Workout of the Week: Tempo Sandwich


I’ve always believed that to run your best half-marathon you should be in really good 10K shape—and if you’re in ripping 10K shape, you should be able to run a really good half-marathon. There’s a lot of overlap in the type of work required for success in both, specifically when it comes to longer intervals and tempo runs. This workout, which is designed to be repeated a few times over the course of a training block, combines these two essential training elements and can be manipulated any number of ways depending on what you want to get out of it. Here are the details:

What: 1 mile at 10K effort/pace followed by an easy 1/4 mile jog for recovery; a 3-5 mile tempo run at half-marathon effort/pace (or roughly 15-20 sec/mile slower than 10K pace) followed by an easy 1/2 mile jog for recovery; 1 mile at 10K effort/pace

Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.

Why: The faster mile will get your heart rate up quickly and induce some muscular fatigue before the meatiest part of the workout. The tempo run provides a nice aerobic stimulus and teaches you to settle down the effort and pace, while also forcing you to focus your mind on the task at hand. Finally, the harder mile at the end of this workout keeps you honest and should prevent you from getting carried away during the tempo. It will also help you develop the confidence to dig in a little bit when tired and finish strong. Ideally you’ll run it as fast if not a touch faster than the one at the beginning of the workout.

Where: This tempo run portion of the workout is best done on the roads while the faster reps are best suited to the track. That said, you can do all of it on the roads or treadmill if those options are more preferable to you. You can also maintain the spirit of the workout on the trails, focusing on pure effort over a prescribed pace.

When: If you’re training for 10K or half-marathon, you can use a version of this workout every 3-4 weeks throughout the training block. It can serve as a good benchmark workout and/or the final big workout 10-14 days out from a goal race to make sure that you’ve got pacing and confidence dialed.

Variations: You can manipulate this workout in a variety of ways depending on what you’re trying to get out of it. For example, you can change the length, intensity (and even number) of the intervals at the beginning/end of the workout (I’ve opened with a mile and finished with 800s or 400s on occasion), and/or shorten or stretch out the tempo depending on your experience level and/or where you’re at in the training cycle.

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