Temporun Mastery: PR Like The Pros

The temporun is probably the second most important workout I do behind my long run. What usually causes most runners not to be able to sustain pace is lack of training at or below goal race pace.


There is no easy way to put it. Running fast is an art form and takes extensive work and focus to achieve. Anyone can run easy.

There are numerous benefits to running easy. That being said, when it comes to running fast over the 5K to marathon distance specific training is required.

The reason the temporun is so critical is due to training at a high anaerobic output.

Furthermore, the longer you train at a higher heart rate the better you are going to do in the races.

Runners start to second guess themselves when they don’t see the results fast enough.

Below are a few issues many runners having a hard time improving have.

Common Mistakes

In addition, these are not set in stone but often times are the biggest reasons well-meaning runners miss the mark.

  1. They spend too low of a percentage of their weekly mileage training above their goal race pace
  2. Too much mileage, not enough quality
  3. Their long run is conducted at too slow of a pace
  4. Poor hydration practices in training and especially in the race
  5. Improper rest
  6. Running too fast on their easy days
  7. Fail to utilize heart rate monitor training
  8. Worrying too much about what others think (focus issues)
  9. Lack of pace variation within their long run
  10. Temporun is too slow and short

How Can A Temporun Dramatically Increase Your Chances of Success?

Tempo runs are effective because they teach the body to handle high concentrations of lactic acid.

Athletes missing the mark when it comes to racing are not incapable. In addition, they are not past their prime. There are men and women in their 60’s running incredible times.

What are they doing that you are not? Are these athletes any better than you and I? Of course not, anyone can learn to run fast. The question is how long are you willing to work to see the results?

Most people don’t want to work a year or a decade to see a result they think they’ll achieve in 8 weeks.

If you are currently a 4 hour marathoner it may take you a decade to run a 3 hour marathon. That being said, it may also take you 16 weeks. We all are different and have enormous potential.

The level of enthusiasm you bring to the task of your training and racing will dictate how successful you will ultimately be – Nate Pennington

The temporun is effective because it teaches the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream. It is the hydrogen ion, a component of lactic acid that ultimately shuts down muscle functioning.

The daily burn did an outstanding overview of lactic acid I recommend checking out.

How do we combat this?

Use A Heart Rate Monitor For Your Temporun

Well, it will not be achieved by running slow. Unfortunately, running fast for long periods of time is difficult. It requires long periods of time running at high heart rates between 160 beats per minute and higher.

It is the ever-increasing acidic environment within our muscle tissue that causes us to slow down. The biggest reason I was able to lower my marathon best from 2:43:36 t0 2:19:35 was tempo runs. Additionally, I increased the pace of my long runs.

Lastly, I dropped sub 5 minute miles in the middle of my long runs. This was a drastic change to the way I conducted my long runs in the past.

Tempo Running Will Help You Drop Significant Time

These change in tactics helped me improve my personal bests in the following events:

10 miles – 55:13 to 50:54

Half Marathon – 1:10:32 to 1:07:06

20 miles – 1:53:07 to 1:44:05

Marathon – 2:43:36 to 2:19:35

Easy running certainly serves a purpose. You will gain strength, build endurance, burn fast and gain confidence.

That being said, if you want to run fast speed is the name of the game. This takes extensive practice and incredible patience to master.

I conduct my long runs at a heart rate of 160 beats per minute. This is anywhere from 82 to 85% of my max heart rate. Furthermore, this heart rate zone is just below anaerobic threshold. What this means is you are running at quality pace.

The problem isn’t runners are not capable of dropping significant time off their current personal bests. The issue is the time it takes to achieve the physiological adaptations we are aiming to achieve.

This is not an overnight process. It takes extensive time and often times runners simply don’t want to train that long or that hard.

Resources For Your Tempo Run Training

If your goal is to run faster from the 5K to marathon distance you can’t think short-term.

It took me 18 years to finally break the sub-2:20 marathon. I teach two courses over at the rundreamachieve academy. One is for athletes seeking to break the 3 hour marathon called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro.

The second being 4 Hour Marathon Mastery. This course teaches 5 hour marathoners what it takes to break the 4 hour marathon barrier and do it right.

The RDA Academy will continue to grow. This is a resource I’ve created here to help athletes around the world achieve significant results in their running.

