I ran past a horse farm yesterday, and I was struck with a brilliant idea. Okay, maybe it was just an endorphin-fueled runners high that made it seem brilliant at the time. But, even this morning the idea still has merit. There’s a deep connection between runners and horses. Just think of the jargon we use as runners.

The hay is in the barn.
The training work is done, your fitness level has peaked, and it’s time to taper for race day.

Get back on the horse.
Try again. Maybe things didn’t go so well in your last race, but the only way to improve is to get back to work.

Running like a horse that smells the barn door.
The sudden urge that a runner has to increase their speed as they near the end of their run.

The Barn Door Phenomenon

Horses are known to suddenly gallop when they reach the driveway or turn towards the barn at the end of a ride. Returning to the barn means they can eat, end their work for the day, and rejoin the herd. The instinct to race to the barn doors is so ingrained, that it’s very difficult for trainers to break.

We do it too. Most runners pick up the pace at the end of their runs. While sprinting the last 50 meters of a training run provides very little in terms of overall performance gains, we can harness the ‘barn door phenomenon’ to design very effective workouts. These fall into two main categories: progression runs and fast finish runs.

Learn how to harness the power of the 'barn door phenomenon' with fast finish runs. Click To Tweet

Fast Finish Runs

The fast finish run is a tough workout both physically and mentally. This will leave you with your tongue hanging. The goal is to teach your body how to run fast on tired legs and burn fuel efficiently in the late stages of a race. If you add this workout to your training plan every few weeks in place of your normal long run, you’ll be an endurance monster.

The fast finish run has been a staple of Kenyan training programs for years. They start their group runs at a crawl, and kick it into high gear for a blazing finish. You don’t have to be an elite runner to benefit from this approach. It can be fine-tuned for a variety of race distances and paces. The premise is really quite simple: start slow and finish fast.

Marathon Training: The 16-mile Fast Finish Workout

Here’s how it might look as part of a marathon training plan for a runner with a goal marathon pace of 8:00 per mile:

Miles 1-3 @ 9:00-9:30 

This is the warm up period. Take it easy, the hard part is coming later in the workout.

Miles 4-13 @ 8:15-8:30

This is the meat of the workout. It should feel tough, but sustainable. Your pace will vary based on your fitness and where you are in your training plan.

Miles 14-15 @ 8:00

It’s go time! This is what you came for. Drop down to goal marathon pace for miles 14 and 15. 

Mile 16 @ <8:00

Finish strong! If you have anything left in the tank, now is the time to burn it!

Gentle jog and walking recovery for 5 minutes

This recovery time is important. Don’t sit down immediately. I like to run cold water from the garden hose over my legs  for a few minutes. If it’s good enough for racehorses, it’s good enough for me.

What other horse references can you think of? Add them in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Run Like a Racehorse with Fast Finish Runs

  1. I haven’t reached the stage where I can sustain a speed of less than 8:00 per mile for 10 miles, leave alone the last 10 miles of a marathon. But your tips are very good for maintaining a negative split and to finish strong.

    Good post!

Thoughts?