Thursday, April 12, 2012

Anatomy of a Tempo Run

Before about a month ago, I had never done a tempo run.  Since I started training for my next half marathon, I decided to incorporate some speed work and tempo runs into my training plan, both things I didn't do last time.

My first shot at it wasn't bad but wasn't great either.  I did a little over 4 miles in about 39 minutes, at an average pace of 9:26 overall.

My second attempt?  Epic. failure.  It was awful.


Then, I stumbled upon this post on Carrots 'n Cake about how to do a tempo run.  I had read up about it a little, but this post really helped in breaking it down for me.  I've done this format twice, and I felt like I rocked it both times.

Today's tempo run was another 4-miler, this time I did it in about 37 minutes, at a 9:10 pace overall.  When I looked at my splits, though, my 2 tempo miles were at an 8:33 pace...awesome!

So, I thought I'd break down my tempo run plan for you a little today.  I'm still in trial-and-error-ville, I'll admit, because I don't have a GPS watch.  Yep, I'm cheap.  I stick with my RunKeeper app on my phone.  Here's what I do for a 4-mile tempo run:

Set RunKeeper to tell me my average pace every minute.  I thought this would get annoying, but it's helpful.  I also set it to coach me at 1 mile slow, 2 miles steady, and 1 mile slow.  This just helps alert me when to speed up and when to cool down.

Run the first mile at warm-up pace (i.e. don't worry about it).

Gradually speed up for about a mile, until I hit my desired average pace.  For me today, I was aiming for 9 minute miles (could have gone a little faster, but my legs are UBER sore from yesterday's workout).

Gradually slow down for approximately another mile, but aim to keep your average pace about the same.  If your average pace is still improving, slow down.  Try to keep running this whole time.

For the last mile, cool down.  Expect your average pace to fall a little, but not too much.  If you have to walk at this point, you probably pushed it too hard (guilty of that today).  Aim to enjoy the living daylights out of this part.  It's kind of awesome.

Celebrate your rockstar-ish tempo run skills. :)

OK...I'll admit that I'm still not sure I'm doing this tempo run business correctly.  Feel free to correct me if I'm not.  Regardless, I'm having fun with it, and it spices up my week.  I was NOT positive about going out for a tempo this afternoon, but ended up loving it, and I definitely think it has been good for my running overall.

Tempo runs: love them or hate them?
Any advice for me when it comes to tempo runs? 

Oops!  Can't forget Ashley's photo about a picture that shows a major difference between your life now and what it was 5 years ago.


  1. I've just recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying all your running posts!! I've started running in November and am hooked :) Thanks for sharing this! I'll have to try a tempo run for myself!

    1. Thanks so much, Amy! I'd love to hear how it goes!

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