Pretty much no matter what you’re training for, you’ll do a workout of mile repeats. It’s just a fact, a standard of running. (Though I suppose ultrarunners probably avoid the mile repeats; it might be unnecessary. I dunno.)
Mile repeats are hard to fake. To a degree, I can fake 400s for a long time, though I might regret it later, and I can barrel and pray my way through long tempos beyond my real fitness. But, mile repeats — especially mile repeats done on the track, where the numbers are the numbers, not the numbers are relayed through a satellite and interfered with by trees and may be the numbers or may be something else entirely — can not be anything but your actual fitness. You can fake one, maybe two mile repeats, but you can’t fake them all.
This morning I did 4 x mile repeats with a 200m(ish) jog/walk/shuffle in between. I had no idea what they would be like or how fast I could go. My plan was 4-5 miles at 6:25ish pace. I wasn’t 100% sure how do-able that’d be. I sort of thought just keep it under 6:30, do the 4th one as a tempo 6:45-50 mile — something we do with the high school kids at practice to break up intervals, just get through it. But, then I did the first mile in 6:10, while dodging a PE class walking laps.
And, yes, a mile on the track is 1600m, not 1609m, so yes, it’s like 2″ short. But, still. That’s fast.
In this kind of workout, where I have no specific pace goal, I don’t like to slow down after the first one. If I went too fast, then I went too fast, but it’s time to find out if I can hold on. So, I did the next one in 6:11. And, it was hard, like I was running in tight armored pants, dragging my legs along. It was also really obvious this was going to be a battle, a real test of if I could gut it. Coach made an executive decision then and decided just four, not five, just four repeats, all under 6:15. Come on.
I was definitely muttering to myself at the start line, while the high school PE class (not the high school I coach at, the one right by my house) all stared at me like I was crazy. But, they already thought I was crazy. I did the third in 6:14. Going out slower and trying to pick it up on the second half was NOT easier.
Then, the last one. I was already wrecked. Anything under 6:20 is fast for me, is closer to 5K pace than anything I plan on racing soon. I slapped my legs a little, told them to pull it together. Once I started running it was a fight, a real nose over the line on which would happen first: I’d finish or I’d shit myself. I finished. The last lap I was killing myself, holding back the vomit, to try and keep it under 6:15. I crossed in 6:15.
And, then I was Done. And, it is three hours later and I haven’t gotten so much work completed. I may be Done for the day. But, I know I can run 6:10-6:15s now. I know. Test of truth.