Let me also add that a temporun can increase your confidence. It feels good to run fast for a long period of time. It may not feel good during the effort but you will feel motivated after you have completed it.

So, do not second guess yourself if you cannot sustain your goal pace early on in training. No one can. Not me or you. This is a gradual process.

I’ve been running for 27 years and even at my level cannot go out and do a 10-mile tempo run the first few weeks of training. We all have to crawl before we can walk.

How To Make Your Tempo Runs More Effective

Start utilizing heart rate monitor training. You can buy a quality heart rate monitor on amazon for under $300. It is an investment in yourself.

I never used heart rate monitors until I got to college. My collegiate coach, Jack Hazen, is one of the world’s top distance running coaches. Why is heart rate monitor training so effective? It teaches you to run at the proper aerobic and anaerobic zones.

A common mistake many runners make is running too slow on days they should run fast and too fast on days they should run slow – Nate Pennington

An additional perk of training with a heart rate monitor during your temporun is you focus on the zone, not on splits.

The mile or kilometer splits will take care of themselves. It is much easier just to focus on staying in the proper training zone during your workout.

At least, it is for me. I value simply knowing what zone I need to work out at and ensuring I stay within that range.

Here are a few examples of workouts I do and their corresponding heart rate zones

Jogging (recovery days ) – 130 to 140 beats per minute

Easy running – 140-50 beats per minute

Moderate – 150-60 beats per minute

Hard – 160-65 beats per minute

Anaerobic Threshold – 167-75 beats per minute

Repeat miles or sprints – 175 + beats per minute

Increase Your Tempo Run Distance

Running fast takes strategy. Seek out those who do anything well and duplicate their work habits. It is easier said than done but is the truth.

This is my goal here at rundreamachieve. It is a collection of tips, strategies and tactics you can use to bypass the mistakes others make.

Furthermore, it is also a way to bypass some of the mistakes I also made earlier in my career. Fortunately, we all can make up for our mistakes by training properly.

Here are a few noteworthy behemoth mistakes I made from 2002 to 2006 .

  1. Doing 22-24 mile long runs at 7 minute mile pace when my goal was to run 5:25 mile pace for 26.2 miles
  2. Drinking less than 8 ounces of fluid and consuming less than 400 calories during long distance races
  3. Running as high as 142 miles per week thinking that would equate to faster marathon times
  4. Running less than 10 percent of my weekly mileage at or below goal race pace
  5. Worrying about things outside of my control
  6. Not being patient enough

Be Patient

Patience is absolutely critical to ensure you adapt to your temporun. Tempo runs tax the body. It also usually takes about 2 to 3 days to fully recover from one.

Do you know what else is an art form? Resting. This is often times just as difficult to do than the workouts themselves. Far too many athletes simply don’t have the patience to back off when they should.

Your temporun will demand quite a bit out of you. Trust me, you will want to jog on your recovery days if you are doing these workouts at the proper intensities.

Remember, the benefits come in the rest, not the workout. Yes, the workout serves a purpose but it is in the recovery where the magic happens.

Proper Planning Also Helps

It is also highly effective to have a well-planned action strategy to race well.

There are beginner to advanced-level 5K to marathon training schedules found on the RunDreamAchieve Shop. It is much easier to follow a training schedule designed by someone that has done what you want to do.

Furthermore, it also provides guidance as to what workouts you should and should not be doing. I always ran my best when I had a well-laid out plan of action written up for me.

I have taken the key tactics three of the world’s top coaches taught me and designed my training plans around them. Temporun workouts are also found in them. If you are serious about taking your running to the next level definitely check out the shop page.

How Long Should A Temporun Be?

I always aim to double the distance at which I want to race at. You may want to triple the distance of your goal race as well.

Tempo runs are extremely demanding on the body so you have to be patient with yourself. No one goes out and does a 15 mile tempo run the first few weeks.

It takes time and focus to gradually extend your tempo run out that far. Tempo runs can range in distance from 3 miles out to as far as 15. It really depends on the athlete and their specific goals.

Tempo runs are conducted at or around 172 to 175 beats per minute which is at your anaerobic threshold. This is the point where lactic acid begins to accumulate. The trick is extending the amount of time you spend at this intensity.

The body will adapt to any stress load you place upon it but not overnight. You may have a difficult time doing a 3-mile tempo run at this effort early on. Later, you will be able to hold double or even triple the distance at the same pace.

