Tempo runs tend to get the best of you? You’re not the only one. This classic workout tends to intimidate a lot of runners because of its stop-free nature, e.g. 3-8 miles at half-marathon pace is a popular prescription and anything but an easy assignment during a heavy training week. The Broken Tempo Run serves as a nice alternative, especially early in a training block when you’re just not that fit or if you tend to have a hard time wrapping your head around a long workout.
Long intervals or short hill sprints for your next workout? Trick question. The answer is both! I like to combine different training elements from time to time to keep workouts interesting and help us get a little something extra out of them. In this workout, we’ll “interrupt” a session of 2-mile repeats with two 10-second hill sprints at near max effort.
If I were only allowed to use one interval—but could manipulate the intensity, recovery, and number of reps to suit my needs and desires—it’d be 3-minute repetitions. What makes them magic? Three-minute reps are short enough to keep your attention, long enough that you can’t fake your way through a set of them, and versatile enough to achieve different objectives depending on the day.
So what do I think about the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying standards? I’ve gotten this question at least a dozen times in the past few days and here’s where I’ve landed: I personally believe the women’s field at the 2020 Trials in Atlanta was way too big (511 athletes) while the men’s was just about right (260), so the existing standards needed to be evaluated and adjusted accordingly. The main purpose of having an Olympic Trials race is to choose the Olympic team; the secondary purposes are to create opportunity and experience for up-and-coming athletes and, as Sarah Lorge Butler wrote in the aforelinked piece for Runner’s World, "to connect elite running with a broad audience.”
It’s hard to go wrong with 800m repeats. Do them fast enough and you’ll stay pretty sharp; do enough of them and the strength gains will take you a long way. An example of a pretty standard session many coaches will assign their athletes consists of six reps at 5K pace with 2 to 2-1/2 minutes recovery in between, or maybe 10 reps at 10K pace with two minutes recovery between the two-lap intervals—you get the idea. These workouts will help you build the specific strength you need for race day, practice getting your pacing down, and improve your overall efficiency. Every once in a while, however, I like to throw my athletes a curveball and have them switch gears halfway through, running the final 400m 4-5 seconds faster than the first.
There’s a lot of confusion around the tempo run but stripped down to its core, this workout simply boils down to maintaining a steady effort for a prolonged period of time. And while the definitions of steady and prolonged can vary depending on a variety of factors, for the sake of simplicity and ease of creating a common understanding, let’s call the “classic” tempo run 5 miles at half-marathon pace. This is a pretty standard workout you’ll see utilized by a wide range of athletes and coaches to build aerobic strength, improve efficiency, and/or practice running race pace. The 5-n-Go Tempo adds a slight twist to the classic tempo run by squeezing down the pace for a mile or two at the end.
I use some version of this short-medium-long format for all of my athletes depending on who they are, what they’re training for, and where they are in a training block. This hill workout is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one and there’s probably a place for it in your program.
We’re nearing the end of cross-country season here in the U.S., and the fall road racing schedule will also be winding down over the next 3-4 weeks. One of my favorite all-purpose workouts to assign this time of year, whether you’re shredding grass, locking into a rhythm on the roads, or going back-n-forth between the two is the 5 x 5 Fartlek.