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  • Norman Brook

Coaching Track Endurance Events

Norman Brook was recently asked to present a level 1 coach education session on coaching the track endurance events for the Western Province Athletics Assoiaction.  The following notes accompanied his presentation giving a brief overview of training for endurance events on the track.

In the sport of athletics the track endurance events are 800m, 1500m, 3000m 5000m, 10000m and 3000m steeplechase.  These notes provide some basic ideas on the training of athletes for endurance track events.  Care should be taken in interpreting these notes as training loads, the structure, amount and intensity of training varies greatly according to an athlete’s age, level of ability, and stage of training fitness.

Training Phases

Training for endurance track events builds gradually through three phases:

  1. General Preparation – where the emphasis is on developing a base of endurance and general all round physical fitness;

  2. Specific Preparation – where the emphasis is on maintaining endurance/physical fitness and developing endurance specific to the competitive distance and basic speed.

  3. Competition – where the emphasis is on sharpening for peak performance, on being rested to race, and on maintaining general and specific fitness.

General Preparation

In the period of general preparation the athlete slowly builds a platform of mainly aerobic endurance fitness through a mixture of a) longer slow paced runs, b) medium paced runs, and c) shorter fast paced runs.  The shorter paced runs may include training such as fartlek or interval training more often or not conducted away from the track.

In addition to endurance training, the athlete will also develop their general fitness through core stability work, strength training and flexibility training.

Training may also be included in this phase that develops the athletes running technique in preparation for speed training in the specific and competition phases of training.

Special Preparation

In this phase the athlete will continue with sufficient general training to maintain the levels of fitness gained during the general preparation phase.  On top of this the athlete will include training at speeds that reflect the athlete’s competitive distance and goals.  This will include training conducted at race pace for the athlete’s main distance, under distance and above distance.

Main Distance

Under Distance

Over Distance










This type of training is conducted on the track and consists of interval training where the session is divided into intervals of running interspersed with periods of recovery.  The key is maintaining quality of training with recoveries gradually being reduced as the athlete improves. Junior athletes tend to use repetitions of a shorter distance than adults.  So for example if we are training at race pace for 800m, a junior athlete might perform repetitions of 200m or 300m whilst an adult may use distances of 200m, 300m, 400m, or 600m.

Training Session Examples

The following would be examples of interval training for a 1500m runner.  Three track sessions are g conducted each week, one at 1500m pace, one at 800m pace and the other at 3000m pace.

Main Distance

Senior Level

Junior level


12   x 200m

3   x 3 x 200m


10   x 400m

2   x 4 x 300m


4   x 1000m

3-4   x 1000m

During the special preparation phase and continued into the competition phase will be the development of speed.  A key factor in developing in speed is good running technique.  Running technique can be developed whilst as a component of the warm-up through the inclusion of technique drills and by emphasising technique during the sprint activity that usually concludes the warm-up.  Good technique should also be emphasised during interval running sessions.

Technique Drills

Preference should be given to emphasising aspects of good technique whilst running.

  1. Running Tall – hips high, running proud, up on toes, looking straight ahead;

  2. High Thighs – Picking thighs up, running tall, avoid sitting down, squeeze thighs a bit higher;

  3. Relaxed shoulders – running tall, keep shoulders relaxed and low, allow full arm movement;

  4. Elbows in – running tall, shoulders relaxed, thumbs on fingers, elbows in.

Speed can also be developed through repetitions over distances of 50m-150m.  These require good recovery periods in between runs and should emphasise relaxed running.

Competition Phase

Once an athlete has entered the competition phase the emphasis is on making sure the runner is fully rested prior to racing.  Training seeks to maintain fitness and to sharpen the runner by focusing on speed.  The main training is completed early in the week assuming the athlete is racing at a weekend.  The runner aims to taper down towards each race.

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