Workout of the Week: The 3-2-1 Sandwich

Sandwiching short intervals on the track between tempo efforts is a great way to improve your ability to finish fast. Photo: Scott Draper/Competitor

Tired of getting passed at the end of a race? Practice finishing fast on fatigued legs!

“I wish I just had one more gear,” is a phrase you’ll hear muttered by many a runner after a race, particularly if he or she happened to be passed in the final few hundred yards before the finish line.

While not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with a killer kick, the ability to finish fast is a skill that can be practiced and improved. The runner with the best natural leg speed isn’t always the one who reaches the finish line first; more often than not, it’s the runner who is strong enough to summon up a sprint while fatigued.

So how can you work on your ability to turn your legs over when they’re tired? One workout I like to employ every other week in the meat of a training cycle is a version of a little session I call the 3-2-1 Sandwich. Different variations of this workout can work for runners focusing on distances ranging from the 5K to the marathon. It’s most effective if done from/at a track, but it can be amended to work in any environment. Give it a shot!

Standard 3-2-1 Sandwich

— Warm up with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretchingdrills and strides.

— Perform a 2-3 mile tempo run at half-marathon race pace, preferably starting and ending at the track (Note: You don’t necessarily have to do the tempo run on the track).

— Upon completing the tempo run, jog onto the track and go right into running 300 meters (3/4 of the way around) 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 to 60 seconds seconds after finishing the tempo run and go right into running 1 minute at 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. Think: FAST!

— Following the 300m interval, jog 200 meters (1/2 lap) for recovery, and go right into running 200 meters a few seconds per mile faster than the fast 300 you just completed. If you’re not using a track, jog for 1 minute as recovery following the 1-minute pickup, then run 30 seconds a few seconds per mile faster than you did for the fast 1-minute pickup. Think: Faster!  

— After the faster 200m interval, jog 100m (1/4 lap or the length of a curve or straightaway) for recovery and finish with 100m at about 90 percent effort, focusing on a quick turnover, while lifting your knees, driving your arms and maintaining strong form. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 seconds as recovery following the 30-second pickup, then run for 15 seconds at a pace that’s faster than your previous two pickups. Think: Fastest!

— Following the fast 100m (or 15-second pickup), take 8-10 minutes recovery (or jog a slow mile) and repeat the entire sequence: 2-3 mile tempo run at half-mararthon pace followed by a set of of 300m-200m-100m intervals (0r 60-30-15-second pickups).

— Cool down with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging.

Open-Faced 3-2-1 Sandwich

— Warm up with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging, followed by dynamic stretchingdrills and strides.

— Perform a 4-6 mile tempo run at half-marathon race pace, preferably starting and ending at the track (Note: You don’t necessarily have to do the tempo run on the track).

— Upon completing the tempo run, jog onto the track and go right into running 300 meters (3/4 of the way around) 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 to 60 seconds seconds after finishing the tempo run and go right into running 1 minute at 10-15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace. Think: FAST!

— Following the 300m interval, jog 200 meters (1/2 lap) for recovery, and go right into running 200 meters a few seconds per mile faster than the fast 300 you just completed. If you’re not using a track, jog for 1 minute as recovery following the 1-minute pickup, then run 30 seconds a few seconds per mile faster than you did for the fast 1-minute pickup. Think: Faster!  

— After the 200m interval, jog 100m (1/4 lap or the length of a curve or straightaway) and finish with 100m at about 90 percent effort, focusing on a quick turnover, while lifting your knees, driving your arms and maintaining strong form. If you’re not using a track, jog for 30 seconds as recovery following the 30-second pickup, then run for 15 seconds at a pace that’s faster than your previous two pickups. Think: Fastest!

— Following the fast 100m (or 15-second pickup), take 3 minutes for recovery and repeat the interval sequence ONLY: 300m-200m-100m intervals (0r 60-30-15-second pickups) as described above.

— Cool down with 15-20 minutes of easy jogging.

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