Tempo Runs Are Brutal

by - Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guys, it turns out that not only do I hate tempo runs, I'm pretty bad at them too.

Something about maintaining a challenging pace over the course of several miles just really messes with my mental game. Plus tempo runs hurt way more than intervals.


Intervals you push really hard, but then you get a solid recovery pretty quickly.

With tempo runs, it's just consistent discomfort until the run is over.

So why even bother with them? Well, they're supposed to help you build a strong and speedy race day base, and since I want to go into Frederick feeling strong and speedy, my training plan is full of tempo runs.

Yesterday I set out for a five mile tempo run.

The weather was nice so I got to wear shorts for the first time all season! Whoop! Spring is in the air!


I never quite know how to approach tempo runs. Should I start out strong and try to maintain the pace consistently throughout the run or should I start out slower and look to build by the later miles?

My goal pace for each of the miles in this run was 8:37. Definitely fast for me, but doable, at least I hoped.

Here's how things actually went down:

Mile 1: 8:14
Mile 2: 8:40
Mile 3: 9:01
Mile 4: 9:07
Mile 5: 9:13

Average pace: 8:51

Welp, not quite what I was going for, but I think some of my problem was the hills in the latter miles. I was still running pretty strong and actually feeling OK on the flat parts of this run, but the hills just really took it out of me.

I probably would have been OK if the hills were steep and short, but most of these were pretty steep and at least a quarter mile long (one was a half mile). I was pushing to get up them fast, but it wasn't fast enough to maintain the speed I needed for the 8:37 pace.

At the end of the day, that's totally OK. Even though my splits weren't exactly where the training plan called for them to be, it was still a solid effort, and running hills aggressively is solid training on its own.

I still hate tempo runs, though maybe one day I will figure out how to master them (please feel free to leave advice in the comments!), and I'm actually really looking forward to this weekend's long run, so I can just run slow for the first time all week.

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  1. That's not all that bad! It's March!

  2. I agree, I HATE tempo runs! Something about them just doesn't sit right. They don't have the really regulated, scheduled appeal that intervals have, which makes them go by so quickly. But they also don't have the tune out & just RUN appeal of a long or easy run.

    In Hal Higdon's training plans, he suggests doing tempo runs by time, not mileage, which might make them a little more calming? He suggests doing 5-10 minutes of easy pace to start, followed by 20-30 minutes of gradual increase in pace, peaking for only a few minutes, and then 5-10 easy pace at the end again. Even though I still hate them, this system simplifies it pretty well!