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6 Essential Marathon Speed Workouts

Marathon speed workouts are often neglected or ignored for the sake of prioritizing the long run. While the long runs are certainly a staple in any marathon training plan, speed workouts are important for all runners – regardless of their pace or experience level.

Regardless of your goals for the marathon, incorporating speed workouts and intervals into your training plan will help improve your overall fitness, stamina and mental endurance – all of which are key for success during the marathon.

How often should you run marathon speed workouts?

Nearly all runners will benefit from completing speed workouts during marathon training at least once a week. For more experienced runners, or those with specific race day goals, twice a week is optimal.

Marathon speed workouts don’t have to be long – some of the most effective workouts are those mile repeats thrown into the long run or some short intervals during a mid-week easy run.

What type of speed workouts are best for marathon training?

The best speed workouts for a marathon are all types of workouts! Track interval repeats, Yasso 800s, mile repeats, tempo runs, fartleks, hill running and race pace miles each provide incredible benefits to marathon runners.

The key for marathon training is including a wide variety of speed workouts throughout the training plan. Sticking with the same speed workout week after week will be more beneficial than skipping it altogether, but will leave runners lacking in many areas.

Try including some longer intervals in the middle of a long run, such as a couple race pace miles. During a mid-week easy run, runners can alternate between track intervals, tempo runs and hill workouts. Each speed workout helps improve those fast twitch muscle fibers, increase VO2 Max, and boost mental strength for race day.

Benefits of Marathon Speed Workouts

Whether you are training for you first marathon and simply hoping to finish the distance or are a seasoned marathoner aiming for a new PR, incorporating regular speed workouts during training will help you become stronger on race day. Here are some of the incredible benefits.

Throwing in a few marathon speed workouts throughout training is an excellent way to test your mental strength, improve your fitness, and prepare your body for the physical strain of race day.

Check out the 6 essential marathon speed workouts to run a faster marathon and get your next PR!

These 6 running workouts are essential for long distance runners during marathon training. Try each speed workout during half or full marathon training to run a faster marathon, increase your endurance, and conquer the distance. The perfect addition to any beginner through advanced marathon training plan! #runningworkouts #marathontraining #speedworkouts #marathonworkouts

6 Essential Marathon Speed Workouts for a New PR

10 x 400s

These short, 400 meter intervals are a great way to practice increasing your turnover and being in complete control of your speed. Each 400 meter interval is followed by a 400 meter recovery interval, and continues to alternate throughout the workout.

In the beginning of training, you’ll want to start off with less repetitions and gradually work your way up to ten 400 meter repeats by the last few weeks of training. Start of simple with 4 x 400s and increase the number of repetitions every few weeks as your stamina increases.

Yasso 800s

Yasso 800s are a staple in many marathon training plans, and have been for years. This simple marathon workout can be used to help predict your overall finish time. Simply complete 10 x 800s and take the average time of completion for each 800 to determine your marathon finish time.

For example if your average time for ten 800s is 3:57, this translates to a predicted finish time of 3 hours and 57 minutes. This prediction is said to be most accurate with 10 repetitions – if you are just starting out with 4 x 800s, take a few weeks to build up your stamina and increase the number of repetitions until you reach 10.

Complete each 800 meter interval at a pace that is faster than your goal race pace, and recover with 400 meters at an easy pace. While the concept might be simple, the 800 meter interval is just enough to really test your ability to hold on when you are running paces that are much faster than usual. Not to mention the fact that the 400 meter recovery period feels like it flies by!

These 6 running workouts are essential for long distance runners during marathon training. Try each speed workout during half or full marathon training to run a faster marathon, increase your endurance, and conquer the distance. The perfect addition to any beginner through advanced marathon training plan! #runningworkouts #marathontraining #speedworkouts #marathonworkouts

Mile Repeats

Adding a few simple mile repeats to a regular week day run is a great way to incorporate some marathon speed workouts into your training. The simple idea of running a mile at a fast pace, followed by an 800 meter recovery period and repeating is easy enough to implement into just about any run.

These mile repeats are a great way to push your body outside of its comfort zone and really test its ability to hold on when things get tough. You’ll want to complete at least a mile warm up before beginning your mile repeats. Challenge yourself to complete each mile repeat about 60 seconds faster than your goal pace for race day.

1 x 400, 1 x 800, 1 x 1, 1 x 800, 1 x 400

This simple pyramid workout is a great way to mix things up both mentally and physically. The interval distance gradually increases to a mile before decreasing back to just 400 meters during this workout. Each interval should be completed at a different pace, running faster the shorter the distance.

Aim to complete 400 meters at a pace that’s about 90 – 120 seconds faster than your goal pace, 800 meters at a pace that’s about 60 – 90 seconds faster than your goal pace, and 1 mile about 60 seconds faster than your goal pace.

When the interval is shorter than a mile, it may take a bit of math to calculate your pace based on your interval time.

For example, if your goal pace on race day is 10 minutes per mile, try running your mile repeats at a 9 minute/mile pace.

Your 800 meter intervals can be completed at an 8:30 – 9:00 minute pace, which translates to completing 800 meters in 4:15 – 4:30. Your 400 meter intervals can be completed at an 8:00 – 8:30 minute pace, which translates to completing 400 meters in 2:00 – 2:08.

1 x 1, 1 x 800, 1 x 400, 1 x 800, 1 x 1

This reverse pyramid workout utilizes the same concept as the previous marathon workout, but in reverse. This time, you’ll begin the speed workout with your longest interval, decrease to a 400 meter interval, and then increase back up to a mile.

This marathon speed workout really tests your mental endurance, as you’re forced to build back up again after completing the first half. Aim to complete each interval using the same pace calculation as mentioned in the previous workout, with a 400 meter recovery after intervals shorter than a mile, and 800 meter recover for mile long intervals.

Tempo Miles

Incorporating tempo miles into long runs is a great way to test your speed on long runs when your legs are fatigued. Complete these tempo miles consecutively, in the middle of a long run. Throw them in on long runs every other week or every few weeks to test your turnover and pickup when you’re fatigued.

Begin with just 2 or 3 tempo miles near the beginning of training, and build up to about 6 tempo miles as you near the end. These tempo miles should be completed at a pace that’s about 45 seconds faster than your goal pace, which will feel unusually fast compared to the slow, easy pace of your long runs.

These 6 running workouts are essential for long distance runners during marathon training. Try each speed workout during half or full marathon training to run a faster marathon, increase your endurance, and conquer the distance. The perfect addition to any beginner through advanced marathon training plan! #runningworkouts #marathontraining #speedworkouts #marathonworkouts

Regardless of whether you’re training for a marathon simply to complete the distance or to set a new PR, these speed workouts are essential for any runner. From your first marathon all the way to your fiftieth, incorporating workouts on a regular basis is a great way to improve overall fitness, increase VO2 max and gain some much-needed mental strength.

Training for a marathon is one of the most rewarding experiences, whether or not you accomplish your goals. The challenge of increasing your mileage, hitting new distances and staying healthy through it all requires more than just a physical effort.

With each challenge that you overcome, your body and mind gain strength and willpower that will propel you through the miles and pain on race day. Incorporating simple intervals and workouts throughout training will provide a much-needed mental boost, knowing that you have completed paces far faster than your goal pace.

Whether you include one or all of these workouts into your marathon training plan, your body and mind will be better for it.

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