8×400 If It Was Easy Everyone Would Do It

So today I did my very first “official” speedwork.  Pam at We Run Disney recommended the book Run Less, Run Faster to me when I was bemoaning my inability to get a pinecone trophy at my 5k last weekend.  I dutifully went out and bought it (along with The New Rules of Lifting for Women and book 5 of Game of Thrones) and mapped out my training schedule for the year.

The book recommends a 3×2 approach which is three days of running, (repeats, tempo, long run) and two days of cross training (bike, swim or row).  Monday was my cross train day and I did the stationary bike plus day one of my new strength training plan.  I hate the stationary bike so very very much but I gave it a try and apparently, when you add Charmed on Netflix streaming to the stationary bike, it’s not so bad after all!

Today was 8×400 repeats.  Hmmm 8×400 = 1,600 = 2 miles.  I can do two miles easy!  What I didn’t realize is that with repeats 2 miles actually equals 5 miles with warm up/cool down/repeats and recovery laps.  I had heard of repeats but didn’t really know how they worked.  So here’s what I did for my prescribed 8×400:


  • I looked in the chart in the book to get my goal pace for the repeats (it’s based on your current 5k time).
  • I went to a local track (at noon because it was rainy all morning).
  • The track was a 1/4 mile track which conveniently equals 400meters, so one lap = one repeat.
  • I set my Garmin to let me manually hit a button for a lap.
  • The book also prescribed the proper warmup, recovery intervals (also 400m) and cooldown.
  • I jogged one mile at a slow-ish speed.  The last lap of that mile I did pickups (you just run faster then slower for short bits) and butt kicks and knee lifts.
  • I started a new lap on my Garmin, then I ran my first repeat.  It was a full lap, 400m, 1/4 mile.  My goal pace was 8:40 which is insane.  I don’t run that fast ever.  Which is apparently why they call it “speed work”.  I glanced at  my watch and I was going a bit faster than my goal speed which was crazy.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up the pace but I just kept pushing it.  The first lap felt pretty good.
  • Then I jogged my “recovery” lap.
  • The second repeat was a little harder, but still felt good.
  • I walked/ran my next recovery lap.
  • The third repeat felt hard.  Really hard.  Especially the last 100m or so.  I started thinking maybe I mis-remembered the # of repeats.  It couldn’t have been 8.  Probably 4.
  • I walked/ran my next recovery lap, pulled out my phone and checked my workout schedule.  Crap.  It really did say 8.  How am I going to 8 of these monsters?  I’m probably going to die out here.
  • I grabbed some water and then started repeat #4.  Yep, still hard.  Still painful.  OK, I’m going to quit after this one.  Four is respectable for a first go at speed work.  I’m sure next time will be easier.  I’ll just do my recovery  lap and then I’ll go back to my car.
  • I walked/ran the recovery lap and convinced myself to do just one more repeat.
  • Repeat #5.  Geez it’s hot.  And sunny.  And my breathing is all messed up.  And my legs feel like lead.  Crap, I’m only half way around this huge track.  OK, just keep going.  Almost there and then you can quit.  Just do your recovery lap to cool down.
  • Water, recovery lap walk/run.  Well, maybe I can do just one more repeat.
  • Repeat #6.  Why did I do this?  I’m not fast.  I’m just going to pass out and die.  Well, at least I have my roadID on so they can identify my body.  Just keep moving.  Just keep breathing.  This can be your last repeat.  Six is a lot.  Just one more recovery lap to cool down.
  • Water, recovery lap walk/run.  Only two left.  I’m not a quitter.  I can run slower if I need to but I’m damn well going to do this.
  • Repeat #7.  Geez it’s hot.  And my legs feel like lead.  Push, push, push.  Almost there.  Done.
  • Recovery lap walk/run.  Only one more.
  • Repeat #8.  Finish strong.  Last lap.  If it was easy everyone would do it.  If you want to get faster, you have to learn to deal with pain and discomfort.  You are NOT going to die, just keep going.
  • Yay!  Last recovery lap.  Walked the whole thing slow as molasses but done!

I actually ran all the repeats except #6 and #7 faster than my goal pace which is absolutely freaking shocking to me.

8x400n1It wasn’t really fun (ok #1 was kind of fun) and it did hurt a lot and it was way too hot and sunny, but I’m so glad I got it done and I can see how this kind of structured work will really help my racing speed eventually.IMG_2649

I’m glad I only have to do this workout once a week.  And next time I’m going in the morning because (1) it was crazy hot and sunny and (2) I ended up with my first sunburn of the year!  I may find a quarter mile loop in the neighborhood because the track is a bit of a drive from work and with the added miles, this took longer than my usual workday runs.

It may not be realistic, but here’s my goal.  I want to be on this list next year for the 2015 WDW 10k:wdw10k14

Have you ever done “formal” speedwork?  Does it get easier or do you always feel like you’re going to die?


