Strides can be a pain for many runners. The last thing most runners what to do after they finish a run in the summer heat is to run repeats at an even faster pace for at least 100 meters. But they’re necessary. In high school, I didn’t worry about strides when my coach wasn’t breathing down my neck and making me do them, and I paid for it in races. It’s similar to doing abs-you don’t realize how much you benefit from something pretty easy and quick until you start doing them. Once I started doing strides, my kick at the end of races improved, and instead of losing 5 places in the last 400 meters of a 5k, I found that I could even increase my place.
Strides benefit runners in the long run, and you may not see improvement until you race, so they are extremely easy to put off until a later run. They are just as easy to keep putting off until you realize 3 weeks have gone by and you still haven’t done any strides. One way to guarantee to do strides at the end of a run is to choose one or two days a week to always do strides. My days are Mondays and Fridays, so when I being my run on those days, I know that my run doesn’t end when my route ends…it ends when my last stride is finished.
I have begun to visualize the end of a race and how I want to feel during the last 5 minutes of my run. This way, I am thinking about racing, and reminding myself of my ultimate goal of breaking my PRs during cross country season.
Strides can be as long as 200 meters or as short as 50 meters, but most coaches recommend 100-meter strides. They should be almost sprinting (and as a long distance runner, most of the time I end up sprinting). To start, I would suggest 4x100 meter strides with as much rest as you need. Just remember to keep moving during rest periods! Once you are comfortable doing that, you can run 8x100 meter strides, 6x200 meter strides, or even find a small incline and run some strides up a low grade hill to improve hill endurance and leg speed.
If this article hasn’t inspired you to stride at the end of a run, I’ve attached a video from the 1972 Olympics where David Wottle runs most of the race in last place until the last 200 meters…you better bet he did his strides at the end of his runs!