I’ve been doing track workouts for years: quarters, miles, ladders. Simple. Straightforward. Run hard, try to hit the paces, rest, and repeat. Sometimes the distances get mixed and matched, but I haven’t experienced anything revolutionary… (let the voice in your head drop an octave) until now. Recently, my coach introduced me to the V-Run. Basically, the athlete attempts to run every meter of the workout at vV02 max pace, the velocity at which V02 max (maximum volume of oxygen that your muscles can consume per minute) is achieved. Depending on the source, it’s the top, sustained pace that a runner can hold from six to eleven minutes. My coach likes to use racing mile speed, or in my case, what he thinks my mile time should be, which is six minutes (twenty seconds faster than I’ve ever run). At least it’s pretty close to what the McMillan calculator predicts.

Here’s how it works. The runner is assigned a distance (3600 meters for me), chooses a starting interval length (50-1200 meters), attempts to run it at vV02 max pace, and rests a minute before beginning again. If the interval is run too slowly, the next one must be shortened. The rest period doesn’t change, regardless of the distance run.

The benefits of this workout:

  1. The runner spends a great deal of time running at vV02 Max pace, which will help improve V02 max.
  2. It’s self-adjusting. Whether you’re having a great day or an off day, the workout will meet you where you are.
  3. It will put hair on your chest. Ladies, make sure you have extra razors on hand before attempting this workout 🙂

I’ve done the workout twice so far. The first time, I started with a hard 400 and had to drop down to 300s immediately (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/284127673). These hurt just as much, and I started hoping that I would be slow enough to shorten the interval. I ended up completing six before dropping to 200s. The next time out, I was able to run four 400s before having to drop down (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/294115776). Progress! There were some repetitions where I thought that there was no way I had finished in time, but I had. When I finally got to the 200s I was a bit faster than I needed to be, so I think I’ll try 250s the next time. Here’s hoping this translates into a blistering 5K next month.

If you’re a somewhat experienced runner looking for a tough, effective workout that’s a little different, I encourage you to give it a try. For more information on vVO2 max and some additional workout ideas, click here.

Track Springs Eternal

As the days begin to lengthen, my thoughts drift toward spring things: baseball, cute cotton dresses, strawberries, and track.

It almost didn’t happen. As eight grade soccer season wound down, two of my friends asked me to run track. I wasn’t interested. They bugged me and begged me until I relented.The first couple of weeks were awful. I hate this. I’m not coming back. But I did, and eventually some of the lung searing, gut wrenching misery subsided.

At our first meet, the coach asked for volunteers to run the mile. Why not? I’d run the mile in PE before. I lined up with the others and hung with them for about a lap. Gasping, every cell aflame, I slowed to a walk. I ran, then walked, and ran again. Last place. There are some numbers that stay with you forever. 8:35 is one of mine. By the end of the season, I knocked over a minute off my time.


In high school I became a hurdler. The 100 meter race was my favorite. I didn’t have the power to three-step, but I didn’t want to resign myself to the awkward stutter of a five-stepper either, so I learned to four-step. One of the other girls on the team, who wasn’t even interested in the hurdles, three-stepped on her first try. Sometimes life is like that. The 300 hurdles taught me how much agony could be crammed into 53 seconds. I still contend that it’s the single most awful event in track (the 800 is a very close second). I had one mantra: This is less than one minute of your life.


High school seems to last forever, and then one day you find yourself wearing a cap and gown, hugging your friends goodbye, and wondering where it all went. There aren’t very many avenues for a marginally talented hurdler to pursue her hobby out in the real world, so I hung up my spikes. I have grown to love distance running, but sometimes I miss the thrill of being assigned a lane and pitting my best against a handful of people.

The memories remain. Lying on the high jump pits with my friends, soaking up the sun until the coaches shook us off. Snapping off trail leg drills. The sweet taste of cold water after a hot afternoon run. Bus rides. Setting up camp under the bleachers during invitationals. Crushes that never amounted to anything. Easy, chatty off-campus runs. Pre-race butterflies. The world-beater feeling I got the first time I ran five miles. Learning that you can’t always tell who the fast ones are by looking at them. The paradox of pleasurable pain.

Just like laps around a track, sometimes life loops back on itself. I’m the coach now, and I know that some of those middle school girls are as miserable as I was at first. I just hope that they stick with it long enough to make the joyful discovery of just how far their own two legs can take them.