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3 Fall Speed Workouts to Make Your PR Dreams Come True

Whether you're training for 10K, half marathon, or a marathon, our experts recommend these sessions for the fall season.

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Fall is for running fast, right? It’s the season when the biggest races usually take place and the cooler weather inspires us to get out the door to train.

We asked three expert coaches to recommend their favorite fall speed workouts for the 10K, half marathon, and marathon. These are the time-tested sessions that lead their athletes to personal bests and more efficient running. Try them out as you increase your autumn intensity.

The 10K

Coach: Chelsea Renee France, University of Maryland assistant cross-country/track and field coach
Workout: The 10K Mixed Zone
Location: Track and soft, flat surface
When: The middle of your training cycle, anywhere from three to eight weeks in

The Details: Warm up with an easy 10–15 minute jog and 4–6 strides

  • 2K at goal 10K pace (on the track)
  • 2K at up-tempo pace; challenging but your breathing shouldn’t be too labored (off the track; preferably on a soft, flat surface)
  • 2K at goal 10K pace (on track)
  • 2K up-tempo (off track)
  • 2K at goal 10K pace (on track)
  • 10–15 minute cooldown jog

Why: It measures your baseline fitness and you can return to it later in your season to track your progress. Try again four weeks later and you’ll probably find your goal race pace and your up-tempo pace have gotten faster. Don’t have track access? Find a location that mimics the race course’s terrain and practice there instead.

The Half Marathon

Coach: Jenna Wrieden, assistant coach of Northern Arizona Elite
Workout: Long Run Surges, inspired by legendary Greater Boston Track Club coach Bill Squires
Location: Try to find a route that mimics the terrain for your goal race
When: The beginning, middle, and end of your training cycle

The Details: You can use this workout for any distance run, but this example is based on a 12-mile long run.

  • 2–3 miles easy (aerobic running)
  • 2 minute surge at half marathon effort
  • 8 minutes easy
  • 3 minute surge at half marathon effort
  • 8 minutes easy
  • 1 minute surge at 10K effort
  • 8 minutes easy
  • Repeat until you hit 10 miles, then cool down for 2 miles

Why: Constantly changing paces is a great way to beat boredom on long runs. And this workout is still a moderate effort with the long recovery periods. It’s also based on effort instead of strict splits, so it’s judgment-free—and by the time you do it at the end of your training cycle you’ll likely see progress. “I am a big fan of teaching your body to understand effort and your mind to let go of expectation,” Wrieden says.

The Marathon

Coach: Malindi Elmore, 2021 Canadian Olympic marathoner (ninth place) and University of British Columbia Okanagan coach
Workout: Marathon Dress Rehearsal
Location: Try to find a place that has similar terrain as the race course
When: Your last long run before your race (prior to tapering)

The Details: This workout begins before you actually start running, testing everything you’re planning for your marathon: what you eat the night before, when you go to bed, breakfast, what you wear, what fuel and hydration strategies you use, etc.

Elmore recommends the total run of 38K (for non-Canadians, that’s 23.6 miles), but customize it for whatever your longest run of your training plan calls for. Here’s how the run goes:

  • 5K easy running (if needed, quickly change into your race day shoes after the warm-up)
  • Then, 7K-6K-4K-3K-2K-1K at marathon pace effort with 90 seconds rest between. It should feel hard, but sustainable, and make sure to practice hydration and fueling along the way.

Why: For marathon training, it’s not enough to do long runs—you need to practice marathon pacing, too. “Running a great marathon is about being fit, healthy, and well-prepared for race day,” Elmore says. “If you nail all those things, you will feel confident in your ability to execute.”