Aug 01


…then you have to run faster!  Lord knows I wish there were a more enjoyable way to do it.  If you know of one, please tell me so I can stop all this nonsense with speed drills!

As most of you know, I love running.  I love running the way Anthony Weiner loves phone sex.  And the more I do it, the more I love it…with one exception – speed drills!

The road to hell...or where I did my speed drills yesterday.

The road to hell…or where I did my speed drills yesterday.

It’s like taking your medicine or eating your vegetables – if you want to get better/healthier there’s just no way around it.  When I first started running I didn’t know a lot about them, which is a very fond and distant memory.  When a runner does speed work or drills they basically run as fast as they can for a measured distance.  The pace and distance are set by whatever your goal race is.  The longer the race, the longer the distance you run fast. They are running torture.  And, like torture, very effective in getting results.

In the winter of 2006 I got it into my head to try and qualify to run the Boston marathon.  I decided this after running only one marathon the previous fall.  I ran said marathon in 3:57.  I needed a 3:40 to qualify for Boston and I thought that was totally do-able.  Ok, so I didn’t know much about anything (let alone speed drills!) which worked to my advantage.  I simply went out,  hired a running coach and started training.  What is that saying about the bumblebee? It’s scientificlly impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway?  Yay, it was like that.  Ignorance is bliss. I supposed to be doing this?

Um…am I supposed to be doing this?

When I told my new coach of my plans, it was my first glimpse of reality.  He was all “You need to knock 17 min off your time?… Huh, ok wow.”  And, after a thoughtful pause, “You’ve only ever run one marathon?”  Me (doe eyed): “Um, yep.”  I guess that was enough chit chat because then we got to work.  It didn’t dawn on me that people train for years to qualify for Boston and that 17 minutes in running is equivalent to the amount of time it takes to work your way through a port-o-potty line before a race start – forever!

It was this coach who instilled in me speed work and rest days – two things my training was severely lacking in.  He took me to the track and we did the standard speed work (4×1 mile, 6×800, 8×400, mile test) but it was all new to me and it was horrible!  Then, one fine afternoon, instead of the track drills, he decided we would race a 5k .  And by “we” he meant me! 

On the way to the race I was all “So, what am I shooting for, 7:30 min miles?”  He almost got into an accident.  “Seven and a half minute miles?  We should just turn around and go home!  You need to finish this in under 21 minutes.”  Um, is that a bleeping  joke?  I had only ever run a handful of 5Ks and they were all around 28 minutes. I wanted to open the door and jump out of the car…and we were on a highway.  Somehow I held it together.

Pre-race he actually brought me over to the awards table and showed me the first place trophy for my age group.  I cannot make this shit up!  He also made me stand in front of the pack at the race start.  This was all unchartered territory for me and I was freaking out!  I started doing a warm-up run (first time also doing this!) but it made me loosen up.  By the time the gun went off I was pooping my pants!  I took off like a shot and my adrenaline was through the roof!  I remember thinking that I had to calm down or I was going to have a heart attack…and then I thought – if I have a heart attack I can stop running!!!

The race was in two loops so coach was waiting on the sidelines as I made the first pass.  I will never forget what he shouted to me as I passed by “I want to see blood coming out of your eyes!”  I shit you not.  I started to think the old man was completely insane! Couldn’t he see there was blood coming out of my eyes?  I was breathing like a maniac, pounding my legs as fast as they would go and praying for a heart attack – what the hell else could I give?

My "friend" Heather sent me this in a text while I was on vacation.  The text read: I call this the "watch your back Allie Burdick workout - boom!"

My “friend” Heather sent me this in a text while I was on vacation. The text read: I call this the “watch your back Allie Burdick workout – boom!”  Yay, it’s upside down (I don’t know why?) but you get the idea!  Speed work is motivating!

I crossed the finish line completely depleted.  I didn’t know weather to punch my coach in the face or hug him.  It was the hardest I had ever run in my life and, really, my first race.  And you bet your sweet ass I won that trophy!

