Pick Up Runs: Increase speed over long distances

Throughout my training for the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon in September, I’ve been doing various interval workouts and tempo runs to increase my the speed of my mile times. I’ve written about tempo runs in previous posts and explained some of my interval training but the one speedwork run I didn’t mention was the pick up run.

Admittedly, my training has been calling for me to work in pick-up runs throughout the last seven weeks but instead of doing them I did longer runs or other kinds of speedwork. I didn’t do them because I wasn’t really sure what they were and I was already doing two kinds of speedwork training so I thought, why add another? Turns out, they are the best way to increase speed over longer distances. Last night however I did my first pick-up run on the treadmill and it was pretty hard but it felt great after!

Similar to an interval run, a pick up run helps to increase your body’s tolerance to lactic acid buildup without cooling down completely in between intervals. Through this practice, your body will become better able to run at higher speeds without getting tired. The difference between a pick up run and a regular interval run is the total distance of the run and the amount of time spent at the interval speed.

How do you tackle a pick up run you may ask? Well, to begin, start with an easy warm-up running at a comfortable jog. Once you’re warmed up, pick up your speed to a “controlled sprint.” This is another difference between an interval or tempo run and a pick up run. With a tempo run you want to run the intervals at a “comfortably hard” pace, not a sprint. With a pick up run you want to run at a “controlled sprint” during the intervals. What’s a controlled sprint, you’re now asking? A controlled sprint means you’re running at a very hard pace, an “8” or “9” intensity level, but not dying basically.

After you run the interval for the designated amount of time you want to slow your pace down to a comfortable jog, but do not stop running. With an interval run you can get away with walking in between intervals but with a pick up run you want to keep running. Another great thing about pick up runs is you can take as much time as you need in between intervals. This is important because during each interval you have to stay at the “controlled sprint” pace, so resting in between is crucial.

Here’s are some examples of pick up runs to test out:

  • A 4-mile run with 1 set of 60s, 120s, 120s, 60s, 45s, 30s, 15s sprints. (Translation: A 4-mile run with 1 set of 60 second sprints, then slow to a jog to rest for however long you need, then 1 set of 120 second sprints, then slow to a jog, etc.)
  • 10 sets of 60s sprints with 90s jog in between sets, 2-mile cool down run
  • 1-mile warm-up with 6 sets of 90s sprints and 120s of jogging in between sets, 1-mile cool down

As always, stretch after! If you have any questions or comments, write them in the comment section below!

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5 thoughts on “Pick Up Runs: Increase speed over long distances

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you like it and think it’s a good resource for others. Feel free to share it widely :)

  1. Pingback: Week 8: Half-marathon update | Fit Girl. Happy Girl.

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