I first read about this workout, made popular by former Boston winner and marathon world champion Rob De Castella of Australia, in Michael Sandrock’s Running With The Legends (one of my favorite running books of all-time, for what it’s worth) when I was in high school. I first wrote about it for Competitor, now PodiumRunner, five years ago. The session’s construction is simple: 8 x 400m with a scant 200-meter float for “recovery” between repetitions. It’s efficient and effective but it ain’t easy! Here are the details:
What: 8 x 400m @ 3K-5K pace with a 200m float (i.e. the quicker end of your normal training pace and not a slow jog) for “recovery” between reps. When the workout is over you’ll have run continuously for 3 miles.
Why: I like to say that this is a lactate threshold session disguised as an interval workout. It takes a lot of discipline and practice to not go too fast on your first couple 400m reps and it can be even trickier to not slow down too much on the floats. As the workout goes on it gets increasingly more challenging to hit your target paces as your body is learning to recover while running fast.
Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.
Where: Ideally on a track but a treadmill or uninterrupted stretch or road or path can work too (you’ll have to watch your screen or GPS watch to monitor distance on the latter options).
When: Anytime, really! De Castella would do this workout weekly throughout the year, whether he was training for a marathon or not, and the speed at which he ran it at would vary depending on where he was in the training cycle. It’s a great benchmark session to repeat every 3-4 weeks to test your fitness and track progress.