Four months later, I qualified for Boston in 3:30 – ten minutes to spare and 27 gigantic minutes off my first marathon time.  Holy hell!

Qualifying for Boston at the Hartford ING Marathon in October 2006!

Qualifying for Boston at the Hartford ING Marathon in October 2006!

The moral of the story?  Speed drills suck ass but they work!  They motivate me to push harder then I think I can and past what my legs and lungs say I’m capable of.  You can do them in groups at the track or on treadmills so that everyone can share in the misery and later, the joyful exhaustion that can only come when you know you’ve run your hardest…and you know this because you just barely held in your vomit during the cool down.

That baptism into speed work was six years ago and I still do drills religiously. I’ve developed a healthy love/hate relationship with them. I hope to someday run Boston again.  Maybe a 10 year anniversary in 2017 Hmmmmmm….

Do you do speed drills?  Love them or hate them?  

What’s your favorite race story?



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  1. Are speed drills the things I do every afternoon right before my hubby comes home where I do an entire day’s worth of cleaning up in 30 minutes?? If so, then yes, I am all about them! 😉 If you mean running, yeah, not so much. But I do enjoy reading about YOUR running! :)-Ashley

    1. Yes!!! You know exactly what I’m talking about. Very painful:-)

  2. I’ve never done speed drills, but now…I’m scared to even try! LOL! I literally LOL’d when your coach said he wanted to see “blood coming out your eyes” He was NOT playing with you! I’m glad that all that training was worth it though and you qualified and ran the Boston Marathon! I’m still scared of those drills though!

    1. I’m scared too! I don’t know if I was more afraid of my coach or the workouts!!

    • Heather on August 1, 2013 at 9:18 AM
    • Reply

    BAWAHAHAHAHAH! My two week hiatus is nearly at an end and I am coming back with a roar!

    1. I can’t wait!!!

  3. Love this post! I’ve come to enjoy (I know, WTF, right?!) my speed sessions at the track, even though they hurt like heck. It’s the tempo runs for my marathon training that are intimidating me right now. But yesterday I had a short tempo run (2 miles warm up, 3 miles at 7:00 pace, 1 mile ez). I kept thinking that 7:00 minute miles were ridiculous, but I managed to run just under 7-minute pace. What a huge confidence booster! And I loved reading about your 3:30 marathon! I’ve run a 3:36, but I feel I’m capable of running under 3:30. I just tend to fall apart in the last 4-5 miles. Hoping that doesn’t happen this time around!

    1. First of all, you are awesome!! Great work! You’re going to kill that marathon! It’s funny the limits our mind can put on our bodies, isn’t it? It can be exciting to just push yourself & see what happens. I can’t wait for your post-marathon post – ha ha!!

  4. Good for you! That is awesome!! And impressive!! Speed drills definitely do work…but I rarely do them anymore. Sometimes I do tempo runs though. I’m not very structured these days. I run more for enjoyment than anything else anymore…and I don’t worry too much about time. I can still run a decent race pace, so I guess I am doing enough.

    1. Thanks Michelle! Every time I have a race coming up and I’m training I think “I just want to run for fun with no structure” and then when I have that, I find myself wishing for a race. I hope to someday just run for fun and be happy about it. Good for you!!…and it’s definitely enough.

  5. I am really not much of a runner but the way you told this story just gripped me! I can’t believe how effective your training was! Well done! When I do run, I try to run with my husband because he is so fast. He helped me run a 7 min mile average in my first tri!

    1. Ha ha – thank you! I couldn’t believe it either but it was at a time in my running (early on!) that I really wasn’t running to my potential…obviously. I’m impressed with the fact that you say you’re “not a runner” but did a 7 min mile avg pace in a TRI!? That is very cool. Nice job!!

  6. I have to admit – speed drills scare me. I’ve been wanting to shave 5 minutes off my 5k pace, and I don’t think I’ll be able to do it without them. I can’t say you make it sound fun…but you definitely make the end result sound exciting! (BTW, I can’t imagine having someone yell that at me during a race!)

