A pick-up is a short, gentle increase in speed during a run, lasting from 10 seconds to 2 minutes. You will find them mainly in your long run sessions because essentially they are there to remind your legs that you can run fast!
When you’re training at a slower pace over a longer distance you are building up the foundation to run a marathon, but you are also teaching the body to run slowly - and potentially race slower. Pick-ups help to stimulate speed over long distance, and also help with your running form as it will increase engagement of your major muscle groups and we generally run with better technique when we run faster.
Your session may advise you to perform a pick-up anywhere from 2-10 times during your long run. But there are no set amount of intervals, feel free to add a few more in or just mix up the pace. The idea is to run faster when you feel like it, and slow back down to your steady pace so you run continuously with faster and slower paces.
Personally I like to throw in a pick-up when I’m feeling a bit sluggish or lose my rhythm as it gives me a buzz, make me mindful of my running technique and keeps my long runs interesting.
Top tip: Adding a pick-up, at the end of a long run will help aid recovery.