The Pain of Mile Repeats

Mile repeats were on the training plan earlier this week. In my opinion, mile repeats are the most painful speed workout. Running pretty darn hard for ~6+ minutes – with not a ton of rest (2:30) – and then doing it all over again. And again. And so on. 600s and 800s hurt – but I’m only running hard for 2+ or 3+ minutes, respectively. Mile repeats are more of a slow, painful death.

But despite all this, I kind of love them. I find that I get almost giddy with excitement when I see them on the training calendar. I think part of my love stems from my history with them. I began doing mile repeats when I was training for the 2007 Army Ten Miler (as a member of the Fort Hood team).

I remember the first track workout we did – 2×1600, 2×800 and 2×400. And I vividly remember my legs shaking uncontrollably by the last couple of laps – where it seemed like I was walking. My split times were not impressive and I am fairly certain I was the slowest girl on the team that morning.

But over the course of that summer, my splits got faster and faster and eventually, they were consistently between 6:10-6:15. During that time, my 2-mile run for the Army PT test dropped from about 14:30 (7:15 pace) to 12:40 (6:20 pace). And I remember that I went from hating those Tuesday morning track days to absolutely LOVING them.

I’ve been single parenting all week which has meant treadmill running – and even worse, a treadmill day for mile repeats. Coach had 5x on the schedule for me – all with 2:30 active recovery. My little guys are really terrific when I am forced to run on the treadmill. We have toys down the basement and I will often put a show (or two) on for them while I get the last couple of miles in. But it’s tough to do a speed workout with them. I like to get in the zone and focus – and unfortunately, you can’t do that when you have a 4 and 2 year old running around in front of you. Especially when any object becomes a weapon for fighting.

aj and ryan

After hiding their play swords, they made do with rulers for swords and pan covers for shields.

I started on the conservative side to begin and gradually picked up the pace. I haven’t done mile repeats since early October so didn’t know how I would feel.

The first two were pleasant – or as pleasant as 6:30 of hard running could be.

The middle repeat of any workout is always my “do or die” repeat. If I’m going to quit or give up or stop working hard, it will usually be around the middle or just past the middle. If I make it past those, I can almost always finish hard.

The third one almost broke me. I was getting tired, had just picked up the pace and was trying to focus on my stride and breathing. But my little guy had other plans. He was trying to put in a DVD and was getting frustrated and asking for my help. When you are tired and working hard during a run, sometimes all it takes is an outside nudge to throw off your concentration – and get you off the treadmill. I didn’t want him to whine but I also couldn’t have a discussion with him since I was so out of breath. There was a lot of One. Word. Sentences. And hand movements. The #1 (“give mommy 1 minute”), the hand up (stop what you are doing) and some blown kisses (so I could distract him).

But we got through it. He figured out the DVD player and I finished the workout with negative splits from start to finish.

Warmup: 8:11, 7:55
Splits: 6:31, 6:27, 6:25, 6:22, 6:15
Cooldown: 8:13, 8:06
All at 1% incline

I know the misery that mile repeats cause. The burning in your lungs. The pain in your legs. But, in some crazy way, I welcome the discomfort because I know that it will make me faster and stronger. And isn’t that the whole point of doing any type of speedwork to begin with?

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    11 thoughts on “The Pain of Mile Repeats

    1. Pingback: Boston Marathon Training (T-10) |

    2. Omg this is hilarious!! Way to push through with the little one distracting you. I cannot imagine running as fast as you…if only my mile of torture only lasted 6+ minutes. 😉

      How do you set your “fast” pace? How do you know what uncomfortably comfortable is…meaning hard enough but not too hard? I see your splits improved with each one, instead of falling off with each one, as mine often do. I like the treadmill (only for speed work) because it helps me to keep a fast pace whereas on the pavement I find it hard to push through.
      Safari recently posted..How I lost 6 pounds in 6 days without DietingMy Profile

    3. This is a wonderful as well as very helpful little bit of facts.. tenafly new jersy We’re pleased which you contributed this useful info about. You should continue to be people up to par like that. Appreciate spreading.

    4. My boys (5 & 3) are the same way with making ANYTHING they can find into swords & guns (all of their real toy swords & guns are in ‘time out’ on top of the fridge). And I can imagine doing mile repeats with them around would be miserable – I’m constantly having to stop to deal with them when I’m on the treadmill & they are running a muck (and fighting)! You’re awesome!!
      Kiley @ DVF fitness recently posted..Almost 38 weeks, almost doneMy Profile

    5. I haven’t done mile repeats in so long, but they are brutal. Last winter we did 2000 repeats on the indoor track (where 10 laps is a mile) and those were crazy hard. It’s a pain I kind of miss right now:)
      Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..Friday FindsMy Profile

    6. Oh the “One hand signals”! (love it!) Way to go with finishing the mile repeats, despite the little ones! Hard workouts are in so many ways deeply gratifying, even when you feel you have nothing left. That unequalled feeling of “pushing the limits”! I know you are on your way to “crushing” Boston! :)
      Kara A. Forrest (MaineGirl2) recently posted..The Stories Behind Each RaceMy Profile

    7. You captured this so perfectly! I feel almost exactly the same way and had mile repeats myself this week that I also had to do on the treadmill. Luckily I didn’t have my boys but when I do – same exact thing. Nice job mama!!!! Keep up the speed!
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    8. I have to laugh because I have two boys and if there’s one thing I know, they will always find a sword and a way to “battle”. I think the multi-tasking throughout your difficult workout only has to help you improve:)

    9. YESSSS! I hear you! I actually think the same thing, I kind of look forward to them, but in the hours before, I get as scared as I do before a race! They are such an accomplishment though, and you feel SO proud afterwards! I definitely know what you are talking about, and way to push through lady! Getting faster with each one, exactly what you want to be doing :)
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