When you look up “Tempo Running” on the internet, you will see it has many different definitions and research depending on the coach, athlete, sports scientists and countless running guru authors out there.

A common term is anaerobic threshold run or lactate threshold run and without getting too complicated, the threshold pace is the effort level just below which the bodies ability to clear lactate- A by product of carb metabolism that can no longer keep up with lactate production. By training at theses levels (threshold pace) the faster and more robust an athlete can become.

Sometimes these definitions and researches can get a little confusing and can move you away  from understanding what tempo means to you as a runner with your level of experience.

As a coach to many athletes over the years, I simply like define tempo running as run at consistent pace generally 75-90% of an athletes HR max or at a pace that is just shy of the athletes 10/21 or 42km race pace depending on the event that the runner is training for. The duration is typically 30-60mins and sometimes a little longer, again depending on the event the athlete training up for.

I also, like to define it as a run that should feel  “comfortably hard”. I find this also correlates with runners just starting to incorporate higher intensity sessions.

Tempo running improves a crucial physiological variable for running success: our metabolic fitness.

Using Tempo Runs In your Training Schedule.

Due to the harder nature of these runs, I would only include the sessions for those that are niggle or injury free, have a solid aerobic base and generally show good running ability and technique.

Also to note, runners training for an event from 15km all the way to an ultra  would benefit from tempo runs. Mainly because physiological adaptions are most specific to the demands of those races.

Depending on the duration of these sessions and the race athletes are training for, tempos can be completed on a weekly basis. However any longer duration sessions, mainly for those athletes training for marathons and ultras, every 2-3 weeks is advisable.

Examples of tempo sessions

  • Typical Tempo- 30-60mins
  • Tempo Interval- 30-45min x 2 with a easy 10min run between intervals
  • Progressive Tempo or Thirds- Eg 60min session- Start 20min easy, 20min steady and finish 20min “comfortably hard”