The Path to Marathon Success - Tempo Runs
by Benji Durden

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Tempo Runs

Thursday runs are tempo runs sandwiched between a warmup and warmdown. Look at the workout for Thursday in Week 1. The 20 wup/wdn; 2 (8t/2e) looks like a complicated algebraic formula, but it's simple. First, warm up at an easy pace for 20 minutes (20 wup). Then, run for 8 minutes at a fast pace (8t)--the actual tempo run. The speed should be approximately the pace you could maintain for an hour. (Chart 2 puts this range as 7:50 to 8:07 for our 48-minute 10-K runner.) This should be a fast effort but not exhausting. If it's too fast, back off. Follow the 8 minutes of fast running with 2 minutes at an easy pace, and then do another 8 minutes of tempo running. Finish the workout with a 20-minute warmdown (20 wdn).

If this is still unclear, look at the next week. For our 48-minute runner, the 20 wup/wdn; 3(5t/1e) means:

  • warm up for 20 minutes at 10:02 to 11:11 pace per mile

  • run 5 minutes at 7:50 to 8:07 pace per mile

  • run 1 minute at 10:02 to 11:11 pace per mile

  • run 5 minutes at 7:50 to 8:07 pace per mile

  • run 1 minute at 10:02 to 11:11 pace per mile

  • run 5 minutes at 7:50 to 8:07 pace per mile

  • warm down 20 minutes at 10:02 to 11:11 pace per mile

Some runners like to run the tempo workouts continuously; a single 15-minute run, rather than three separate 5-minute runs. Do whatever feels comfortable. If you feel any inclination to do this workout on the track in the form of mile repeats, forget it. Mile repeats are often done too hard on the track to be useful for marathon training. By doing timed runs of 5 to 15 minutes on the road, you train on the surface on which you'll be racing and avoid the constant feedback you get on the track that might entice you to run too fast. The purpose of tempo work is to improve running efficiency for the marathon, not set a mile PR.

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Credits: Text copyright 1996 by Benji Durden

This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.

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