Workout of the Week: Deuces Wild
Two-mile repeats serve up a variety of benefits, whatever your training focus
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Seeing the words “2-mile” and “repeats” next to each other before a workout may evoke feelings of uncertainty and nervousness, but after nailing one of these sessions I promise that you’ll come out of it more confident than when you started.
Deuces Wild is the name I’ve given to a plethora of different workouts consisting of 2-mile repeats at varying levels of intensity that will benefit experienced runners focusing on 5Ks, the marathon, or anything in between. Here’s how you can make one of these workouts work for you:
Why: Running 2-mile repeats at half-marathon pace in the early to middle stages of a 5K-10K training cycle—i.e. 6-12 weeks before a peak race or series of goal races—will help smooth the transition back to regular speed workouts while building and maintaining strength for the faster, more race-specific sessions to come. As you get closer to race day, particularly for a 10K, 2-mile repeats at 10K pace are a great way to dial in race pace and develop confidence.
When, how many (and how fast): Once every 10-12 days in the 6-12 weeks before your goal race (or series of target races), run 2-4 x 2-mile repeats at half-marathon pace (roughly 15-20 seconds per mile slower than your 10K race pace) with 2-3 minutes jogging recovery between reps. Closer to race day, spread out the frequency of this workout to once every 14-16 days and manipulate the number of reps, the pace and the amount of recovery between repeats to suit your objectives. For example, 4-5 weeks out from a peak 10K race, try a workout of 3-4 x 2-mile repeats with the first mile of each repetition at half-marathon pace and the second at 10K pace. Take 3-4 minutes jogging recovery between reps. This is a good transition workout for experienced runners to practice dialing in 10K race pace while still maintaining an element of aerobic strength. Ten days out from a peak 10K race, running 3 x 2 miles at goal 10K pace with two minutes recovery between repeats is a great confidence-building, race-specific workout to attempt prior to stepping on the starting line.
Why: When preparing for a half-marathon, developing the specific endurance to run goal pace for 13.1 miles is best achieved through longer repeats that force you to run fast for a sustained period of time on tired legs. Two-mile repeats serve this purpose quite well; they’re long enough to be effective but short enough to be digestible and keep you from getting bored or stale.
When, how many (and how fast): Starting early in a half-marathon training cycle, about 12 weeks before your target race, running 2-mile repeats once every 10 days or so is good practice for building the specific strength you’ll need to hold goal pace for the full 13.1 miles on race day. Start with 2-3 x 2 miles at goal half-marathon pace with 3-4 minutes jogging recovery between reps early on the in the training cycle. Over the course of three months, work on progressing to the point where you can do 4-5 x 2 miles at your goal half marathon pace with 2-3 minutes of steady running “recovery” between repeats 12-14 days before your goal race. To work on improving your efficiency as well as your ability to change gears, a session of 3-4 x 2-mile repeats with the first mile of each repetition at half-marathon pace and the second at 10K pace (3-4 minutes recovery between reps) is a good session to throw into the rotation 4-5 weeks out from race day.
Why: For marathoners, 2-mile repeats at a variety of different paces are a great way to work on the elements of speed, strength and stamina over the course of a dedicated 12-week marathon training cycle.
When, how many (and how fast): The approach to incorporating 2-mile repeats into a marathon training schedule isn’t too much different than for someone getting ready for a half-marathon. Early in the training cycle, running 3 x 2 miles at a half-marathon pace (roughly 15-25 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace) with 2-3 minutes recovery between reps every once every 10 days or so is a great way to develop efficiency and build strength in preparation for the more specific marathon-paced workouts you’ll face in the final 8 weeks leading up to your goal race. Six weeks out from your goal marathon, a session of 3 x 2 miles, with the first and third repeats run at half-marathon pace and the middle 2 miles run at 10K pace (2 minutes recovery after the first rep, 4 minutes recovery after the second), is a good blend of strength and speed in the heart of a training cycle. Finally, in the 2-4 weeks before your goal marathon, alternating between marathon and half-marathon pace over a workout of 5-6 x 2-mile repeats is an awesome stamina-building, race-specific workout that will give you the confidence that you’re ready to tackle your 26.2-mile goal. After a 2-mile warmup, start with 2 miles at your goal marathon pace. Take 2 minutes recovery after finishing and then run 2 miles at half-marathon pace. After taking a 4-5 minute recovery, aim to repeat this 2 x 2-mile sequence 1-2 more times. Finish with an easy 2-mile cool down for a 14-16-mile day with 10-12 miles worth of quality running. Be warned: this is not a workout for the ill-prepared!