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Workout Wednesday: Track in the Fall?

Looking for a speed workout that’s a bit different to your regular fall training regimen? How about a classic track workout (it doesn’t have to be done on the track!) to change things up?

The Hamilton AAA grounds is the oldest park in the city. As early as the 1870s the Hamilton Tigers Rugby Club played there (the club would eventually amalgamate with the Hamilton Cats to become what we now know as the Hamilton Tiger Cats Football Club). The grounds hosted the Grey Cup in 1910 and it’s been said that Babe Ruth played baseball at the park at one point in its storied history.

None of which matters to the runners who often take advantage of the soft gravel track that surrounds the park and provides the perfect venue for a track workout on a surface that won’t beat you up as much as other tracks might. I’ve often taken my training group over to the park at this time of the year for a workout, mixing things up from all the trails and grass work that we typically do in the fall.

One great set to do on this type of venue is a classic pyramid. As one American coach I came across in Vermont described it’s “a quarter, half, three quarters, mile, and then back down.”

Depending on how you want to measure it all, that’s one, two, three, four, three, two and one lap of the track, or 400/ 800/ 1,200/ 1,600/ 1,200/ 800/ 400 m intervals, for a total of 6.4 km of hard running. You can add another mile to the mix for an even 8 km set, too, if you’re training for a longer race.

Pacing and Recovery:

There are lots of options you can throw into the mix for this set that can make it suitable for different races and times of the year. In the fall, I like to have my athletes do the set on a specific pace time – say, 2 mins/ 400 m (the 800 would be on 4 mins, the 1,200 on 6, etc.), and have them aim for their goal 10 km, half-marathon or marathon race pace. The goal is to have enough time to recover well enough to do the next interval, but not enough time to feel completely rested, so it simulates a race situation at some levels. I also encourage people to aim for the same pace all the way through during this set so that it becomes an excellent pacing set.

If you’re aiming for a longer race, like a marathon, you’ll want this set to be done at your race pace with as short a recovery as you can handle – even as little as 15 seconds after the 400. Cross country specialists who are looking for a harder effort can take a bit more time to recover and push the pacing envelope as they see fit.

If you don’t have a gravel track around, this set can certainly be done on a measured trail or on the grass.