8×400 If It Was Easy Everyone Would Do It — 20 Comments

  1. Funny that you should post this because I just discovered that I could run at the track at the university near my house for free! I thought you had to be a member of their health club there and just assumed the track would always be locked up. I’m hopefully gonna get out there and check it out soon. And are you kidding me, one lap around is only 1/4 of a mile??? (can you tell I never ran track in school). Good luck with your speed work!
    Meranda@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…Get Your Copy of the Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners!My Profile

    • That’s great! I’m not sure if all tracks are 1/4 mile, but most outdoor ones are. Thanks and I hope you get to “enjoy” some track time too!

  2. I want to die just reading about your experiences, April! Good for you for sticking with it. 🙂

    • Yeah, it was not so much fun. Except for the beginning and about an hour after I finished! I’m hoping it’s moderately less painful next week!

    • I’ve got some big goals and I’m not going to get there without putting in the serious work. I’ve been stuck at the same pace for a while now, so I’m hoping this three-pronged plan will speed me up a lot!

  3. Track work is hard…not the least because just finding one is hard! I have to drive a bit to get to one that’s open too, and the only time it’s really open is on weekend mornings, since it’s at a high school. I don’t mind the repeats, though. They tend to put me into a lull and I just keep going. I’m going to check out that book!
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    • I’m hoping to get into that lull/zone with the repeats. I think I might have almost been there but the pace was pushing me to my limit, so once that pace is a bit more comfortable, maybe I’ll enjoy them more. The book is great. I love how specific it is about the workouts, distances, times and paces. It’s almost like having my own running coach!

  4. Holy guacamole! I feel like I should really do this too, except I don’t have a track that I can visit. I mean, I guess I could push my way onto the track during my kiddo’s practice but they might not be too thrilled with me. 😉 Anyway, GO YOU WITH THAT SPEED! So awesome. And I’m very glad that you’re still alive to tell the tale. And yeah… maybe I should do speed work too…
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    • I’m thinking of just finding a 1/4 mile loop in the neighborhood or a local park that’s a bit closer (and shadier after my sunburn situation!) and treating it like a track. My Garmin’s pretty accurate, so I just need to pace off the distance. Thanks for the positivity! I’ve read about tempo runs, repeats, yasso 800’s, etc so I guess they have a lot of research behind them.

  5. Awesome job! I’ve done some speed work on the treadmill, but it was for X amount of time instead of distance. But keep in mind I feel like I’m really pushing it at a 10:00 pace. 😉 I think you’ll see great results from your efforts!

    • Thanks! Honestly, I normally run a 9:45 pace when I’m pushing it. I was shocked that I managed the sub 9 pace for all those repeats. I guess that’s the beauty of the book, it kind of forces you to push the speed in shorter segments to you get used to it and I guess you eventually can run that speed for 5ks or longer…

  6. Thank you for this post! I found it super informative since I always wondered what these repeats were everyone was talking about. And good idea doing a quarter mile loop anywhere. I don’t have a track nearby but could totally do this around my house. Great job!

    • I know! Repeats were a mystery to me too! I did my first “tempo run” today too! 🙂

  7. April,

    Great post! I applaud you for putting in the speed work because a lot of people procrastinate and never get it done! Or they start, get tired, and end up with 4 x 400 instead of 8 x 400. (yes, I was one of those people btw).

    I LOVE your mantra on the final 400 Repeat #8. Finish strong. Last lap. If it was easy everyone would do it. If you want to get faster, you have to learn to deal with pain and discomfort. You are NOT going to die, just keep going. So true, I always get a boost on the last repeat!

    I used to dread speed work and now I embrace it! I started seeing improvements and I got hooked! Now Track Tuesday is a thing. Keep going, keep putting in the work! Remember, your lapping everyone who decided to stay home or quit! 🙂

    All the best – Eddie
    eddiegotsole recently posted…Leveling Up as a RunnerMy Profile

    • Thanks! I love the thought that I’m lapping everyone who decided to stay home! Especially as I’ve got a long way to go (and a lot of work to put in!) to get where I want to be! Loved your recent post by the way! 🙂

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  10. It’s so funny you posted this. I’m tired of waiting to lose 20lbs, and have places 5th in my AG 3 times recently. I really want to place in the top 3 and get an award, specifically at a Disney race. My husband worked really hard and BQ’d, so I asked him to train me. We just did hill repeats and 800s this week. Tough! Exactly what you said “if it was easy, everyone would do it”. My legs felt like jelly not lead and breathing was crazy! So nice to hear someone else is doing this craziness, too!

    • I haven’t tackled hill repeats yet! And my first 800’s are on the calendar this week. I think it’s great that your husband is training you, good luck (I hope you’re not in my age group, LOL, just kidding…mostly!) Awesome job on your speed work!