Friday, October 28, 2011

Who's Controlling "Your" Run?

Do you  make Tempo Runs a part of your normal routine?   
Do you control your pace during these workouts, or does it control you?

As avid runners and diligent training fanatics, most of us incorporate Tempo Runs into our regular routine.  And I've found that the single best marathon trainer for me, with the exception of the Long Run of course, are good solid Tempo Runs.  A difficult, consistent paced Tempo Run trains my body to operate efficiently and increases my Lactate Threshold.  It also develops muscle memory by teaching my legs what a certain pace feels like for an extended period of time. I feel like I develop more as a runner during these workouts than any other.  But the biggest problem I have with Tempo Runs is controlling the pace ... most of the time, it controls me!

For example, earlier this week I began my Tuesday Tempo workout planning to keep my pace at 7:00/mile for miles 4-11 of a 12 mile workout.  I felt really good during the first couple warm up miles, so I decided to push it a little.  The result was several miles well below the 7:00/mile pace, however ... the splits were all over the board.  I had 6:41's,  6:52's, 6:46's, and 6:55's with no rhyme or reason.  Don't get me wrong, I felt great about the workout.  I was exhausted, and I was glad I could keep my pace that fast for that long. But I'm not sure being so inconsistent during a Tempo Run is a good thing.  A Tempo Run should be ran accurately, with very little pace variation.  Two to three seconds difference between each mile would have meant I was in control of the run.  But such varying paces meant that the run was really controlling me.

During a Tempo Run, I often feel myself giving in on the hills, and increasing my pace on down hills, instead of keeping it smooth and steady throughout.  I also often run the first portion of the workout much faster than the last.  I think all this really teaches  my body to do is "push it" for a little while ... and then crash.  And training your body with this process, both mentally and physically, can be disastrous in a marathon.

I try to run most Tempo Runs about 15-20 seconds faster than my planned marathon pace.  The thought is that if I can run this faster pace for 12-15 miles during training, then a slower pace for a longer distance on race day should be obtainable.  So far it has worked fairly well.  But I really believe that keeping my Tempo Run paces closer bunched together will help me be more fluent and consistent with my pace during the marathon.  I've read that not being able to slow yourself down, as well as hold the pace, during a Tempo Run is an indicator of lack of conditioning at that particular speed.  I've found that to be true.  If you can hold a certain pace for several  miles ... you are in control of the run, and the run is not controlling you!

I have so much to learn as a runner, and so many areas where I can grow ... but one of the main "departments" I am going to focus on is running consistent paced workouts.  Regardless of the specific pace of the run, I'm going to try harder to hit those paces more on the money.   I think this will really help me predict my marathon pace a little more accurately, and familiarize me a lot more with the planned pace on race day.  Have a great weekend!
... be great today!


  1. It is amazing how many training philosophies are out there..and they all work. I do my tempos as a progression run, with every mile faster but accounting for the terrain. Also, my strategy on the uphills is always to shorten my stride and keep a steady effort (as opposed to increase it), and speed up on the downhill while keeping effort the same. 12-15 miles at MP-15-20 sec is an awesome workout. I try for a 26.2K MP as part of a long run, and several 10 miles @ MP with a HM pace finish. I also do intervals at various points, and lots of hill sprints. And yes, the pace does control me in the sense that I find it hard sometimes to not go faster than I am supposed to. Not wise, particularly at the beginning of a training cycle.

  2. I have no idea on any of this, I think you run your workouts just fine. If you are off 10-15 seconds from your planned pace, all I see is that you were pushing yourself, and your body decided to run a slightly different pace - and what if you are going over hills? Anyways, it seems like any run that gets you out of your comfort zone is a good one.

  3. I am so happy I chose to visit today! as now that I'm starting to train for longer distances I have been wanting to incorporate some tempo runs, as I've only ever done speed work - which is different, b/c like you said tempo runs train your body to stick .w a certain pace for a longer distance :)

    HERE's the issue though - no garmin :( I have to map my runs before a go, memorize them and use a stop watch. Let's hope Santa treats me well :)

  4. Paces can, and should, vary according to terrain, so always take that into consideration, and "Tempo" can be essentially a variety of any run that is faster than base paced runs but not as fast as an interval. Unless it's a cruise interval :). It's always good to change the tempo run every couple weeks so that the body doesn't adapt to that one workout, changing it (tempo run) every few weeks is ideal really...but MP'd runs are great way to teach the body what you're about to put it through. Anyhoo....nice job on the great tempo run, you nailed it :).

  5. I have run my last couple races(half and full) with a pacer and it was nice to keep that consistency. I'm fairly good with pace overall but not for such long distances.

  6. Pace is so key on all these training runs. But I try not worry about varying paces when hills are involved. I just figure those variations are normal, as long as the overall pace is in the window I was shooting for.

  7. I think of you as a well seasoned runner, a pro, someone way above me when it comes to running. To hear you say you have a lot to learn as a runner, reminds me that you are a real person, someone always willing to get better at what he does...

    Tempo runs are always my best runs, but I too struggle with controlling my pace.

  8. I am sorta doing this, I just started training with heart rate, just the beginning stages, still dont undeerstand a ton about it.

  9. I'll be anxious to follow your progress on this...I, too, have a lot of trouble keeping the same pace. You have got to be one of the most dedicated runners I know of, so keep us updated on how you train/handle this.

  10. I've been running my tempos at my half marathon pace, but my longest tempo this go around is 7 miles, so far. (this would be MRP-20-30 seconds for me)

    My last 2 tempos, I attempted to run by heart rate. The interesting thing about running tempos, by heart rate, is that I have to run REALLY FAST in the beginning to get my heart rate up to the target, and then eventually I can slow the pace to stay on target. It always bugs me that this is "practicing" going out too fast, which I do not like. The up side of it has been that I've realized by running by heart rate, I've been running my tempos too slow.

    So much to learn, but it's fun, and that's what keeps us interested in our sport, our craft.

  11. Go read my post for today (Sunday) about consistency.

    I love tempo runs as well but being a triathlete my tempo runs are typically only 3-5 miles not 12-15.....WOW that is impressive.

    I have a tempo run tomorrow for 3 miles before I hit the pool.

    Hope your weekend is going great.


Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!