What is Tempo Running?

What is tempo running

When I first started running, I didn’t know any of the correct lingo. I didn’t know what a speed workout was, or a tempo run, or fartlek training. My plan would say run 3 miles, so I ran 3 miles at whatever pace I could manage that day.

After finishing my first marathon in 4.54.59, I knew I wanted to try to start running faster.

Running in Saucony
I had no idea where to begin, so followed Skinny Runner’s advice, that to run faster, you have to train faster, read a lot of Runners World about speed work and tempo runs and started including them into my own workouts.

A tempo run, also known as a threshold run, is a faster paced session done at a ‘challenging but manageable pace’, about an 8 out of 10 on the effort scale. They work to improve your pace by improving your metabolic fitness. Tempo runs ‘teach the body to use the ocygren for metabolism more efficiently’

A typical tempo run should begin with a warm up, followed by ‘comfortably hard effort for 2-3 miles’, with a cool down afterwards. ‘You know your working, but you’re not racing’. The longer run you’re training for, the longer your tempo runs should be.

It’s best to do these outside at either perceived effort, or at your target pace which should be about 30-40 seconds slower than your 5K race pace, and 20 seconds slower than your 10K race pace.

Running Saucony
I’ve included tempo runs in both my half marathon and marathon training plans, or here are a few ideas to create your own tempo workouts;

  • Make each mile 15 seconds quicker than the previous, for runs from 3-7 miles
  •  Run a warm up mile, run middle miles at a quicker pace, run a cool down mile
  • Warm up, 5 X 5 mins fast with 2 min recovery jogs between, cool down
  • After a warm up, run 5 X 3 mins at 10K pace, with 60 second recovery jogs between
  • Run easy for 10 mins, gradually increase your pace over the next 20 minutes, finish with 10 mins easy
  • Warm up, 2 X 10 mins fast with 3 min recovery jog between, cool down

You might also find this Runner’s World article helpful – The Perfect Tempo Run.

6 Comments

  1. February 3, 2013 / 10:48 am

    I’m in the exactly same place as you! Trying to get faster. The best advice I was given was… to run faster you need to run faster! So cue the tempo running and intervals. I did the VLM last year but it didn’t go to plan… so I’m trying again!

  2. January 15, 2016 / 10:45 am

    Thanks for the advice! I’ve just started introducing tempo runs to my training for the Brighton Half – always get a bit nervous about them, but practice is making them easier as I get to know my body and my threshold

  3. January 16, 2016 / 6:59 pm

    Nice variety of workouts there, it is fun to change it around some days.

  4. January 17, 2016 / 9:18 am

    I never really started to run better until I started doing speed work. Great post Charlie 🙂

  5. January 19, 2016 / 9:44 pm

    Tempo running has been a key component in helping me to get faster and improve my times. And the more that I do it, the better I like it! Thanks for sharing this great info!

  6. Fitnessmomwinecountry
    January 24, 2016 / 10:19 am

    How do you get the photos of yourself running?

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