For part 1 (How I Became a Faster Runner) - Click here.
In our last post about how I became a faster runner, I ran through (pun intended) my five point plan/different running workouts which helped me go from a runner who struggled to run 1 kilometre without the need to rest to completing my first half marathon in 18 months.
Now I say 18 months because initially I never intended to complete anything more than 10k. My reasoning was that I never wanted to run more than an hour. That made my goal of a sub-60 minute 10k the ultimate running goal for me.
However, (and I'm sure many of you have experienced this too), but when around other runners, especially post-run coffees, you get the itch and next thing you know, you've signed up for half-marathon races left, right, and centre.
So while I discussed the benefits of speed work enabling us to tap into these top-end speeds, tempo runs focuses on improving your fitness levels and increase lactate threshold.
This is done because, as the name suggests, tempo runs are run at a pace that is not as fast as your speed work, but it is faster than your average run pace. Running for prolonged distances at that pace will help you get used to that challenging, uncomfortable feeling, and adapt it to your run.
How do we determine our "Tempo Pace"?
One way to determine at what pace we’re looking to train at, we should be running at about 75 - 80 percent of our max intensity where we can say a few words to a training partner, but definitely will not be able to hold a conversation with them.
As with all things running, being an individual sport, your speed sessions, the length of a tempo run will depend on what race you are training for, fitness level, and a whole host of different variables. So really there isn't a golden rule or set "pace", hence the intensity range.
Let’s say you are new to running, and/or training for a shorter distance event (5k, 8k, or even a 10k road race), then you might want to start with a 15 - 20-minute block of tempo work after a good warm-up. For the more seasoned runners amongst us, you might like to increase these blocks to around 30 minutes, maybe more for the truly dedicated trainers out there (or those who like to punish themselves).
Similar to our post on Speed Work, below I will show some examples of drills that I used when training for my first half marathon back in 2019. You can adjust accordingly based on your own goals.
One example workout can be done running for a set amount of time (below).
For the newer runners wanting to do around 15 - 20 minutes of tempo work, this would be consist of a warm up, followed by three (3) or four (4) blocks of tempo run and recovery run.
As you become more comfortable and stronger as a runner, feel free to add additional five minute blocks of tempo runs.
For the longer runs, you may want to increase the tempo time. This can be done incrementally up to 10 minutes so not to push too hard too soon.
However, if like me, you don't want to be distracted by constantly checking your phone, watch, or timer, you can use a track or distance markers and run at a set pace over a set distance rather than time.
For the speed demons (myself included) amongst us, "Cut-Back" drills are a great way to satisfy the speed itch. For me (and still to this day), being disciplined to run at a constant pace over a set amount of time or distance is both frustrating, but also something I really need to work on, but I digress.
Back to the drill...
The idea is fairly straight forward. After your initial warm-up, you set out at a slower speed than when you finish which means we can incrementally increase our speed over time and really finish on a real runner's high.
For me, after a set distance (or time), I increase my speed by 10 secs/km until I reach the top ends of my tempo run speeds.
If you are new to running, or just the concept of pacing, this may take a little bit of time to find your rhythm when running at a consistent target pace. I am fairly new to having target paces, and regularly find myself having to be reined in by our pacing group leaders (I'm sorry Coach).
So have some fun with your pacing and try out some of the workouts listed above. Check back next time when I go into our third run; LSD runs, no, not trippy kind of runs, but Long Slow Distance (LSD) runs.
About the Autho
David is a runner from Manchester, England and now resides in Toronto, Canada. He has been a "serious" runner since 2017 and his favorite distance is the 10k.
He represents Brooks Canada as part of their #RunHappy Team as well as supports mental health initiatives such as Outrun the Dark.