Why Tempo Runs Matter

A temporun is an integral part of any legitimate training schedule. The reason they are so important is they teach you to burn fat at near race pace.

The reason why so many runners slow down is they haven’t trained adequately at a high enough heart rate. Additionally, the amount of time spent at these heart rate zones is also the reason.

Every event is different. The 5K is highly anaerobic because it is such a short race. The 10K to marathon distances are more aerobic in nature but still require stamina.

The best runners are able to make it look easy because they spent so much time training at higher intensities.

Again, anyone can run slow but it takes time, focus and determination to run fast. Tempo runs teach you do exactly that. The big concern is how patient are you? If you are more patient than your competitor you will win come race day.

Remember, it is also all the other areas of your training regiment that will dictate your success. What are you doing the other hours of your day to get better? Are you getting enough rest? Drinking enough water?

Invest In Yourself

Are you investing in your self-development? Running courses can help you learn tactics and strategies to guide you to becoming the best athlete you can. It is the other aspects of your day away from the roads and track that count the most.

Tempo runs will work if you work them. If they are conducted at too low of an effort you won’t get the necessary physiological benefit. This is why wearing a heart rate monitor is so important when conducting your tempo run.

Heart rate monitors will keep you focused on staying in that heart rate zone you need to maintain. It will ensure you get the most return on your investment.

Can Tempo Runs Be Detrimental To My Training?

If you don’t train properly it doesn’t matter what type of training you do the results won’t come. That being said, this pertains to specific race goals.

For example, if you want to run a 4 hour marathon doing your tempo runs at 10:15 mile pace is too slow. You’ll need to sustain 9:09 per mile for 26.2 miles to run a 3:59:59 marathon.

So, if you have gotten your tempo run out to about 12 to 15 miles the key will be the intensity. The goal is to extend the amount of time you are running near that 9:09 mile pace to get the biggest physiological effect.

The biggest issue for most runners is not always knowing what pace is the best to run at. In addition, if the workouts they are doing are effective.

Lastly, if you cannot conduct a temporun at 10 to 20 seconds slower than your goal race pace you may need more time. There is no rushing the process.

The Process

The process is what most people don’t see. They see the event and are quick to label athletes that perform well as “talented”.

There may be some truth in that but no one became successful at anything without putting in the work. The process is what makes champions. Tempo runs are a part of that process you will have to endure to get big time results.

Below is a picture of me finishing in 5th place at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon. It was the second fastest marathon time I have run to date second only to my 2:19:35 PR.

My temporun workouts were a huge reason why I was able to drop over 21 minutes off of my marathon time.

The Work They Don’t See

The amount of work I had to do to run this 2:26:42 on that particular today I cannot put into a blog post. We all have to be willing to endure the cuts and scrapes in training or remain on the cliff where it is nice and safe.

Sometimes you are going to have to jump.

The finish time below would have even been faster had I not had to have jumped in a porta john at mile 17. The process is what counts and is what no one sees.

tempo run

The same holds true for you. The tempo run is one of my favorite tactics to run faster. I place is second to the long run. I believe the long run should be the hardest workout that you do.

Vary Up Your Long Run Pace

If it is not I highly recommend changing up the way you train and make it so. That being said, what I am not saying is you should conduct hard, long runs every weekend.

Your temporun and long run should be the bread and butter of your training routine. You must also take equal focus on your recovery as well.

Alternate your weekends with one hard long run followed by an easy recovery long run.

This will ensure you are recovering well and getting a return on your investment. Your tempo run for 5K races can range in distance from 2 to 6 miles.

Furthermore, if you are focused on longer races such as the half or full marathon the distance may need to be 7 to 15 miles in length.

Tempo run training is similar to the types of long runs I teach at the RunDreamAchieve Academy. It is varying up the paces so you are not always spending long periods of time at the same intensity.

Running fast is like a puzzle. There are many pieces you have to take your time, find what works until you see a positive result.

How Do You Know You Are Running Too Fast?

Well, if you are not wearing a heart rate monitor it is tough to gauge if you running fast enough. You may be running at what you perceive as a fast pace but it is not fast enough.

This is why tempo running is so difficult. It is running at your anaerobic threshold. This is the point where lactic acid production becomes too extensive for your body to clear it.

