What is a Tempo Run and How do You Properly Run One?


Tempo runs are something we hear a lot about in the running community. According to some, we are supposed to include at least two of them in each training week.

Tempo runs are not difficult to figure out once you have a basic idea of what you are trying to accomplish on the road for your training. They will also improve your anaerobic threshold, pace and time. Do not fear the tempo run if you aren’t good with numbers; it is a fairly simple formula to figure out and they make online calculators for this sort of thing to make it easy.

Tempo your Pace

To run a true tempo run, you need to slow your roll to a pace that is slightly underneath your 10K split time. Basically, hit 2 foot strikes for each inhale and 1 foot strike on each exhale. Running any faster than this will push you too hard and be ineffective at improving anaerobic threshold.

Running a tempo run means that you are holding a steady pace for your run, for as long as possible. You need to increase this pace with your training mileage, but do not worry about that starting out. Simply strive to keep your tempo even and your pace steady.

Tempo pace should be comparable to your own hard pace. Do not try to match it to a specific time that you read in an article or running magazine; rather, find out where you run comfortably and take it up a slight notch. Keep your pace even and steady without slowing it. Pacing your runs to longer distances is what makes tempo runs effective.

Tempo your Race

Your race should be modeled after your tempo training runs. This will ensure that your splits are even and let you know how to push past your time during the next race. Tempo runs are designed for race readiness; that is why they measure your mile splits with those handy little shoe chips.

Negative splits means that you are running a different pace at different places in your race. For example, if you start out the first few miles running at an 8 minute pace, then slow to a 10 minute mid-race, you have probably not yet mastered your tempo runs during your training. Do not worry too much about this in your first or even second marathons; finishing should be your only goal there. However, as you gain race experience tempo runs will bring precision to your running and allow you to push harder and faster with each run.

Tempo your Time

Timed tempo runs allow you to make sure that your pace is matching your race pace. If you know that you run a 4 hour marathon, your mile splits should reflect this pace. Your overall splits will reflect a 9 minute, 10 second pace for each mile. There will be negative splits for the first mile or 2 as the crowd disperses, and you will want to pick up these splits at the finish. It is better to start out a bit slower to find your pace and finish strong than it is to start strong and come in hurting.