    1. Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a tad…you really do feel great when they are done and they absolutely work so just go for it!! And, yes, my coach was a little nuts but I have to give him credit for sticking with me and helping me achieve my goals. He certainly believed in me. Good luck with your goal – I’m sure you will reach it once you throw in some speed work:-)

  7. Go for Boston!!! This year!! Love your reference to Anthony Weiner! I can’t get enough of speed work because I get to compete with myself. I do it everyday if my body let me

    1. You are my speed drill hero! Yes it’s pretty cool to try & “out run” yourself but so painful!!! And I absolutely wanted to run Boston this year but I couldn’t find a qualifying marathon that have me enough time to train AND was held before Boston registration – you know it’s gonna be jammed this year!!!

  8. i haven’t never tried speed drills but this might be something i can add to my running. i just started again so i might have to ease into it. you are amazing with your marathon time…wowza!

    1. Thank you so much. You should definitely ease into speed work. I would suggest doing just a .25 mile at a time & give yourself as much recovery time as you need & then increase from there. Good luck!!!

  9. Trying to run faster is the bane of my existence. I had a baby a little less than three months ago and I’m just now getting back into running and I feel like I’m starting at square one. I was never a fast runner, but holy moly I feel like a snail.

    1. I have been where you are!! It will get better & you will get faster. Just take it one day at a time. Believe me, I know how hard it is (I had twins!) but you will get there!! Congrats…being a mom is a whole new endurance sport!!

  10. {Melinda} Wow. I LOVE this story! You’ve got guts, girl! 🙂 I think this can really be applied to any area of life. We so often underestimate our potential and limit ourselves in our own minds! What an inspiration! 🙂

    1. Absolutely! Being a runner helps in so many other aspects of my life. Glad you agree! Thanks Melinda…:-)

  11. That is awesome and so impressive! It’s true that if you do want to run faster you have to run fast. Then again, what am I talking about. I’m running slow right now and doing heart rate training in the hopes that my pace will improve! 🙂

    1. I know!!! It’s funny how we posted about the same thing but getting to it from very different ways. Believe me, I’m waiting to see what happens with your training…keep it up!

  12. Pretty sure my boobs will hit me in the face if I run fast. Or run. 🙂

    1. HA!!!! I wish I had that problem. When I was pregnant with twins, I did have to wear two sports bras and that was NOT fun!…but having big boobs was:-)

  13. I clicked right over from Joi’s the RX fitness lady’s blog when I saw your post title. Of course, I was disappointed when I read the end of the sentence. I’m just getting into speed drills. I’ve got to get much faster and they suck. I was hoping you had a miracle pill for running faster. Lol. What an inspiring post. I just gotta suck it up and work my butt off. I’m definitely your newest follower.

    1. Believe me, I’m disappointed too!! Ha ha!! Thanks for coming over & the follow!! Welcome!

  14. 3:30? You rock in the biggest way. Oh, I love that joyful exhaustion of a hard run – and after reading this, I think tomorrow I am going to work a little harder on my speed – thanks to your inspiration.

    1. Thanks so much!!! Go rock that workout!!

  15. Holy crap girl! I think if I had a coach like that I might have died. What an amazing story. I don’t love speed and don’t have any desire to qualify for a race but I love getting inspired by people’s stories. I’m not allowed to run like I want to but today I ran in my favorite city and for me I ran fast and it was glorious!

    1. It’s always motivational to run in your favorite place – that is awesome!!! And, yes, I did almost die but it was totally worth it. I don’t know if I have it in me to train like that these days (post twins!) but I guess I’ll find out if I try to qualify for Boston again…
      Thanks for your comments – I love getting your take on things!

  16. Speed drills, intervals, hills… they are painful but necessary. They make such a – good – difference. 🙂

    1. Completely agree!! Thanks for stopping by…

  1. […] don’t know what it was about Allie’s postthat day about speed drills that made be believe I could be faster.  At the time, I don’t think […]

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