Sandwiches

  • Great for all abilities from beginners up to elite runners
  • Works pacing and speed
  • Good for individuals and groups of 2-24 runners
  • Perfect for the running track

Sandwich runs are an excellent way of practising changes of pace and including a mix of speeds in a session.

Equipment

Eight flexi-cones, ideally of four different colours.

Setting Up

A 90-metre length of track or path is measured out. Precise measurements are not necessary.

The 90 metres is then divided into three 30-metre lengths and cones are used to mark the start and end of each section. It's a good idea to use different coloured cones so that each section can be referenced easily.

The Session

Each athlete in the group is assigned a lane. If there are more athletes than available lanes then they can run in several waves.

The first and last 30 metres are associated with one speed and the middle 30 metres associated with another. So, one speed is "sandwiched" between the other two. It's best if this is expressed as a percentage of maximum speed.

The athletes' goal is to hit the speeds prescribed for the different sections as closely as possible.

A slow walk-back recovery should suffice, with extra recovery for sandwiches including higher speeds. It's important that athletes recover well between reps so they can concentrate properly and execute good technique.

For the same reason, the total number of reps should be kept low. Also consider dividing the session into several sets, with additional recovery between sets. Longer recovery periods are an ideal time to feed back to the athletes.

For athletes new to running, this is a great introduction to varying paces. For more advanced athletes it helps to further develop and fine-tune pace judgement.

Group Size

The number of athletes that can be accommodated depends on how many lanes are available for use on the track. Full use of all lanes on an eight-lane track will serve eight athletes perfectly. However, you can have more athletes than lanes by sending them off in several waves. Beyond three waves (i.e. a maximum of 24 runners) the session can become difficult to manage.

Variations

Open Sandwich

An open sandwich allows for three different paces to be associated with each of the three sections. Beware of introducing too many different paces to new runners.

Club Sandwich

A club sandwich has extra layers. Limit the number of different paces within one sandwich run to fiver. Beyond this it can become quite challenging.

Chunky Sandwich

A chunky sandwich with nice thick bread and lots of fillings allows you to complete the runs over longer distances. For example, using the full length of the track, or even longer distances on the road. A hill also works quite nicely.

Ensure that with longer runs that the paces are maintainable for the required distances.

Real World Example

There is a group of six club-level athletes and the session is taking place at an athletics track.

The home straight of the track is used for the session. Two red flexi-cones are placed at the 100m start line: one on the line separating lanes one and two and one on the line separating lanes seven and eight. The six lanes delimited by these cones are those that will be used for the session.

A pair of green cones is placed roughly 30 metres ahead along the same lines, a pair of white cones 30 metres ahead of this, and finally a pair of yellow cones another 30 metres ahead.

The zones are described to the athletes. The first 30-metre section between the red and green cones should be run at 85% of max speed; the second 30-metre section between the green cones and the white cones should be run at 75% max speed; and the final 30-metre section between the white cones and the yellow cones is another run at 85% of max speed.

The athletes begin on the group leader's command and when they reach the end they turn around and slowly walk back to the start in lanes one and eight (which are free). When everybody has walked back there is a 30-second standing recovery before the second rep.

For the next two reps the athletes run at 60 percent; 70 percent; 60 percent, and for the two reps following this the athletes run an open sandwich at 60 percent; 80 percent; 90 percent

Tips

Allowing for an area to the left or right of the lanes is useful for coaches to stand and observe technique.

Have the athletes in the group take turns choosing their own mix of paces for extra variety.

Danger

Be very aware of other groups on the track and set up and organise the session accordingly. Make sure that athletes are clear on when they should start each rep and where they should walk back.

Remember to warm up before your session and cool down afterwards.