Stages of a Tempo Run

The tempo run is a staple of my marathon training program.  Actually, the tempo run can be used when training for a half marathon or 15k too (possibly a 10k but shorter races are done at an anaerobic pace so the benefit of tempo training diminishes).


What is a tempo run?  It’s a workout that should be done at your lactate-threshold pace, about 20-30 seconds slower than your 5k time.  In layman’s terms, that’s a “comfortably hard” pace.  You are working hard, but you aren’t racing.  But you’d definitely like to slow down, especially during the last two miles when your quads and lungs start to reach their threshold.


Incorporating a tempo run into a training program is critical for developing the body’s metabolic fitness and ability to maintain speed over distance.  It’s both my favorite and my most hated workout of the training cycle.  As part of my marathon buildup, I reach up to 10 miles at tempo pace.  If you’ve ever done a tempo run before, you know that there are distinct phases of the workout.  The following is what I thought during my last tempo run before the Chicago Marathon.



Thoughts During a Tempo Run


The Warmup: 2 Miles and Dynamic Drills


Just getting my legs all ready! I wonder how this looks to non-runners…


Early Miles: Finding the Groove


Time to sake off lingering cobwebs and find the right pace.  Let’s do this, Tempo Run!


Middle Miles: The Flow State


I love running, I could do this all day!


The miles are just flying by
I’m a metronome today! I can’t believe I’m already at mile 6. It’s just flying by.


Later Miles: Starting to Burn


Seriously? HOW is this only mile 7? How are there three more of these?!


Is this over yet?!




Last Mile: Push Through


Just hang on
LAST MILE! GO GO GO! Screw form, just hang on!  You can do iiiittttt!


Cool Down: Victory is Mine!


Phew. Tempo runs are the best.





What do you think about during a tempo run?  What’s your favorite kind of tempo run to do during training?



Happy Running,









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