Additionally, this is also why being patient and allowing the body to adapt to your tempo run efforts is crucial. You will certainly know you went out too fast if you get through the first mile and want to stop.

Tempo runs are aggressive but should never be conducted at such a fast pace you cannot sustain it for more than a mile.

They should feel controlled but also very difficult. It is not a leisurely jog like you should be doing on your recovery runs.

A tempo run for marathon training often times felt like a long run for me.

Here are a few examples of my long runs prior to breaking the sub-2:20:00 marathon. there is a reason I write this.

18 miles – first 4 miles@6:00 mile pace or 150-55BPM, 1 mile in 4:55, 5 miles@160BPM (5:35-50 mile pace), 1 mile in 4:55, 5 miles@160BPM, 2 miles easy@140BPM

23 miles@160BPM – at my fittest this heart rate would equate to around 5:20-50 per mile pace

Long runs were conducted at 6,050ft elevation in Ellicot, Colorado

Tempo Run Examples

Here are a few examples of my tempo runs

20 miles in 1:50:02 (5:30 mile pace) -this was the fastest long run I have ever done in training. It was at 160 beats per minute just shy of tempo run effort but close enough to it I almost consider it one.

15 miles@175BPM – 5:15-25 mile pace

So, the key is to find what works best for you. Use the strategies I have mentioned in this temporun post to get best return on your investment.

You have to really get comfortable running at, near (temporun effort) or below your goal race pace. Practice running at that pace often. In addition, focus on running far below the race pace you have in mind.

If you want to run a 10K in under 35 minutes what needs to be done? You need to hold 5:37 mile pace for 6.2 miles.

Below are some examples of what type of workouts will instantly tell you if you are ready or not.

12 miles at 170-75 beats per minute and you are averaging around 5:50-6:00 per mile pace for the entire run

4 miles and you are able to hold 5:45 mile pace the entire distance

Closing Remarks Regarding The Temporun

Remember, be patient with yourself. The best runners including myself can sometimes be intimidated early on by doing tempo runs.

They are especially difficult the first few times you conduct them.Furthermore, if the majority of your weekly volume is run at easy to moderate paces running fast will be uncomfortable.

This is the goal after all right? The goal is not to run a portion of our races at goal race pace. The goal is to sustain our goal race pace for the entire distance and longer than our competitors.

Trust me, if you are not willing to be patient long enough someone else will be and come race day guess who will win?

No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things take time, you can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant – Warren Buffet

Have you ever heard someone say

I was on pace for 15 miles but…

That is when the conversation needs to stop. Did you achieve your goal or did you not? End of story.

Find Mentors

Seek out a mentor that will give you that blunt, tough love you’ll need to run your best.

Hold yourself accountable to your training and racing goals. I consistently seek out people whether coaches or athletes who are better than me that will push my limits.

Tempo runs will be those guides that will help you determine if you are ready or not. I knew I was ready to break the 2:20 marathon barrier when I was running under 1:53 for 20 miles at altitude.

If I could go out and do a 10-mile tempo run by myself and run anywhere under 54 minutes I also knew I was ready. Find that sweet spot in your own training. Use these workouts to help you maximize your hard work.

Lastly, do not forget the importance of recovery. If you don’t have the discipline to slow down when you should your sacrificing your hard work. Returns from these types of workouts come in the rest.

This is the big mistake far too many well-meaning runners make. They are disciplined to do the hard work but run too fast on days they should be jogging.

Focus On Recovery

Do not be afraid to jog on your recovery days. Again, I’ve run with 2:10 marathoners (sub 5 minute mile pace) from Kenya that run 4 to 5 minutes slower than their race pace on recovery days.

I could care less if I am running at 8 to 10 minute mile pace on my recovery days. Anyone can run with me on recovery days. They are called that for a reason. Tempo run efforts are a different story.

I’ll quickly know if someone has been doing their homework or if they are lukewarm the first few minutes of a tempo run with me.

I hope this temporun post has been helpful for you. Feel free to leave a comment below.

If you have a question or concern and I’ll create a youtube video around your specific question and mention you in the video.

Are you ready to take your running to the next level? Stop by the RunDreamAchieve Academy and get started with one of our courses. If you are interested in a new way of training perhaps one of our 5K to marathon training schedules will work for you.

These running plans are created for beginner to advanced level athletes focused on the 5K to marathon race distances.

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