Workout of the Week: The Sev Special


Summer is around the corner and for some runners that means an opportunity to improve their speed before shifting focus toward training for longer distances in the fall. If you’re planning to hit the track this summer for regular speedwork, one of my favorite introductory sessions for getting back on the oval is one that I learned from the legendary Bob “Sev” Sevene back in 2005. It consists of sets of 400 and 800m repeats at a hard-but-not–too-hard effort. Here are the details:

What: 2-3 sets of 400m/400m/800m @ target 5K race pace. Take 1-2 minutes recovery after the 400m reps and 2-3 minutes after the 800s. I’ll usually have my athletes jog a slow 200m after the 400s, and 400m after the 800, which works out to about the same amount of time. Beginners should start with two sets if not used to doing workouts on the track. Advanced runners can substitute the 800 in the last set with a mile at target 5K pace.

Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-20 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.

Why: To “mold the tissues,” as the legendary coach Bob Sevene put it to me 15 years ago. This is a great introductory workout for returning to regular training on the track. It provides just enough of an aerobic stimulus, helps you regain some semblance of turnover and rhythm in your stride, and gets your body used to taking left turns again at a faster pace. 

When: Early in a training block when re-introducing speed/track workouts into your weekly routine.

Where: On the track, preferably, but a road or treadmill are fine substitutes if you don’t have access to an oval.

A version of this workout first appeared on

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