English record-holder for 1500m talks about the programme that has led to her rich recent form

(Editor’s note: this feature appeared in the August issue of AW magazine and before Katie Snowden ran 3:56.72 to beat Kelly Holmes’ English 1500m record at the World Champs in Budapest).

Katie Snowden was a “little bit gutted” when she saw the clock stop at 4:00.04. “I think with how training had gone the time wasn’t too much of a surprise, so when I saw I got so close [to running sub-4] it was initially a bit disappointing,” she says of her season-opener in Los Angeles in May.

Expectations have shifted for the 29-year-old British 1500m champion in recent years and her reaction to such a substantial personal best – her previous best was 4:02.77 from the Tokyo Olympic Games – is reflective of the athlete she’s become.

Going into the UK Championships final, Snowden was confident she could finish inside the top two, although she hadn’t necessarily expected to beat Olympic silver medallist Laura Muir.

Her plan was to commit and keep with the defending champion’s pace as the race built to a crescendo, and Snowden executed with tactical perfection, powering past the British record-holder in the home straight before pulling away for the win.

Katie Snowden (Getty)

“It was one of those things when you know that your training has been really consistent and it’s gone really well, and you’re hoping that it all comes together in a race to show the hard work you’ve been putting in,” says the Herne Hill athlete who was fourth in last summer’s European Championships and most recently ran a 1:58.00 800m – a near-two second PB – at the London Athletics Meet.

Snowden joined the Flagstaff-based Under Armour team in late 2021 and is coached by Stephen Haas. She credits her progress to greater endurance strength, support from a varied group of training partners and increased time at altitude.

“I came from a 400m/800m background so naturally I’ve always had the speed, but my endurance was definitely lacking so that’s something that Stephen and I have worked really hard on – doing those longer, less enjoyable sessions, but the ones that have probably made the difference,” she says. 

“I think that by taking that approach I’ve also stayed more injury-free and had greater consistency. There were a few years [between 2018 – 2020] where I had so many niggles and ups and downs, and I think that by actually taking away a bit of the intensity, and I guess training more from a 5km perspective, it has really helped in terms of keeping niggles at bay.”

“Home” remains south London, and while the busy streets of the capital offer little in common with Arizona’s Dark Sky City, Herne Hill’s Tooting Bec track – where Snowden still links up with club members for sessions when she’s home – is a welcome and enjoyable reminder of where it all began.

READ MORE: AW’s how they train series

Snowden is based in Flagstaff for around 18 weeks of the year, across three blocks. Her training schedule incorporates cross-training to minimise injury risk. Her gym sessions are overseen remotely by Loughborough-based Rob Miller (British Athletics). 

“When I look at the week we’re not doing anything special or different, but it’s consistently doing it week upon week and backing it up, that’s what eventually accumulates to good results,” she says.

Katie Snowden with Laura Muir (Getty)

Monday: (am) 6 miles easy; (pm) 4 miles easy followed by drills and strides on the track, plus occasionally short hills of 10-15sec. “Even though we’re doing a bit more strength and mileage, we want to keep the shorter hills and strides going just to make sure we don’t go too far away from the speed stuff,” she says.

Tuesday: (am) session on road loop or track such as mile reps or 6 x 1km off 60-90sec. “If it’s meant to be at threshold,” she says, “we try to keep it at threshold.”; (pm) gym plus 30min cross-train (elliptical).

Wednesday: 8-10 miles group run at easy pace.

Thursday: (am) one hour cross train; (pm) 4 miles easy run plus drills and strides as per Monday

Friday: (am) track session at Northern Arizona University or dropping down in altitude to Sedona or Cottonwood – for example 6 x 600m, 5 x 400m, 4 x 200m; (pm) gym plus 30min cross-train (elliptical).

Saturday: rest or cross-train.

Sunday: long run up to 13 miles.

Favourite session

“Anything short and fast. I enjoy a cut down session – it’s more of a specific pre-race session – where you start with a 1km then reduce the distance to 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m and increase the pace with each rep, or something like 3 x (4 x 400m). I did that recently where I increased the recovery throughout the sets so the 400s got quicker, so I started just outside 1500m pace and tried to get down to 62s. I always look forward to sessions that get quicker with increased recovery.”

Least favourite session 

“There’s a session we do in Flagstaff – Neil [Gourley] loves it! – where we start with a 1km hill (and I think the fact that we’re at 7000ft, any hill at altitude is brutal) then we do 3 x (400m-300m-200m) where the jog down recovery is half the length of the next rep, then you finish with the 1km hill. That second 1km hill you absolutely dread, it’s so hard.”

» This article first appeared in the August issue of AW magazine

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