top of page

The Four Best Types of Tempo Runs for Marathoners

Embarking on the journey of marathon training requires a strategic approach, and tempo runs emerge as a linchpin in honing the endurance and pacing crucial for the 26.2-mile challenge.


Coach Cory doing a tempo run on a wooded road

In this article, we delve into "The Four Best Tempo Runs for Marathoners," unlocking key insights into tailored workouts designed to elevate lactate threshold, optimize performance, and fortify the foundation for marathon success. 


Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or preparing for your first race, these targeted tempo runs are poised to become indispensable tools in your training arsenal. Lace-up your running shoes as we explore the tempo training landscape tailored specifically for the demands of marathon running.


What Is A Tempo Run


A tempo run, also sometimes known as a threshold run or lactate threshold run, is a specific type of running workout designed to improve an athlete's lactate threshold. Executed at a pace that falls between the aerobic lactate threshold (LT1) and the anaerobic lactate threshold (LT2), a tempo run achieves an equilibrium between intensity and duration. Positioned as "comfortably hard," this pace strikes a balance where the challenge elevates the heart rate, fostering physiological adaptations, yet remains sustainable for a substantial portion of the run. Tempo runs aim to enhance the body's ability to clear lactate efficiently, delaying the onset of fatigue and improving overall performance.


How to Calculate Your Tempo Pace 


The term tempo run refers to a broad range of paces between the aerobic lactate threshold (LT1) and the anaerobic lactate threshold (LT2). This pace range typically falls between one’s 60-minute race pace and one's marathon pace. You can use this training zone calculator to determine your tempo paces. Keep in mind that marathon pace and lactate threshold are also a type of tempo. 


The Four Best Types of Tempo Runs 


Continuous Tempo 

A Continuous Tempo Run is a type of tempo run where the runner maintains a steady tempo pace without any breaks or intervals for an extended duration. This workout is designed to challenge the runner's lactate threshold, improve aerobic capacity, and enhance the ability to sustain a moderately high intensity over an extended period. The continuous nature of this tempo run helps promote physiological adaptations that contribute to improved endurance and race performance. Continuous tempos can be very mentally grueling because they maintain a faster pace for a long period without any breaks.


Continuous Tempo Runs are effective for building mental toughness, improving the body's ability to clear lactate, and enhancing overall cardiovascular fitness. They are particularly valuable for marathoners and other endurance athletes preparing for races where sustaining a challenging pace over an extended distance is crucial.


Examples include:

  • 20 to 40 minutes 

  • 6 to 8 miles 


Broken Tempo 

A Broken Tempo Run is a type of tempo run where the continuous tempo pace is interspersed with short periods of rest or easier running. Unlike a continuous tempo run, which maintains a steady tempo pace throughout, a broken tempo run introduces intervals of recovery between segments of tempo-paced running. This workout structure allows runners to accumulate time at or near their lactate threshold while providing brief opportunities for active recovery.


Broken tempo runs offer the benefits of tempo training, such as improving lactate threshold and endurance, while providing intermittent breaks to prevent excessive fatigue. This type of workout can be particularly useful for runners who are working on gradually increasing their ability to sustain a challenging pace over time.


Examples include:

  • 4 to 8 x 5 minutes w/ 1-2 minutes easy jogging between.

  • 1 to 4 x 1-3 miles w/ 2-3 minutes easy jogging between 


Progressive Tempo 

A Progressive Tempo Run is a type of tempo run where the runner gradually increases the pace throughout the workout. Unlike a continuous tempo run where the pace remains steady or a broken tempo run with intervals and rest, a progressive tempo run involves starting at a moderate intensity and progressively accelerating to a faster tempo pace. This gradual increase in intensity challenges the runner's ability to sustain effort while allowing for a controlled buildup of intensity.


A progressive tempo run offers several benefits. It helps improve the runner's ability to handle a variety of paces, develops mental toughness, and enhances overall pacing strategies. This type of workout also mimics the increasing intensity often experienced during races, making it valuable for race-specific preparation.


Examples include:

  • 4 to 8 miles, starting at marathon pace and dropping the pace by 5 seconds each mile 

  • 2 to 5 miles, starting at ½ marathon pace and dropping the pace by 5 seconds each mile 


Long Run Tempo 

A Long Run Tempo, also known as a Long Tempo Run, is a type of training session that combines the elements of a traditional long run with segments of sustained tempo-paced running. This workout aims to enhance both endurance and the ability to sustain a challenging pace over an extended distance, making it particularly beneficial for distance runners preparing for races.


The Long Run Tempo provides several benefits. It allows runners to accumulate time at or near their lactate threshold while covering a substantial distance, enhancing both aerobic capacity and endurance. The workout also provides a race-specific simulation, preparing runners for the sustained effort required in longer-distance races.


Examples include:

  • 6 to 10 miles easy followed by 6 to 10 miles at marathon pace

  • 2 to 6 miles easy followed by 6 to 10 miles at marathon pace followed by 2 - 4 easy 


Mastering the art of tempo running unveils a realm of possibilities for marathoners striving for peak performance. The Four Best Tempo Runs outlined in this guide serve as targeted tools to elevate the lactate threshold, optimize pacing strategies, and fortify the endurance foundation crucial for conquering the marathon distance.


Whether incorporating Continuous Tempos, Broken Tempos, Progressive Tempos, or Long Run Tempos, each variant brings a unique dimension to marathon training, offering a tailored approach to honing both physical and mental resilience. As marathoners lace up their shoes and embrace these strategically crafted tempo workouts, they embark on a transformative journey that goes beyond mere mileage, propelling them toward the podium with enhanced race-day prowess. With the synergy of these tempo runs, marathoners can confidently stride toward the starting line, well-equipped to navigate the challenges and triumphs that define the marathon

25 views0 comments
bottom of page