As much as a daunting long run intimidates, a challenging session of intervals at the track intimidates more. A long run 'might' result in some fatigue and discomfort. The track GUARANTEES fatigue and discomfort.
So, don't think of an interval session as 'running'. Think of it as a 'battle'. In order to survive, you have to be in the right head space. You also need the right plan of attack.
Stepping into the ring with a tough looking session of 400s and/or 800's is not for the meek or timid. But, if you want to notch a personal best, you're going to have to fight for it. Prepare for battle on the track properly and you'll be ready for it on race day.
I always encourage a quality warmup before any run. But, warming up before a session at the track is pretty much mandatory. Forgoing warmup can definitely impact your performance and increase the chance of injury.
Ideally, this warmup should be more liberal than what you normally do. If you do nothing, do something. If you do something, do a bit more than you normally do.
You need to get your heart rate up. You need to break a bit of a sweat. You need to be 'warm' before you segue onto the track.
Log an easy mile or two. Follow this up with some quality range of motion drills. There are COUNTLESS range of motion drills out there, but buttkicks, high knees, leg swings, and dynamic toe touches should definitely be in the mix.
Unlike a longer, easier run when you can leverage the first mile or so to warmup, a session at the track allows no such luxury. You will be running hard from the get go. Your body needs to be ready for it.
Lastly, dial up a few of your fight songs as you warmup. 'We Will Rock You', 'You've Got Another Thing Coming', and 'Welcome to the Jungle' always put me in the right headspace. Find the songs that will get you ready to rumble.
It's pretty common to be anxious when you hit the track. It's easy to go out too fast. Just as it rarely (never) pays to go out too fast at a race, such is the case with tackling the track.
Consciously go out slower. If your target pace for a session of 400M intervals is 2:00, aim for 2:02 for your first interval. Think of your first couple trips around as a glorified warmup.
After you've got the first couple intervals conquered, then segue into your target pace.
The best races are typically associated with consistent pacing from start to finish. The track presents a great opportunity to rehearse this consistency. Rehearse consistency at the track and you've got a better shot at winning the battle on race day.
Once you've conquered the first 'slightly' slower intervals and segued into your target pace, lock it in. Try to keep your pacing consistent for the majority of your session. Assuming a target pace of 2:00 for 400M, try to keep the majority of your intervals between 2:00-2:05.
If you find yourself struggling to keep your intervals within a five second range, you likely started too fast. If your pacing continues to get slower for each subsequent interval, you likely went out too fast.
While 'consistency is king', try to save your best for last. Finish fast if at all possible.
For that last lap, dig deep. Find that extra gear. Fight through the discomfort and fatigue.
Notching a personal best on race day may require fighting through fatigue and discomfort. Do it enough times on the track and you can (likely) do it on race day.