2011-05-24

The Marathon: Part V - The Tempo Run

My suggested training regimen describes the following different kinds of running workouts:
  1. Run
  2. Tempo Run
  3. Easy Run
  4. Fartlek Training
  5. Track Workout
I've promised to cover each one of these in greater depth as we come to them. Tonight's run is a thirty-minute tempo run, so now I'd like to explain what a tempo run is and how to approach it.


There is beauty in brevity. Tempo runs are one of my favorite workouts because they cover so much training ground in such a concise way. Tempo runs help you work on your speed, your pace, your endurance, and your mental grit, all in a total elapsed time much shorter than other workouts would. When you don't have time for a full workout, they're also a great way to squeeze a quick one into a tight schedule. They also provide some much-needed variety in the daily running grind.


I covered intensity scales earlier. Tonight, we'll aim for something at about an 8, or perhaps 80% of your maximal heart rate. My coach in college used to say that tempo runs are supposed to be "at race pace, minus thirty seconds per mile." So if you're aiming for a 3-hour marathon, you'll want to do your tempo runs at about 6:30/mile pace. (Need help figuring out what your pace translates to? Try this handy marathon pace calculator.)


More organically, you should be pushing yourself to the level of significant discomfort the whole way. If this feels bad to you (especially considering our substantial strength workout this morning), you need to remember that it is nothing compared to the last 10km of a marathon. Tough it out. Besides, it's only a 30-minute run. You can definitely bite the bullet through a quick thirty-minute jaunt down the road!


What you can hope to achieve from this is a better familiarity with how to push your body beyond the feeling of wanting to give up or slow down. You'll also help acquaint your body with a rapid running gait, which is an important psychological counterpart to speed work. You've heard of runners' highs and endorphine rushes? By the end of your workout today, you'll feel one if you've managed to keep yourself on pace.


You'll know you need to speed up if you feel yourself stop sweating. That's the tell-tale sign that you've reduced your speed. 


I know it can feel difficult, but if you manage to push through today, you're ready for the other 17-and-a-half weeks for sure!