A great recent study by Yamanaka et al, out of Japan shows that in elite 5km and 10km athletes, 100m and 400m performances was strongly correlated with seasons best times.
What does this mean?
It suggests that even within an elite population of accomplished distance runners the ones that performed better had better speed measures. Interestingly there was not a significantly correlation between their VO2 max (a measure of aerobic capacity) and seasons best over 5km or 10km. Care needs to be taken when interpreting this statistic, it does not mean aerobic capacity was not a factor, however in an elite population ( of which all of them are likely to have well developed VO2 max numbers, in this study average was approx 72 ml/min/kg, which is considered trained elite) the speed measures separated the elites more than the increased aerobic capacity.
So what does that mean for training?
It suggests that some speed development training should be done regularly as part of a distance running program with emphasis placed in these sessions on improving speed over distances between 100 and 400m and those in between. It should not replace the bulk of the volume of the training required to be an elite distance runner, however it should certainly be included in a complete program.
So if you want to run a faster 5km, don’t forget to do some speed training.
In our next blog we will talk about why the speed helps and look into some common speed training sessions for distance runners.