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Rick's Corner

SMELT Running

If you live in the right parts of the country, you know of smelt as little fish that run in schools. And while runners may run in groups, most of us aren’t all that fishy. Still, the word SMELT has its uses in training.

Training is all about pace. Each workout has a purpose, and the pace is designed to achieve it without beating you up any more than necessary. Going too fast not only increases the risk of injury, but it increases recovery time, so that you’re too tired for the next workout.

For most purposes, there are five paces, which we can call S, M, L, T, and E. Rearrange that and you get SMELT.

All five are based on your 5K race pace. If you’ve run a recent 5K, you know what that is. If not, you can guess it from another race distance with any of several performance charts, such as McMillan’s Pace Calculator. Then, it’s simply a matter of crunching numbers.

“E” means “easy.” This is your day-to-day training pace, at which you do the bulk of your mileage. Most people go too fast. As a general rule, your “E” pace is 90 sec/mile slower than your 5K pace. That’s right: a minute and a half. If you’re running a 20:00 5K (6:26s) you should be doing your “E” training at approximately 8:00s. Slower, if you want. There is a pace that’s too slow for “E” training, but I’ve never met anyone who actually runs that slowly, so there’s no reason to worry about it.

• “T” means “tempo” or “threshold.” It’s typically stated as 40 sec/mile slower than 5k race pace, but that may be too fast if your 5K time is slower than about 7:00/mile. If that’s you, I suggest calculating the following scaling factor, which I’ll call “R” (for “ratio”):

R = (your 5K time) / (20 minutes)

Using this, the “T” pace formula becomes:

T pace = (5K race pace) + (R x 40 sec/mile)

Don’t bother using the R factor unless it’s big enough to make an appreciable difference.

• “L” pace. This one is simple:

L pace = (5K race pace) – 5 sec/mile

“L” means “long,” and classically, this is the pace at which you do mile repeats. But there are other uses for the L pace, so that definition isn’t perfect.

• “M” pace. This is geared for medium-length intervals: 600s and 800s. It’s calculated as:

M pace = L pace – (R x 15 sec/mile)

Again, only use R if it’s enough bigger than 1.0 to make an appreciable difference.

• “S” pace. This is for short intervals: 200s, 300s, and 400s. The formula is

S pace = L pace – (R x 30 sec/mile)

Later posts will explain how to use these paces in training. Until then, Tuesday workouts using them are posted each week on the message board. See you on the track!

© 2005 by Richard A. Lovett

See this at http://running.richardalovett.com. If people want to come to my site, that’s great.


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