Becoming a Runner

Runner during an Ironman race
January 12, 2017

D3 Staff



As coaches, we have all heard the following comments somewhere along the way, either at local tri team meetings, or out on a long Sunday group run, "I just survive the run because I'm not a runner" I'm just going to ride as hard as I can and use whatever I have left for the run. The run portion of triathlon does not have to be about survival. It is tough at all the distances as it comes after we have already swam anywhere from 300yds to 2.4 miles, and biked 12-112 miles, depending on the distance we are racing. It does not have to be a "sufferfest" because someone has opted not to work on their run.

It is a common challenge to help improve our athlete's speed, keeping times for speed work and pacing relative to them, and helping them to see gains in their fitness through their speed work. Among the three sports the run is the place where the body absorbs the most stress on the joints, tendons and ligaments. This occurs because of the fatigue placed on the body as our athletes work their way from the swim, bike portion of training/ racing, and onto the run. So, in talking about key workouts we also need to mention several other keys that allow us to perform speed work and enhance our ability to tolerate the physical burden and stress placed on our fatigued bodies once we get to our final aspect of our event the run.

Core strength is not just for a good looking set of abs. Through core work the athlete increases their strength, power, stability and flexibility to help stabilize and keep the body upright through the act of running. This helps the athlete save energy and with this increased body control our running motion is more efficient. Another key element is the cadence or stride rate of our athlete. Without going into much detail, suffice it to say there is great benefit in having your athlete work on their running stride. We must consider the fact that higher stride turner-over tends to mean less landing shock, greater efficiency, and less injury potential. These factors alone ought to warrant a look at our athlete's stride rate.

When considering the different running distances of the various triathlon events, we want our athletes to maintain a high stride rate while they are working on workouts, that are listed below. These workouts are something the athlete progresses too, not starts with. They should be modified for rest and pace based on the individual athlete. They could be done on the track or set-up on a road course, but must be based on our athletes pacing from a previous workout or a recent 5k or 10k. In any case these sample workouts are ones that the athlete builds up to and has been conditioned and physically prepared to tolerate.


4 x(1, 5k pace, 2‚ easy). Repeat this a total of 3 times with 5‚ of easy recovery running in between sets.

Increase the time of the effort up to 4‚ and then decrease the rest between efforts down to one minute. Progression in the time of the effort and then the rest between should be based on how your athlete is responding to workouts from week to week. I like the use of a heart rate monitor (HRM) for the run, however it maybe easier for the athlete to complete the sprint workout based on RPE initially because of the time it takes to increase the heart rate in the short efforts.


4-8 x 800 initially starting with equal rest following each 800. As the athletes fitness improves the number of repeats increases to 8 with the goal for 1 & 2 to be at race pace, 3-6 to be 10 faster than race pace, and 7 & 8 to be max effort. The rest between the max number of repeats stage would alternate 30" and 60" between.

Half Iron Distance:

Ladder as follows 800 on 45‚ rest 1200 on 60‚ rest 1600 on 2, rest 1600 on 2 rest

1200 on 60" rest, 800. The goal is for the athletes pacing to be such that they run equal or negative splits on the backside/descending portion of the ladder.

Iron Distance:

6-8 mile repeats using the most recent 10k time to determine pacing with 2-4 recovery.

For any of these workouts the repeat and interval should be established relative to the athletes pacing and fitness. Getting faster means running faster; it simply means having to work on speed on the track or on the roads. As the coach, it means structuring the workouts so the athlete can accomplish the workout effectively, gain confidence and experience a positive change in their fitness.

schedule a call