Last time on the “How to Crush Your Next Race” series, we touched on speed sessions in my previous post. We’re going to dial back to speed (just a little bit) and work on tempo runs.
As the name suggests, tempo runs are run at a pace which is not as fast as your speed work, but it is faster than your average run pace. Running for prolonged distances at that pace will help you get used to that challenging, uncomfortable feeling, and adapt it to your run. This will ultimately push up our levels of fitness, and increase our lactate threshold, which in turn allows us to run at a higher pace for a longer period of time.
One way to determine at what pace we’re looking to train at, we should be running at about 75–80 percent of our max intensity where we can say a few words to a training partner, but definitely will not be able to hold a conversation with them.
Similar to the speed sessions, the length of a tempo run will depend on what race you are training for, fitness level, etc. Let’s say you are new to running, and/or training for a shorter distance event (5k or 10k road race), then you might want to start with a 15–20 minute block or tempo work after a good warm up. For the more seasoned runner, and/or longer distances, it is wise to increase these blocks to about 30 minutes or more.
An example of a block work out would be as follows:
As training continues, we can add additional reps to 4 or 5x 5 minutes at tempo with a 60 second jog recovery in between each rep. We can increase our rep duration to something while reducing the number of repetitions to something that resembles the following:
Repeat the above block two to three times. This would, of course, depend on current fitness levels and what you are training for. For shorter distances, I would opt for the shorter blocks, and then opt for the longer blocks once I’ve decided to go for longer distance running.
As a new-ish runner who is training for my first half-marathon, I would put myself in the small blocks at the start of my training, and then towards the end of training step up to do the longer blocks.
Another variation on tempo runs is a workout called a cut-back where, after a certain amount of time or distance, you “cut-back” on the pacing and run a little quicker. An example can be seen below:
When I last completed this with my running group, we worked our way to running at a 6:00/km pace. To calculate this, for every kilometre we were going to run, we would add ten seconds until we got to our starting pace. The neat thing about this one workout is that you can choose your starting pace, and how far you want to go just as long as you go faster as you go along.
If you are new to running, or just the concept of pacing, this may take a little bit of time to find your rhythm when running at a consistent target pace. I am fairly new to having target paces, and regularly find myself having to be reined in by our pacing group leaders.
Thank you for reading this article, while I am new to Medium, it is my goal to post more frequently about my journey, running as well as how it ties to mental health.
I am also raising money for three great organisations who work within mental health. The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK, and both the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and Team Unbreakable here in Canada.
If you would like to donate to any of these three incredible organisations, a donation link can be found here ( through LinkTree).