Sprint Work for Marathoners

Jennifer Heiner-Pisano
4 min readSep 18


A marketing graduate of Lehigh University, Jennifer Heiner formerly served as the marketing director of a running company in New Jersey. When she is not collaborating with the company founders on upcoming projects, Jennifer Heiner is an active runner herself. Currently working for one of the New York City Metro area’s biggest and best running companies, Jennifer Heiner shares below some of the important buzz words and things to keep in mind when training for your next half or full marathon.

Running is about a lot more than just running — and there is a lot of terminology that is thrown around. Hopefully the outline below will help to clarify some of this!


Interval training is a great way to improve your aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and improve your anaerobic system.

Typically, Intervals are any distance between 400 meters and 1600 meters (one mile), but some programs may call for longer Intervals. Intervals will vary in intensity and duration based on where in your program the workout is prescribed. In between each Interval, you will engage in passive (walking) or active (jogging) recovery between each effort.

Intervals teach our bodies what race pace feels like in shorter durations and allow our bodies to manage the build-up of lactic acid more efficiently. Traditionally, Interval workouts are done on a track, but can be done anywhere. If you have a GPS watch or phone, you measure the precise distance on your own.


Tempo workouts are an excellent way to adapt your body to running harder over longer periods of time. Typically, Tempo pace will be between 10K and Half Marathon pace.

If you are not sure of your 10K pace or Half Marathon pace, you can use the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale and keep your run at a 6–7 out of 10. A 1 rating would be equivalent to standing in place, while a 10 rating is a maximal race effort.

It is important to be in tune with your internal effort scale because this is your best gauge of intensity. Your RPE is not an exact science, but over time you will get a better sense of what your scale looks like.


Incorporating Hill work into your training program is a great way to work on efficiency and to recruit different muscle fibers based on the intensity of the Hill work.

Incorporating Hills into your training will allow you to learn how to run by feel on the incline and get back to race pace after the climb. This is an important aspect of training especially for a hilly course.


Fartleks turn running into a game, and once that happens you stop focusing on the task of running and start focusing on the game.

Fartlek is a Swedish word for “speedplay.” Fartleks involve harder segments of running (ON segments) followed by easier segments (OFF segments). Typically, both ON and OFF segments range from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

Fartleks help runners get used to changing paces and help break up a run in an entertaining way. Changing pace is fun and within a continuous run is highly effective at stimulating aerobic benefits. Run a fast speed to a tree and then relax until you reach some other landmark. Have fun with it!

Recently, the Six Minute Mile blog recently wrote about the importance of speed work for all runners, including marathoners. Oftentimes marathoners focus on distance over speed — finding the right combination of the two is most important to get the most out of training and arriving to the start line ready to tackle 26.2.

Minute 1: Even long distance runners should do speed work

When it comes to a runner’s top speed, the old adage of “use it or lose it” rings true. You can’t expect to get faster without actually running fast. A lot of coaches say that increasing your top speed can be beneficial for short and long distance runners alike. To learn why, take a look at: “Why Speed Training Matters (Even if You’re an Ultrarunner).” The author defines speedwork as any running that’s done at your mile race pace or faster. There’s an important distinction, however, between fast running and hard running. You can train speed by running fast for very short periods of time, avoiding excessive burnout and injury that may otherwise hinder your endurance training. With that in mind, you can think of speed work as the “cherry on top” of the sundae that is your training routine. If you’re looking for a way to reach fast speeds without overloading your schedule, strides could be the way to go: “Learn How to Run Strides and Become a Better Runner.” When you run strides properly, you should only be at or near your top speed for a few seconds at a time. They can even be part of your warmup or cooldown, and could be paired with strength training: “These 4 Exercises Will Help Improve Your Sprint Speed.” Deadlifts, kettlebell swings, lunges, and plyometric push presses can develop the explosivity and elasticity of the muscles in tendons in your legs; exactly what you need to reach higher speeds on the track.




Jennifer Heiner-Pisano

A six time marathon competitor, Jennifer Heiner-Pisano volunteers with the New York Road Runners and enjoys all aspects of the running experience.