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Sprinting is an all out effort with the longest stretch of distance being about 600m.

When doing speedwork with interval distances greater than 600m should a portion of the distance be done at a sprint? (For example, if I am running 8x800m, should each 800m be 200m at pace, 200m sprint, 400m at pace.)

McMillan.com defines training paces for sprinting and speedwork separately and Im wondering if the speedwork (which is not necessarily an all out effort) requires you to avoid going all out in order to properly perform the run and benefit properly from the workout.

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When I've done these the coach has said to run the intervals at a steady target pace. Assuming you're on a track with 1 lap recovery you would be running 12000m with 8000m at pace, I would expect the pace to be your target 10000m pace although it tends to work out slightly faster.

I wouldn't sprint except for the final 200m of the last interval. Each interval should ideally be equally paced, the last one may be faster with a sprint.

Sprinting during each interval is likely to slow you down on each subsequent interval.

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It is my understanding that speedwork is sustaining maximal effort over a fixed distance which is usually short (ish).

Personally: I do 'speedwork' for 500/1000m intervals. While it's not sprinting flat-out it is a very hard run at my anaerobic threshold (using a heart rate strap helps find this).

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  • You never sprint flat out during an interval then? Why not, has anyone ever suggested that shouldnt be done?
    – Jason
    Oct 19 '16 at 11:25
  • Separated my answer out a bit better, my point is that you cannot sustain the same pace for 1000m if you are at a full sprint, even if you can you aren't going to be repeating that at the same speed soon after. The best way to plan interval training is by using heart rate zones.
    – John
    Oct 19 '16 at 12:31
  • What about doing 80-90% maximal effort and 10-20% sprint during 500m or 1000m interval training? That is a more specific example of what I'm trying to ask here.
    – Jason
    Oct 20 '16 at 0:36
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It depends on the distance that you are training for. With something like a marathon, I would place little importance on all out sprint training. The only likely time it might matter is in a sprint for a finishing place, and that is going to depend much more on the pacing you did up to that point rather than the 12x200m workout you did three weeks ago.

Where it might matter more is the closer that you get to the sprint distances is for starts. Often the first 200-500m of a 5k race is done at a near sprint to get position, and as you go shorter, the amount of time you spend at or near that speed increases. And, being able to transition to a normal race pace after that initial burst of speed is also a critical skill at shorter distances.

So if you are training for 800m up to 5k races, then yes, most definitely include all out sprint training (We even did them up to 8k and 10k training in college), as you increase in distance over that, not as much emphasis is needed on pure sprinting ability.

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  • I'm wondering if sprinting part of a 800m interval as part of 8x800m is a proper part of doing this type of speed work. Sorry, my question title wasn't clear and I'm probably misusing the term speed work, but I edited it.
    – Jason
    Oct 20 '16 at 0:34
  • @Jason - Minimal speed difference in most cases, where it might help is when you need to "surge" to catch/break someone near you. However, fartlek and tempo training already serve this function quite nicely, I'd leave it for that and just run the 8x800 (or whatever) as written.
    – JohnP
    Oct 20 '16 at 21:01

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