TEMPO RUNS ADDED TO ON TO A HALF MARATHON TRAINING PLAN; EXPLAINED
Although as scheduled, this plan started March 13, it could have been started last week, or start this week, after you have run and recovered from your 10K. You’ll notice it includes an option for a TEMPO RUN. If you finished the 5K and 10K you’ll have the information needed to calculate your tempo run PACE.
Definitions on exactly what constitutes a tempo run will differ from expert to expert and runner to runner. A simple explanation is that it’s a training run performed at a “comfortably hard” pace over a predetermined but prolonged period of time or a pre-determined distance. It’s purpose is to train the body to metabolize energy in such a way that the point at which fatigue sets in is later and later in the run, and eventually a race. If fatigue does not set in you can race stronger, faster, and longer, and achieve a better finish time.
However, tempo runs might BEST BE UNDERTAKEN AFTER A STRONG RUNNING BASE has been established with weeks of running. See the NOTE below about one research study that identified an increased incidence of injury in the first 6 weeks of an 18 week marathon training plan reported by runners who included tempo runs compared with those who did not run them. Performance was better with tempo runs, so the authors thought later in the plan might be advised to avoid injury.
A Competitor.com article, “Know Your Tempo” by Mario Fraioli recommends a that it range from 4-6 miles in distance, at a pace 15-20 seconds +10K pace, resulting in a duration of 20-90 minutes (the longer the goal race, the longer the tempo run should be). For example, if your 10k pace is ~ 9:45 min/mile, your tempo pace would be ~ 10:00 min/mile that, if run over 4 miles, would lead to a duration of about 40 minutes; if 6 miles the total running time would equal 60 minutes. A faster runner with a 10K pace of 7:45min/mile adding 15 seconds (8:00 min/mile tempo pace) would plan to cover 5 miles in ~40 minutes or 6 miles in ~48minutes.
The Runner’s World article “Tempo Run” defines this workout in more scientific terms and offers four different methods to determine the pace at which you should run it. The first calculation is similar to the one described above; add “30 to 40 seconds to your current 5-K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10-K pace”.
For a piece that tells the story of how tempo runs made their way into race training, there's a long and technical article in Runner’s World By Richard Lovett, “Find Your Tempo”. However, by the article’s end, many readers may wish to give up on the idea of figuring out how get to their “lactate threshold” level and forget tempo runs.
BUT DON’T GIVE UP ON TEMPO RUNS! This last article eventually explains there are coaches who feel that instead of constant pace tempo runs, these training workouts should be “progression” runs. Scott Simmons, coach of the American Distance Project in Colorado Springs, Colorado comments in the article, and calls them PREDATOR RUNS. “ ‘[Progression running is] how a predator will increase tempo to catch prey, especially as they get close.’ " His recommendation is to start 60 seconds slower than your current 10K pace, run each consecutive mile 10-20 seconds faster, and finish at (or faster) than the pace you hope to run your upcoming race.
Example: 10min/mile 10K pace runner would run the 1st mile at 11min/mile, the 2nd at 10:45 min/mile, the 3rd at 10:30 min/mile, and the 4th at 10:15 min/mile. The next week the tempo run might be longer distance (4.5 miles) with that last half mile at 10min/mile. The following week run would be 5 miles with the last full mile at 10min/mile. And the next 2 weeks work toward achieving 9:45min/mile.
TRY TO HAVE FUN with this concept and PUT THE MATH AND STOPWATCH ASIDE. Consider you are the predator, running down your goal, closing the distance between you and a magical “gazelle” of a finish. Try to finish one run a week with “negative split”. Simply run each mile a bit faster, by how you feel rather than the clock, so that you run the last half in less time than first half. This simulates the strategy you would follow in running a race; you would finish at a faster pace than your starting pace.
For those of you who would like to INCORPORATE 2 TYPES OF TRAINING RUNS INTO ONE DAY’S WORK Mario Fraioli offers a routine on Competitor.com that he calls a “Tempo-Hill Sandwich”. He offers runners new to speed workouts an abbreviated session, and a longer tougher session to those experienced in these kinds of runs. I have unknowingly run this kind of a “sandwich” workout and am happy to learn it may be a legitimate way to train. (It had taken me longer than expected to run a hill repeat workout in a location 2 miles from home, and I had to run home quickly to be on time for an appointment).
NOTE: A research study, “The Influence Of Training and Mental Skills Preparation On Injury Incidence And Performance In Marathon Training” by KL Hamstra-Wright and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The study provided 125 runners who participated in an 18-week marathon training program with 4 questionnaires (pre-training, at 6 weeks, at 12 weeks, and post-training) in which they were asked about injury incidence, mental preparation (pre-training), and ultimately, finish times (post training). It found that “tempo runs during training preparation had a significant positive relationship to injury incidence (more injury) in the 6-week survey”. “Runners who reported incorporating tempo and interval runs, running more miles per week, and running more days per week in their training preparation ran significantly faster than did those reporting less tempo and interval runs, miles per week, and days per week”. “Mental skills preparation did not influence injury incidence or marathon performance”.
A BIG TAKEAWAY is to be careful of increasing intensity of training too early. The authors suggest, “when running speed is increased too quickly, the rate of damage to tissues outweighs the rate of tissue repair…and may be a risk factor for running-related injuries. Gradual increases in running intensity may allow the musculo-skeletal system to adapt to more stress, thus preventing injury incidence. Therefore, a strong running base of adequate mileage and uninterrupted weeks-months of injury-free running are necessary before incorporating the increased pace work of tempo and interval runs. “
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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