Speed it up: Running acceleration drills

You think your training covers all the bases: Long runs for endurance, intervals for speed, hills for leg muscle strength, and stretching for flexibility so your stride doesn't shorten.

But there's something that most runners miss: acceleration.

You need acceleration to surge to the finish line; you need acceleration to break from one pack to another, 15 to 20 feet ahead, and work your way through the field.

Here are a couple of drills:

Run a series of steadily lengthening distances, each at a slightly faster pace. Let's say you jog at 9:00 pace, and race at 7:00 pace.

Warm up with a mile or two of jogging. Begin with 200 meters of jogging, 66 seconds. Now run 220 meters in 69 seconds, then jog 200 meters for recovery.

Increase the distance of each repetition by 20 meters, and add 3 seconds to the time.

The whole scheme looks like this (with 200 meters of jog/recovery in between each interval):

Meters - seconds:
200 - 66
220 - 69
240 - 72
260 - 75
280 - 78
300 - 81
320 - 84
340 - 87
360 - 90
380 - 93

Jog, or walk and jog the recoveries, and you'll end up with the last interval slightly faster than race pace (which would be 100 seconds). The whole workout is about three miles of accelerations and recoveries.

But you don't want to do the whole workout first time. Begin with two intervals, and increase by two intervals a week. This drill teaches you smooth increases in pace. If you are faster than this example, you can increase your pace more quickly. If you are slower, the reverse.

Another acceleration drill is called "Indian files." This is more fun than most, but you'll need partners. Collect as many runners as you can who run about the same pace.

Warm up on a track. Now rearrange yourselves until you are jogging single file in one lane. Begin the drill with the last runner breaking out to the right, and accelerating smoothly past the other runners to reach the front.

They will then drop back into the lead position. Every runner takes turns to accelerate from the back of the line to the front. Do as many repetitions as you wish to begin, and increase weekly until you cover about three miles (add warm-up and cool down).

The joggers can give the accelerating runner shouts of encouragement, and the whole workout can be fun.

Add acceleration drills to your routine a couple of times a year, and you'll add another dimension to your racing.

(First drill adapted from a program for 1,500 meter runners in "Better Training for Distance Runners," by David Martin, Ph.D., and Peter Coe, Human Kinetics, 2nd Edition, 1997, $22.95, pp. 434.)

Copyright, The American Running Association.

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