Workout of the Week: 5-n-Go Tempo

This tempo run is a hard workout but pays big dividends. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

The tempo run is one of the most valuable training tools a runner has, and this workout is an effective variation.

It seems hard to believe, but the fall racing season is right around the corner—which means your training for an upcoming half marathon or marathon is in full swing, or will be very soon.

As you begin to transition from the base-building phase of your buildup to more specific workouts of increasing intensity and duration over these next few weeks, the tempo run should become one of the bread-and-butter workouts of your training program. Why? Quite simply, tempo runs address the specific demands of racing a half or full marathon better than any other type of workout, allowing you to dial in your race pace, tweak fueling strategies and sharpen your mental game for the long grind of your upcoming 13.1 or 26.2-mile quest. This isn’t to say fartleks, track workouts, hill sessions or the like aren’t essential ingredients in a balanced training program, but in order of importance, regular tempo runs are going to yield the biggest payout come race day.

So what constitutes a tempo run? The answer often depends on who you ask, but for our purposes here, we’ll define a tempo run as 5 or more continuous miles at half marathon or marathon race pace.

The 5-n-Go Tempo is only a slight deviation on the standard tempo run. It’s a great confidence-building workout for half marathoners to try and nail 10-14 days out from race day. After warming up for 2-3 miles, run 5 miles at your half marathon race pace and then “go” for a mile, dropping the pace by 15-20 seconds. Cool down with 2-3 miles of easy running for a total of 10-12 miles on the day. It’s that simple and straightforward. This workout will help you to find another gear when you don’t feel like shifting, which can be helpful when responding to a mid-race move or winding up for a strong last mile.

For my marathoners, I like to assign a double 5-n-Go Tempo workout in place of a long run about 3 weeks out from race day. Warm up with 3 miles of easy running, then run 5 miles at your goal marathon pace followed by a “go” mile that’s 15-20 seconds faster than marathon pace. Recover from that effort with 2 miles of easy running before doing another round of the 5-n-Go Tempo. Cool down with 3 miles of easy running for a total of 20 miles (including 12 miles of quality work) on the day. This is a great workout to practice running goal marathon pace on tired legs and presents an excellent opportunity to dial in your race-day hydration and nutrition strategy. It’s also a very demanding session, so be sure to take your recovery seriously in the 3-5 days following the workout.

That’s the 5-n-Go Tempo. It’s simple and specific, and will give your fitness—and more importantly, your confidence—a nice boost before race day.

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