Trail Champion Ellie Greenwood’s Tempo Trial
My preference is to do this workout on undulating, gently rolling terrain and even better if it is on non-technical trail (rather than a paved surface).
For trail runners who are often not motivated or intimidated by track or road running, there is no reason why you can’t do your interval workouts on trails. In fact, it can be really beneficial, as the softer surface is easier on your body and it’s race-specific training. It’s also a great opportunity to run on perceived effort, because your pace will vary on uphills, f lat stretches and the downhills. You can’t rely on your gps watch for pacing and instead need to learn to gauge the effort yourself.
Two 5k sets are really quite long intervals but I take a 10-minute rest in middle – some standing rest is OK, but for some of the time I will walk or jog very slowly to allow my heart rate to get down gradually. This reasonable length of break between intervals means that you should be able to push a noticeably faster pace than if you did a 10 kilometre tempo run.
I like the length of this workout because it’s intimidating, and thus a great physical and mental race prep. The intervals are plenty long enough that you have time to think about your effort during the workout and have to have the conviction to hold on to an uncomfortable effort for quite long periods. This is really valuable when you are preparing for a trail half-marathon, marathon or ultra, where in the closing miles you may be faced with hills and tired legs and yet now have the experience to push a hard effort through all of that. For newer or slower runners, I would suggest trying 2 x 3k first, and once you have got a little faster, increase the distance of your weekly long run and overall weekly volume, then you might want to try the full 2 x 5k workout. Ellie Greenwood is has won the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, and holds the course records for the Western States 100-miler and the Canadian Death Race. She also coaches athletes of all abilities.