As a runner, it’s important to test your fitness. While races serve as the best way to measure your fitness and the effectiveness of your training, a fun and less stressful way can be a staple test of fitness workout like the 65 Special.
Every running coach I’ve worked with has had one iconic test of fitness workout. One that’s so hard, just completing it as prescribed is a rite of passage.
Typically, these workouts followed a long period of hard training without races and were repeated year after year. They served as a measuring stick to evaluate our fitness level before we entered heavy competition periods. Not to mention bragging rights for the successful few.
Iconic Test of Fitness Workouts
My high school coach, Jim McCoach, would give us the 5 under 5 by August 5 workout. It was a grueling workout right before the official start of cross-country season where we’d aim for five one-mile track intervals, all under 5 minutes on August 5.
My college coach, Jim Tuppeny, had an arduous track workout called the 65 Special. Beginning and ending at the lane one finish line, we would aim to run one lap in 65 seconds. Then, we would move to the lane two finish line and repeat. This would be repeated, moving out one lane each time until our last interval was in lane eight.
What makes this workout so challenging is that as you get deeper into the workout and move from one lane to the next, the distance of each interval gets longer. However, the time to complete it remains the same: 65 seconds. In other words, you need to run each lap faster than the one before.
For example, a normal lap around the track in lane one is 400 m. But in lane five, it’s 430 m, and for your last rep, it’s 453 m.
Adjusting the 65 Special Workout
Unless you can run a 3:50 mile pace for 450 m comfortably on tired legs, you’ll need to adjust the workout to suit your ability. I recommend that beginner and intermediate runners use your 5K pace and that more advanced runners use your 3K pace.
To calculate your goal for each lap, divide the average mile pace of your 5K or 3K by 4. For example, if your 5K time is 21:00 minutes, or an average of 6:45 per mile, divide 6:45 by 4 to get 1:41 for your goal time for each lap.
While I don’t advise doing workouts like the 5 under 5 or the 65 Special at your limit regularly, I do suggest strategically taking on the 65 Special a couple of times throughout the year as a fun way to test your fitness.
The 65 Special: The Workout
- Warm up 1-2 miles starting at an easy pace and gradually picking up to a moderately hard pace.
- Starting in lane one, run one lap at your current 3K to 5K pace, followed by one lap at an easy jog. (If you don’t know your 3K pace, you can enter your 5K, half-marathon, or marathon time in this calculator.)
- Move out to lane two and run one complete lap in lane two at the same pace, followed by one lap in lane two at an easy jog.
- Repeat this in each of the eight lanes.
- Cool down for 1-2 miles at an easy pace.
Lap Goal for 5K and 3K Times
- 17:00 = 1:22
- 18:00 = 1:26
- 19:00 = 1:31
- 20:00 = 1:36
- 21:00 = 1:41
- 22:00 = 1:46
- 23:00 = 1:50
- 24:00 = 1:55
- 8:00 = 64
- 8:30 = 68
- 9:00 = 72
- 9:30 = 76
- 10:00 = 80
- 10:30 = 84
- 11:00 = 88
- 11:30 = 92
How Far Is Each Lane on a Track?
As you move out one lane, the distance increases by 7.7 m on an IAAF-certified track. The distance of each lane on an IAAF-certified track is:
- Lane 1 is 400 m
- Lane 2 is 407.7 m
- Lane 3 is 415.3 m
- Lane 4 is 423 m
- Lane 5 is 430.7 m
- Lane 6 is 438.3 m
- Lane 7 is 446 m
- Lane 8 is 453.7 m
How Many Laps Around a Track Is One Mile?
On an IAAF-certified track, four laps plus 9.34 m equals one mile. IAAF-certified tracks measure 400 m in lane one. The metric equivalent to one mile is 1,609.34 m.
Most tracks will have a black curved one-mile marker behind the starting line. If you want to run one mile in lane one, you will cross the start/finish line four times.