Tempo Runs for Beginners
What is a tempo run and when should I run one?
- What pace should I run my tempo at?
- How long should my tempo run be?
- How will I know if I’m hitting my pace?
- Where’s the best place to run a tempo: track, treadmill, or roads?
- Tempos are a sustained effort – anywhere from 20 minutes +
- They’re most often run at a “comfortably hard effort”
- Paces vary for each and every runner – think “1-hour race pace” and that’s your pace.
- If you know your max heart rate, tempo pace falls at about 88 to 92% of your max.
- Everyone’s tempo pace is different!
Purpose of Tempo Runs
The goal of your tempo is to run a consistent pace which will maintain or increase your body’s ability to create and clear lactate from your system. The more efficient you are at doing this, the better you’ll be able to perform on any given race day.
Potential Roadblocks to Running Tempos
The goal of any tempo should be this: run “comfortably hard” (10k-15k race pace) for an extended period of time. This effort then translates to allow your body to more efficiently clear waste byproduct of running really fast.
If a runner ran a half marathon in 2:05 (9:32 pace), a coach would recommend that they train anywhere between 11 minute pace to 11:30 pace for any given training run. This will ensure that the runners is building mitochiondria, strengthening their aerobic capabilities and working on their slow-twitch muscle fibers.
Their tempo pace, based on a 2:05 half marathon, would be anywhere from 9:50 to 10:15 per mile, which is the pace they could sustain for an hour. This runner would also be able to race a marathon (given appropriate training) in 4:22. Slowing down this runner’s training pace will increase their aerobic capacity as well as allow their body to recover, while simultaneously having the ability to increase their mileage.
How to determine YOUR tempo pace
The first thing you should do is have an idea of what shape you’re in. Use a vDOT chart to determine your closest race performance. Then, use that same vDOT number associated with your race performance and find the MP (marathon pace) that lines up with your vDOT number. This is the pace at which you can most likely sustain for an hour race.
To get the full context of vDOT and tempo training, try picking up a copy of Jack Daniels’ book.
To put it another way… To race at a specific pace, you must be able to train at paces faster and slower than the pace at which you’d like to race at. Using vDOT charts help, as well as having a running coach.
Disclosure: There also may be affiliate links present – which means if you buy something with that link, I make a small commission.
Remember to properly warm up and cool down from any workout that you attempt to do.
Where to run your tempo run
On the Treadmill
On the Track
Want more workout ideas?
- How to run track intervals
- 5k workout to build speed endurance
- What is speed work and when should I do it?
A coach will help you reach your running goals!
Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!