The thing about speed is it is all relative until it is not. A 18 minute 5K is ‘speedier’ than a 20 minute 5K and Usain Bolt has more speed than anyone. The trouble comes down to how it is used relative to the person it is being imposed on.
Here is the issue with group programming, cookie cutter plans, or one size fits all workouts; they will never actually work for everyone. Speed is just one aspect of that, how speed is defined for me is different than you. The key is that it is not about the distance you complete (workout, race, etc.) but it is about the pace (time) that you complete it in. To some mile repeats can be considered “speed” work but for others it will not be, maybe you need some half mile or quarter miles to actually get down to your true relative speed.
The pace that you complete it in… here is where the relative aspect come in. The faster you are as in individual the longer distances you can include in your “speed” work block and actually the shorter distances you can stay away from. Now relatively as your pace slows down you will have the opposite issue, you won’t be adding in to many longer distances and will have to increase the time spent at shorter distances and build up. The reason why is because the faster your times the relative less you have to actually improve. For someone that runs a 16 second 100m you really only have maybe a second or three you can improve vs. someone that runs it in 23 seconds you have maybe four to eight seconds you can realistically improve on. These numbers just extrapolate exponentially as you increase the distance.
Now that it is the ‘offseason’ for most runners it is a perfect time to add some speed work into your weeks, especially since the current volume and intensity tends to be lower. Once you jump into your marathon program you really don’t have much time to get faster so invest the time now while you do.
If you have any questions about how to build speed into your offseason or build it into your early weeks in your race plans please ask.