The Tempo Run: the key to your fastest marathon

Source: strengthrunning.com

Source: strengthrunning.com

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably asked yourself a time or few what you need to do to improve your time – your 26.2 time that is – and if you have, chances are you’ve tried a thing or two and it has either worked or not-so-much. Well, since we’re always on the look-out for new and improved ways to up our running game I figure this is a must share. Elite and competitive athletes and coaches agree that the tempo run is the best indicator of your marathon time. For my part, I swear by it as a significant if not the most important aspect of half marathon and marathon training. While the long run is essential to build endurance, the tempo run is critical to racing success as it trains your body to sustain speed over distance (Former Elite Athlete and Coach, Toby Tanser)

A tempo run is a faster paced run also known as lactate-threshold (the point at which your body fatigues at a certain pace ), LT or threshold run. It is running at a hard but somewhat comfortable pace where you you can answer a question but conversing would be difficult. A classic tempo run would be running at this sustained pace for about 2-4 miles. The idea is to run hard but not going all out as though racing, you can go this way for a while but you would be happy to slow down the pace as well.

Tempo runs improve our metabolic fitness by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently by increasing your lactate-threshold. Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., an exercise scientist and marathoner claims that lactate and hydrogen ions, which are by-products of metabolism, are released into the muscles during tempo runs. These ions make the muscles acidic, leading to fatigue. It follows that the better trained you are, the higher your threshold as your muscles become better at using lactate and hydrogen ions resulting in less acid in your muscles, which keep on contracting thus allowing you to run faster.

The tempo run will vary for different runners with varying goals and differing thresholds. But the result will remain the same, a definite increase in your ability to maintain your speed over longer distances. While it seems then that the tempo run is beneficial primarily for longer runs such as a 10 miler to the marathon, as it is run somewhere between 15k and half marathon pace, the 5k runner too can benefit to a smaller degree. The key here for runners is consistency and intensity; running regularly as often as once per week during peak training time and at a consistent pace (your threshold) will improve your running and put you in the best position to run your fastest marathon.

This is going to be a key component of my training for Boston 2016. I’ve discovered in my running that boundaries are there to be pushed, obstacles to overcome and benchmarks to be reached. We will only ever know what we are capable of when we push ourselves beyond our perceived limits. I figure the tempo run is one way of discovering the dormant Kenyan in me. LOL

Reference: runnersworld.com

Speedwork Your way to Your best Marathon this Fall

running.competitor.com

Source: running.competitor.com

You could probably tell I’m in marathon training mode as these days it’s all about the marathon. I eat, dream, not sleep yet, talk, train, shop, everything about the marathon. Is that a runner thing or am I just obsessed? Regardless, at the very least, you get to benefit from my ramblings; I hope anyway.

Over the course of two years doing this marathon-thingy, I now know that a training regimen is necessary to complete a successful marathon, one where you can actually live the experience and not want to die and totally swear off it at the finish. I would love for you to have this experience. Thus, throughout training season, I’ll share with you my pointers on running your best 26.2.

The Magic of Speedwork

If there’s any magic at all it is in the time, effort and dedication that you put into your speed training. Now admittedly, not everyone is trying for a PR or wanting to qualify for a race, some are just happy to finish and rightly so if that’s their goal. To those, read on anyway, who doesn’t like to do anything better? We, runners, are a competitive lot and love to outdo even ourselves.  A few common speed workouts are: interval training, pace runs and hill repeats. There are many advantages to working on the speed aspect ( or short fast repeats) of your running, aside from the fact that it will improve speed and stamina thus making you a faster runner, these include:

Improvement to your running economy (the amount of oxygen consumed at a given pace) which makes it less likely that you’ll burn out and can be confident in your ability to stay the course.

Speed work develops focus and determination. The intensity of speed work requires a level of drive and ambition that will see you time and again defying your perceived limits as reps calls for either a faster pace or a higher climb.

It adds some variety to your marathon training. This avoids the common “pace rut” problem that marathoners are known to fall into as training lengthens. Also, it challenges you to faster leg turn- over.

You learn to listen to and command your body.
The human body is capable of so much but we hardly ever realize our potential as we’re all too often comfortable with just making it. Speed work asks..hell, demands of us a push that renders – I can’t – an improbability. You learn quickly that you can and do have what it takes while including recovery time to import the correct amount of stress on your body to achieve optimal performance.

Speed work, because it’s shorter and more intense, allows you to increase your running at a pace significantly faster than your marathon race pace which will make it seem much easier to do.

It teaches you discipline and commitment. These are two traits that will take you through and beyond the marathon and will help you tolerate both physical and mental discomforts while racing. When you’re between miles 17 and 23, it is your tireless attention to your speed leg-work coupled with commitment to seeing it to the end that will bring you through.

It would be remiss and downright irresponsible of me not to mention that with all the advice from coaches and the experts out there, speed work is not recommended fo the newbie marathoner and certainly not without a coach with a tried and true method. Attempting this on your own is dangerous for your health as it increases your chances of injury exponentially the closer you get to race day. You run the risk of hindering your ability to participate in the event itself and in the necessary long training runs which are so very important to completing a marathon.

When it is all said and done, you’re the one in charge of you here. You know your body and always want to do the best for you. Making wise choices can improve your performance a hundredfold. Always do so keeping in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A proper plan designed specifically for you will consider factors such as your age, genetics, running experience, ability to stay injury-free and the choice of speed workouts incorporated into your training, all of this with a realistic goal in mind.

References                                       McMillanRunning.com, MarathonTraining.com, Active.com

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