The eternal joy and pain of speedwork

If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed in six years of duathlon/triathlon experience, it is the fact that most of the triathletes I’ve encountered don’t do enough speed work.

Having been to plenty of coached practices with 20+ athletes circling a track, I sometimes wondered what those athletes were trying to accomplish. Granted, many were Ironman hopefuls, and raw speed isn’t want many of them need to build endurance for a marathon after two miles of open water swimming and 112 miles of cycling. It’s all about one foot in front of another at that point.

And yet, the strength that comes from doing hard speed work is actually quite critical to efficient movement over the long run.

Having come from a track and field background, it has been my experience that if you want to get faster, you absolutely have to run faster. Even faster than your race pace, if you want to improve.

Get out there and enjoy the joy and pain of speedwork! It always pays off!

Which is why I did a workout of 6 X 400 at 6:20 per mile pace followed by 4 X 200 at 6:00 pace. One has to run fast in order to teach leg turnover and get accustomed to the mental and physical rigors of…going faster.

Sometimes while I’m on the track I laugh to myself about what I am forced to consider speed work these days. At 61+ years old, running six minute per mile pace feels quick. It is stunning to me that I once ran twelve quarters in 60-63 seconds.

Running 200 meters/yards at that pace these days would be beyond my capability. I simply don’t have the speed I once did. And yet, I get the same feelings of joy and pain training at this age-related pace that I did back in my racing prime. There is no shame in doing speed work a bit slower than you once did. You’re doing speed work for a purpose either way. To run as fast as you can, and do it efficiently.

And following up on yesterday’s fast set of 400s, I ran three X one-mile with Sue this morning at 6:00 a.m. We ran sub-9:00 pace for all three mile intervals. I was so proud of her for both the fitness she’s gained and the vast improvement in running form and efficiency she’s developed through consistent speed work. It was fun to run along together as a couple. Me in lane 2 and Sue in lane 1. I’m so grateful to be running healthy and for her as well.

We’re looking forward to a good season and a great year. As I was doing those intervals on both days I sort of chuckled to myself and asked, “How long are you going to keep doing this?”

And a little voice in my head said, “Probably eternally.” Joy and pain. They go together in this world, and the next I believe.

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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