Decoding the ‘Tempo Run’ in Running: A Comprehensive Analysis

Terminology in training often hides meanings that can be misleading, and the ‘Tempo Run’ is no exception. It’s a term that can easily lead astray. Associating the term ‘tempo’ with running inevitably evokes thoughts of a stopwatch and precise speed. However, this can lead to misinterpretations regarding how a Tempo Run should be executed.

Defining the Tempo Run

What exactly is a Tempo Run and why is it important? It’s a run performed below the anaerobic threshold, aimed at improving it. Running ‘below’ the anaerobic threshold means never surpassing it, so running a Tempo Run ‘at maximum’ isn’t the goal. It is done at a slightly faster pace than a half marathon, or slightly more, depending on the length of the race to be tackled. The objective is to train the body to produce lactic acid without crossing the anaerobic threshold. Since it’s a run at a steady pace, careful planning of this pace throughout the workout is crucial.

What a Tempo Run Isn’t

The most common mistake is considering it a speed test, similar to a sprint. Often, when the term ‘Tempo Run’ appears in a training schedule, there’s a suggested speed alongside it, hinting to perform it at one’s best. For example, when training for a half marathon, there’s a tendency to run the Tempo Run at maximum effort, thinking that the faster the pace, the better the outcome. However, a Tempo Run for a half marathon requires a pace slightly faster than that of the half marathon itself, not the maximum pace the body can handle. Another mistake is consistently running the Tempo Run at the same speed. In reality, it varies depending on the race being prepared for, both in speed and distance, and these two parameters are inversely proportional.

The concept of a ‘Tempo Run’ is far more intricate than the name suggests, demanding careful management of pace and workout duration based on specific running objectives.