3 Speed Workouts Professional Runners Swear By

Go-to sessions that will help you run stronger, build mental toughness, and improve your PB.


No matter the distance you’re training for, speedwork can lead to major improvements in performance. In addition to faster times, speed training can help you develop a stronger stride, put on more muscle, reduce your risk of injury, and improve your running economy, among other science-backed health benefits. For professional runners, it’s a staple session throughout their training buildups.

In December, Runner’s World caught up with elite running power couple Sage Hurta-Klecker and Joe Klecker at The Running Event (TRE), a week-long trade show and conference that brings industry leaders and retailers together. While attending the Kleckers shared their go-to speed workouts that help them beat competitors to the line.

Working on Your Speed? Time to Try Yasso 800s

Here’s everything you need to know about the sessions, including how to make the workout your own.

Sage Hurta-Klecker leans on quick bursts

Katharine Lotze//Getty Images - Sage Hurta-Klecker reacts as she crosses the finish line at the Sound Running and On: Track Nights Track Fest
To run the 800 metres well, athletes must employ a mix of blazing speed and endurance to race strong for two laps, which makes the event arguably one of the hardest in track and field. To kick off a training buildup, Sage Hurta-Klecker draws on a workout that combines the two skill sets.

The workout:

  • 8 x 100 metres
  • Sprint the straightaway and jog the turns of the track

The On Athletics Club runner, who is coached by Dathan Ritzenhein, enjoys doing 8 x 100-metre repeats where she sprints the straight away and jogs the turns of the track. For the straights, the goal is to run slightly faster than 800-metre race pace (Hurta-Klecker’s 800-metre personal best is 1:57). The turns are run at a recovery pace, usually double the amount of time it takes to run the straightaway, but not quite slow enough to catch your breath. For example, Hurta-Klecker usually splits 14 seconds for the straightaway and 30 seconds on the turns. While the short reps appear manageable on paper, the overall body of work plus the short, active recovery can make for a tough session.

“It’s an accumulation where the first couple you’re feeling pretty good and then by the last three, the second half of the workout, you’re trying hard to catch your breath, you feel like the next 100 [metres] is coming a little too soon and you can feel that lactic acid buildup,” she says.

For Hurta-Klecker, the workout provides a great simulation of the power and stamina required to race among the world’s best. A few weeks after she completed this workout during the 2022 training buildup, she broke the 2:00 barrier for the first time when she ran 1:59.76 at Penn Relays.

Hurta-Klecker advises runners to use the workout as practice for their goals in competition. “Even though a key part of the workout is to keep moving on the turns, really focus on the straights and imagine how you want to be feeling in the race, practising thinking about how you want to start your kick and feel strong and relaxed, just some practical visualisation, feeling the fatigue setting in and learning how you want to respond to that,” she says.

Make it your own:
To get the same physiological benefits of the workout, Hiruni Wijayaratne, a coach with My Olympic Coach and Sri Lankan national record-holder in the marathon, says athletes can also adapt the session to the facilities available to them. If you don't have access to a track, try simulating the speedwork on trails or roads by timing the fast rep and the recovery rep. For example, run hard for 20 seconds and jog for 40 seconds eight times.

“You get the stimulus of going hard, shifting gears and being focused for 20 short seconds, but then you are also keeping it honest with that 40-second recovery in which you’re not fully recovering and reducing your heart rate, so you can grease the skids and prime your legs to go again for another 20 seconds hard,” Wijayaratne says.

Joe Klecker loves a long, progressive session

Sage’s husband, Joe Klecker, specialises in the 10 000 metres, another tough event that benefits greatly from longer bouts of speedwork. To hone his kick at the end of a long-distance track race, the Olympic finalist relies on a cutdown workout.

The workout:

  • 2K, 1600 metres, 1200 meters, 1,000 metres, 800 metres, 400 metres
  • After a 2-5 kilometre warm-up, start the first interval on the conservative side of race pace and increase speed by 1 second for each 400 metres in the following intervals
  • Start with a rest period of 3 minutes and adjust throughout the workout depending on how much recovery you need to be ready for the next faster split

The session begins with a longer rep that starts at a more conservative pace and follows with several shorter reps that gradually become faster. As the workout progresses, athletes end up completing the same volume of their race. “You’re teaching your body to run hard for that distance, but you’re also training your body and mind to progressively get faster,” Klecker says.

Klecker’s 10 000-metre cutdown session includes reps at various distances — 2K, 1600, 1200, 1,000, 800, and 400-metre repeats. Each rep increases speed by 1 second per 400-metre lap. By the final interval, athletes are almost running at full speed. The rest in between begins around 3 minutes and typically gets longer, so runners can recover well enough to hit paces for the faster, shorter reps.

“The cumulative of all that hard running adds up by the end, so when you get to 400, it could be pretty challenging just because you have 8 or 9 kilometres of really hard running in your legs,” Klecker says.

Klecker usually does this workout two weeks before a major race because it helps prepare him for the rigours of the 10 000 metres. Those skills came in handy at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships. “I knew how hard I could push in that race, and I timed it very well,” Klecker says. “I was able to have my fastest 100 metres right at the end and kick for the win.”

Make it your own:
To be successful in this workout, Wijayaratne suggests focusing on patience early to set yourself up to succeed and run faster as the workout progresses.

If you have access to a track, determine your paces to tailor the workout for your needs. If you don't, you can always adapt the session based on specific times for each interval, focusing on adjusting your effort for each rep. For example, begin the first 2K — five laps on a track — at an effort of 6 out of 10 (10 being the max), and gradually increase speed as the intervals get shorter. By the end, you should be maxing out for the last two intervals, she says.

“You can get yourself in a lot of trouble if you go out too hard and get a little over-optimistic in the beginning of this workout, and you might not be able to finish it,” she says. “Really focus on the interval at hand and running it at an appropriate effort to be able to complete the whole thing.”

You’ll love this speed workout for 42.2K training

As an elite marathoner, Wijayaratne also relies heavily on speedwork to close hard at the end of a marathon. Her go-to workout, written by her coach Ric Rojas, includes five sets of 1000 and 200-metre intervals.

The workout starts with both reps run around marathon pace. With 200 metres — done at a walk-jog pace — of rest in between each rep, the intervals gradually get faster. By the end of the session, runners are maxing out for both distances.

“You have to be extremely patient to not go too hard because the expectation is if you just ran something he told you not to run, you have to run faster,” she says. “You become your personal accountability buddy because you don't want to get yourself in trouble later on.”

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