Track running has benefitted many a distance runner in both speed and endurance economies. Time on the track is well spent for runners at any level. Elite distance runners spend at between 2 and 3 days on the track improving speed and mental endurance. New and midlevel runners would do well to follow their example. Track workouts offer the structure and discipline of a serious athletic routine that is proven time and time again by marked improvement in performance.
I often find that I look forward to my track workouts more than any other run. When I go for a track run, I head up to my local community college (which happens to be my alma mater) and do 6 x 400s at about 5k pace. During peak marathon training, I up these workouts to 10 x 400s at 2 mile pace with rests in between. I am also a fan of bleacher running as a side workout during or after my track runs to break up the speed work and incorporate some strength training. Often, the track team can be found on the track and I chat with the coach, a Ugandan native who has a passion for running and lifelong athletics. While running is a sport of solitude, it is also one of camaraderie. Tracks tend to attract the same crowd at the same time of day, much like a gym. This is an added incentive for the competitive runner who seeks accountability and to connect with other runners.
The best track workouts for distance runners incorporate progressive runs and speed work. The track workout I described for my own routine is one that I adapted from an article I read long ago about speed work. Basically, you want to make sure that you are doing repetitive spurts of speed around the track and staying consistent in building your intensity. Start with 4 x 400 meters for your first track work out, just below anaerobic pace for each lap with recovery between each one. The next week, build to 8 x 400 meters until you are comfortable at 10 x 400 meters for each track run. Once you are comfortable with these workouts, begin adding in speedier runs such as 6 x 300 meters at a faster pace than you run the full 400 meters.
Once you have established your routine, incorporate both the 10 x 400 and 6 x 300 meter runs into your workout and rotate between them with regularity. This is the best way to build both speed and endurance for your distance training program. Also, I will again highly recommend incorporating bleacher runs into your workout so that you get the chance to really build your quad and calf muscles while taking on the stairs.
If you find yourself bored, frustrated or overwhelmed with your running regimen, take to the track. The track provides a fresh environment with the discipline of a steady workout. This is the ideal place to continue working on your endurance and fitness while bringing an element of posterity to your workouts that may be lacking. You will find yourself welcoming the break in the monotony with the addition to your routine.
For more information on running tips and training regimens, read Runnersgoal.com articles for inspiration and information.