Finished in the top 10 over all at age 48 at Grandfather Mt Marathon, doing lots of tempo runs
Seems like these days I am hearing a lot of talk about “tempo” pace. Back when I was young and running with Steve Carter a lot, we just ran hard, especially at the end of our runs. We went to the track and did quarter mile repeats, half miles or a mile for time. There was never any talk about “tempo.”
I can still remember meeting at the Gadsden YMCA on Saturday mornings. It was usually headed up by Gary Elkins. Neal Fears (drove over from Piedmont) Carter and myself we the regulars. We did a 2 mile warm up and then we would run, even race, one of the old 10k courses that started behind the Gadsden Mall. 2 mile cool down. I guess that was “tempo,” all I can tell you is that it got us in great shape.
So what is tempo pace? What is an easy pace day? I find when talking to a lot of runners about just what it is, they can be a little confused at times. I see runners run there tempo pace runs, only it seems to me to be the same as there easy pace. I see runners running “easy” only they are running faster than there goal race pace. They tell me, “it was only 3 miles.” Let’s clarify just what one should be doing from day to day when training on the run when doing tempo or easy runs.
Too many times I observe runners running the same pace, the same routes and the same distances daily. They have no variety and they can’t seem to figure out why they can’t improve. You can still get in good shape but you will not reach your potential with this approach. I knew a guy back in Gadsden, and Steve Carter already knows who I am talking about, Dave Tipton. Dave was a great runner. Consistent 38 minute 10k’s and while he never broke 3 hours in the marathon, he came within seconds of a sub-3. Dave ran 10 miles every day. He ran the same pace every day. He even ran the same course every day in training; the Gadsden High schools track no doubt. We used to laugh all of the time when we would see Dave running. Carter or myself would always ask Dave, “how far you running today?” We always knew the answer was 10. We laughed and when we were running 10 miles ourselves, we did our best impression of Dave’s “10.”
So what is tempo pace? I say tempo pace is somewhere between your 5k race pace and 10k race pace. Part of this can be determined on what kind of day you are having. Part of this can be determined by how many weeks you have been running tempo workouts. Typically, the first tempo workout of the season for me is 10k race pace, maybe even slower until I get fit. The faster my tempo runs get, the faster my races get. How do you find out what your tempo pace is? Go run a 5k race which is a good starting point to find out where your fitness is. There is a 5k race every weekend so that is easy enough.
What is “easy” pace? Easy can also be called “recovery” pace. I believe it should be at least 2:00 per mile pace slower than tempo pace. I did a 70 mile bike ride followed by a hilly 8 mile run this past Sunday. It was a pretty hard training day. On the next day, Monday, I did an “easy” 3 mile run. The run was 2:40 per mile pace slower than I ran at Monte Sano 10k. I often hear people say, “I can’t run that slow,” but it’s simply not true. You can run that slowly and you should. It is the only way one can fully recover the body and prepare oneself for the next hard work out. Without easy days or recovery runs, one will just break down. It is also an easy way to get injured or burned out on running.
So, if you want to get in good shape, I recommend tempo workouts. You can start with some workouts as simple as 6 x 1:00 tempo’s with 1:00 recoveries. You can build up to 2, 3 even 5 minute tempo’s. Once you get in really good shape you can do one of my own personal favorite workouts. 3 miles easy, 3 mile tempo, 3 miles easy. That workout has always been a good one for me. The faster that 3 mile tempo gets, the faster my races get.
I hope this encourages you to get out and try some tempo runs. I also hope this will encourage you to slow down on easy days. All I really want you to know if just what the difference is between the two. Good luck, and remember, you can do more than you think you can.