Evening Track Workout: Explained

For years we've lead the very popular "Evening Track Session" at 6pm on the Boise High School Track. We often get a lot of questions about how this session progresses throughout the season and about how we come up with our recommended split times for the 400m repeats and later on, the mile repeats. This article will explain the entire progression in detail, and hopefully help you understand the importance of pacing this session correctly from the beginning. 

First off- if you have not been running consistently about 10-15miles per week without issue then this may not be a good session for you to do. You can still show up and enjoy the workout with the group, but you may want to run slower than recommended below. The key to doing this session well is to not let your ego get in the way! 

For the session to work right, you need to have a good idea of what your standalone 10k race time would be. If you have not raced a 10k in a while, we recommend subtracting 2min from your Olympic Tri 10k split. 

Once you know your approximate 10k race pace, you determine your average mile pace in seconds and divide by 4 to get your average 400m pace (in seconds). Then subtract another 3 seconds from that. This will be your starting pace for the first 5 weeks of the session, and we'll call this your 'calculated' (calc) pace

Lets say your best open 10k is 43.5min. That works out to almost exactly a 7 minute per mile (mpm) average. 7 minutes is 420 seconds, divide by 4, equals 105 seconds, then finally subtract 3 more seconds. So if you have a current 10k PR of 43.5min, then you'll start the session running 102sec per 400. 

Because of the vast range in athlete ability, we break the track session into three separate running groups. There is a 2min group, 2min30sec group, and 3min group. You'll want at least 30 seconds rest per lap for this workout, so seed yourself accordingly. Our hypothetical runner that has run a 43.5min 10k would seed herself in the 2min30sec group to get the appropriate amount of recovery per lap. This would give her 48 seconds of rest per interval (150sec minus 102sec = 48sec rest). Once you've seeded yourself in the correct group, all you have to worry about is hitting your calculated time, we have timers on the track to help send you off on the next interval at the correct time. 

Now that we know how to determine your starting pace and seed yourself in the correct group, let us show you the overall progression of the track session over the course of 14 weeks. 

Week 1  10 x 400m @ calc pace
Week 2 12 x 400m @ calc pace
Week 3 14 x 400m @ calc pace
Week 4 16 x 400m @ calc pace
Week 5 18 x 400m @ calc pace
Week 6 20 x 400m @ calc pace
Week 7 18 x 400m @ calc pace (minus 2 sec)
Week 8 16 x 400m @ calc pace (minus 4 sec)
Week 9 14 x 400m @ calc pace (minus 6 sec)
Week 10 12 x 400m @ calc pace (minus 8 sec)
Week 11 10 x 400m @ calc pace (minus 10 sec)


So once we hit 20 repeats in Week 6 for a total of five miles of running, we begin building back down, but take 2sec per week off your calculated pace. For our hypothetical runner who had a 10k PR of 43.5min, she would run 102 sec per 400 for the first six weeks, and now has to run 100sec per lap in Week 7, 98sec per lap in Week 8 and so forth. By Week 11 she is running an equivalent of 40sec per mile faster than when she started. Though Week 11 is only 2.5 miles of running, it is a real lung-buster of a workout. This is why it is so important to have your pacing correct when we start in Week 1. 

By Week 11 the weather is usually good enough for us to start our outdoor rides again, and we change the evening track session into an evening brick session that starts with a steady but challenging 1hr ride, followed by 1 mile repeats at your calculated pace with 30sec of rest (30 RI) between intervals. The Brick progression looks like this: 

Week 12 3 x 1 mile @ calc pace w/ 30sec RI
Week 13 4 x 1 mile @ calc pace w/ 30sec RI
Week 14 5 x 1 mile @ calc pace w/ 30sec RI


By this point we've been doing track work 3 1/2 months, and hopefully everyone is ready to race! From our experience, athletes who consistently show up week after week for this session are going to hit run PR's throughout the season. We continue the evening brick session throughout the season, and let the athlete decide how many 1 mile repeats they feel works best with their race schedule. We've had some athletes do as many as ten repeats, and others stick to around three depending upon goals and ability.

We should point out that this is not a good session to do the week of a race- so plan on backing way off on race week. Otherwise, enjoy the track work, and we look forward to seeing you at the races. 

-The TriTown Crew