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By Parker Stinson, Saucony Athlete
I am here to tell you everything you need to know about tempo runs and how they can help you go from a zero to a hero in your next marathon! I find these types of workouts to be important no matter what race you are planning on running but especially critical when it comes to the marathon. Not only will your tempo runs teach you about finding the right rhythm for you, but once you get them long enough they will also start to give you good practice on dealing with the inevitable pain that comes after you pass through the 20-mile mark of the marathon. We will have you ready to push that pain and to a glorious finish!
In the beginning of your marathon cycle, I would start with shorter tempos of around 5-7 miles and start them a little slower than goal marathon pace and see if you can progress down to a good last mile or so. Try starting 10-15 seconds slower than goal marathon pace and then settling in to the zone that feels comfortable yet slightly uncomfortable and then, with about a mile to go, I would try to change gears, open that stride and bring in some mental focus to finish up right around current half marathon pace.
While your marathon cycle continues, I would transition some of these standard tempos to something like 4 x 2 miles with 400-800 easy jog in between each repeat. This will be a nice break from doing the standard tempo and also a sneaky way to get close to 10 miles in the workout instead of 5-7. Start these repeats out at the pace you were doing the continuous tempos at and see if you can run the last repeat close to current half marathon pace.
My favorite tempo workout that I like to do once I am nearing the end of my marathon cycle and in top shape is 1 mile hard, 3 mile tempo, 1 mile hard, 3 mile tempo, 1 mile hard. This is a very challenging workout as you get no breaks at all, so you are forcing your body to find a way to get recovered while you are running at tempo pace. I only do this type of workout once in a training cycle and only when my coach has given me all the tools and fitness to be successful at it. For this type of workout, I would be running the hard miles at a little slower than 10k pace but faster than half marathon pace and then I would be running the tempo portion somewhere around marathon pace. Sometimes slower and sometimes a little faster depending on the day.
Fueling for long tempo workouts are very important, especially those that have change of paces because your body will burn more fuel during these sessions. I set up bottles on a table so that I can practice picking them up and drinking while continuing to run without having to stop.
Good luck out there. You got this.