Want to control your race pace? Nail that tempo run in training.
Although it’s described slightly differently by many coaches (“Zone 3” or “uncomfortably hard,” for instance), the ever-important tempo run is an essential part of run training to get you race-ready.
In Hansons Half-Marathon Method (VeloPress, $18.95), the authors point out the purpose of the tempo: “Tempo runs teach you an important skill: control. Even when the pace feels easy, these runs train you to hold back and maintain.” The Hansons coaches recommend doing tempo runs at goal race pace for the half-marathon distance.
The purpose of a tempo run is to increase your running economy at your desired race pace and to raise your lactate threshold, that fine line where your body switches from burning fat to burning carbohydrates. Tempo runs are also when you’ll learn if you went out too hard (or too easy), and they serve as the perfect opportunity to experiment with the nutrition and gear you plan to use on race day.
As you increase your volume in training, the amount of time you spend at tempo should also increase. A typical tempo workout might include 20–30 minutes at tempo pace with a warm-up and cool-down. At right are a few more ideas for tempo workouts to include in your training.