There are many types of speed workouts available to runners, ranging from short intervals, Yasso 800s, fartleks, hill repeats and tempo runs. In the past, I’ve mostly stuck with 400, 800 or 1600 meter speed repeats with rest in between. On occasion, I throw in some hill work, although it usually doesn’t involve repeating the hill more than twice.
On Sunday, however, after taking a 2.5 hour afternoon nap and missing the daylight window for my planned 9 mile run, I went out for what I intended to be a quick “pace” run. A pace run would mean that I’d be running at my desired race pace, which in this case is 8:46 as that is what it will take to reach the finish line of the marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes. I set out to run the first mile as a warm-up at comfortable pace and ended up finishing it in 9:05. I picked up the pace and finished mile 2 (which is about 50% downhill) in 8:25, and then turned around and charged up a hill, passing a male runner on the way up (teehee!) and finishing the next mile at a 8:14. I kicked it into high gear for the last mile, finishing it at 7:58. Despite being pretty winded, I wasn’t feeling all that fatigued, and cursed the sun for disappearing already, leaving me with no choice but to return home (I have a strict policy about running outdoors at night alone – not only do I fear cars, I also fear creepy men!). I finished the run with a 1/4 mile jog home to cool down.
I learned what a tempo run was while training for my very first half marathon. I used Hal Higdon’s Beginner Training Plan and it included some speed work. Hal described a tempo run as:
“a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A
Tempo Run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build
to 15-20 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The
pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about
two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two.”
Unintentionally, I did my own version of Hal’s tempo run on Sunday, finishing 4 miles with an average overall pace of 8:26.
While researching this blog entry I came across an article on Runner’s World that contridicted my understanding about the definition of a tempo run. The article actually points out that most runners throw around the term and actually have no idea what it is. According to the author, the tempo run was popularized in the 1980s by PhD Jack Daniels (har har) and is described by him as “nothing more than 20 minutes of running at threshold pace.” Threshold pace would loosely be defined as the pace at which your body can barely clear the lactate from your system. If you work at this level, you will increase the threshold pace at which you can clear lactate effectively (once you go above this pace, your body can no longer work to clear the lactate and you will most likely bonk). Another way to describe this pace is your 10k pace.
Well, despite Higdon vs. Daniels opposing views on the tempo run, I did run my 4 miles at about my 10k pace, although the only 10k pace I have to compare it to is the 10k I ran at the end of my Olympic distance marathon. However, according to Runner’s World, maintaining a consistent pace is the key to a tempo run; whereas Hal Higdon argues that the run is supposed to build to 10k pace, not sustain that pace.
So what exactly is a Tempo Run and did I run on on Sunday? I’m still not sure, but I do know that running fast makes you a fast runner, so I’m going to hope that my 4k jaunt did me some good, no matter what I name it.