The Barry Holland Bus

Is track training worth it?


I have seen numerous training programmes that include track training, e.g. 7×1 000m or 4x400m. Now I have tried that, but just want to know when and how this type of training will help me in a marathon, or even ultras. Personally, I don’t think it’s helping me a lot, or is it? – ALLISTAIR MEYER, CAPE TOWN

There is no doubt that track training is beneficial when trying to achieve fast times over a marathon or ultra-marathon, even Comrades. It is, however, very important that these sessions are built into a balanced training programme. Track work is intense and extremely hard. You would therefore not do it week in and week out, but rather as a part of a block of weeks that involve an emphasis on speed work.

There is an old training maxim that states “to race fast, you need to train fast.” Obviously not all the time, but you do need to train yourself to run fast. Track training yields both mental and physical benefits. The mental side is interesting. Once you’ve bashed out a number of 80-second 400’s (3:20min/km pace) on the track and you ask your legs to run at 3:45min/km in a fartlek session, it doesn’t seem so hard. Likewise, when you are looking to run under 4:00min/km at a time trial, the faster work on the track means these times become more doable.

Track is the greatest intensity and the greatest pain, but used correctly the benefits are substantial. When I went for my marathon, ultra and Comrades PB’s, track was part of every one of these training programmes.

Modern Athlete Expert

Running coach with 34 years’ experience, and has run 39 consecutive Comrades Marathons. His PBs include 1:17 (21.1km), 2:39:30 (42.2km) and 6:29:22 (Comrades).

Can I indulge?

Fried fish and chips, is that bad for a runner? Can those lovely full Sunday lunches with curries, stews, chicken, veggies, etc. cause harm on a Monday when training starts again? And is a glass of wine with dinner healthy or should it be avoided? – ALLISTAIR MEYER, CAPE TOWN

Fried fish and chips are tempting for any human because the combination of salt, fat and sugar (from the potato chips) makes a fantastic combination for our taste buds. But it’s not necessarily good for any of us. Fried fish and chips are very high in salt, unhealthy saturated and trans fats, and of course calories! All of which can contribute to chronic diseases of lifestyle such high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

The Sunday lunch options could be a much better option if you choose carefully, like grilled chicken (without the fatty skin), vegetables and wholegrain starches like sweet potato, brown rice, etc.

When it comes to red wine, moderate consumption (not more than two 150ml glasses for a male, and one 150ml glass for a female) is shown to be cardio protective, as they contain beneficial compounds called polyphenols, antioxidants and flavonoids. So that glass of wine with dinner, in conjunction with a healthy meal plan and enough fluids, can easily be enjoyed.

Modern Athlete Expert
Registered Dietician at Sunninghill Medical Centre, Johannesburg. Member of Morningside Country Club with eight years’ running experience, including one Comrades finish and three ultra and two half marathon finishes at the Two Oceans Marathon.