. Understanding their paces when running is crucial to staying injury free and getting the most out of their running. Perhaps we could discuss different paces when running on their own?

Track, for me, is used to develop speed, and I very rarely run that fast any other time (unless racing). I will probably do 1 other fast run (usually a tempo or a Park run) in the week and the rest is steady running. These steady runs obviously vary in length but are usually at the same pace (2min per mile slower than track pace). These steady runs help with: aerobic capacity, recovery, running efficiency and help to physically and mentally prepare for faster running.

My advice to anyone who comes to track would be to do at least 1-2 easy runs per fast session. Perhaps they could do this as part of their commute? or in a group to help keep motivated. I personally enjoy running to get somewhere rather than running in a circle (commute, shopping, errands etc) It could be as little as a 20min run several times a week, and they will receive the benefits. Little and often helps to keep motivated, injury free and prevents the body from breaking down.


  1. Be careful re track usage if you have a background of injury as it is an unforgiving surface.
  2. Ditto if you are a more mature runner (think about off road or even the treadmill at the gym as an alternative).
  3. Park Run is another great alternative for a race pace run


I often get asked questions by my Development run group relating to how many runs they should do a week, how long their runs should be and how fast should they be running. My general advice is to build up to a ‘long run’ of about an hour, running at a slow pace where you can easily hold a conversation. Once you have a decent base, come along to the Wednesday track sessions to help you learn pacing and increase your speed. The coach will ensure that you are running at the optimum pace to encourage improvement but discourage injury. A shorter, slightly faster run of around 30 mins is great as run number 3, this can also be a Park Run.

I also get asked about how to keep motivated. Running with a group at the track is a great way to keep motivated. You will be able to see your times getting faster and you can pitch yourself against real peers.