I wanted to nail a tempo run, and that’s just what I did today. According to the plan, the run was a progressive tempo, increasing in pace from easy to threshold for about 30 minutes. After that, the rest of the 50 minute run was at an easy pace. For some reason, tempo runs have a tendency to psych me out: they’re slower than my race pace, but since I’m not running in a race, and I have hills to contend with in my neighborhood, I tend to doubt my ability. But I did everything I was supposed to do today, and that makes me happy.
If you want to do your own tempo run, try this workout, and adjust it to your ability. If you walk/run, warm up with walking. If you generally run, warm up at an easy run pace.
1/2 mile to 1 mile warm up run (or walk if you’re a newbie)
1/2 mile to 1 mile at a cardio pace. This is where you can talk in short sentences. Running feels easy. This is slower than marathon pace.
1/2 mile to 1 mile at endurance pace. This is where you can still talk, but it’s a little more challenging. For experienced runners, this is your marathon race pace +/- 30 seconds.
1/2 mile to 1 mile at threshold pace. You can only say a word or two at a time running at this pace. For experienced runners, this is close to your 10K race pace.
1/2 mile to 1 mile cool down. Walk or run slowly to let your heart rate come back down.
Total: 2.5 miles for newer runners; 5 miles for more experienced runners.
If you are an experienced runner and want to challenge yourself more, start with 20 seconds above your 10K race pace per mile or 30-40 seconds above your 5K race pace and then subtract 10 seconds off each mile to get faster and faster. The purpose of a tempo run is to train your body to know what racing will feel like, and the run should not last more than one hour.
A few other items about tempo runs, make sure that you do not do a tempo run after a hard track workout or before a long run. In other words, have the tempo sandwiched in between easier workouts to prevent injury and burnout.