tempo tantrums

I am 10 weeks into a 16 week half mara schedule (beginners) and have started doing tempo runs: 1 mile warm up, 4 miles at 9.43 pace, 1 mile cool down. Or at least that what the plan says, but I just can't seem to do it! Most I can manage at that pace is 2.5 miles.

I am 42 years old, bmi 22.5, been jogging/slow running for 3 years and have a pb of 55mins for 10k. Right now I feel like burning my trainers and forgetting the whole thing, but in my more rational moments I hate to waste the past 10 weeks of training. Anyone else with similar problem or advice?


  • at the 2.5M point, what it the limiting factor - legs, lungs or mind?

  • Stick with it HM - 10 weeks is round about when motivation can fade.

    If you can't hit the time, maybe you are going too fast.  Drop the pace a little so that you can do the 4 miles.  If you have a time in mind for your marathon, then try to forget it and just aim on getting round.  Times are for your subsequent marathons.

    Good luck.

  • For pacing, I have found the McMillan site invaluable:


    Just enter a recent race distance time and it calculates the paces you should be running for various different types of workout. If you haven't done a recent race then I would recommend setting up a 5k time trial, and using that time as a guide.

    Hope it helps

    all the best


  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    It is essential to know how you derive your pace for the tempo runs.  Also, what sort of tempo run?  They can be run at different speeds, although some would split them into tempo and steady state.

    If you are trying to run a "classic" tempo (a la Jack Daniels) it is about 30 seconds per mile slower than 5k pace.  No one would expect you to be able to maintain that for more than 30 minutes and 20 minutes is more typical.

    If you are predominantly a fast twitch runner you will also find them more difficult than a slow twitch runner - what are your PBs for 5k and 10k respectively?

    Finally you may want to start with 2 * 1.5 miles at tempo pace witha few minutes jog in between - assuming the previous caveats mentioned are covered,

  • Moraghan,

    Thanks for your info above.

    What's the difference between a tempo and steady state run, and why and when would you run each of them?

    All the best


  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    Hi Dazza66

     The only real distinction between these sort of workouts is the pace and duration of the workout.  I work at 3 tempo paces - fast, medium and slow.  The latter medium  / slow are sometimes called steady state or hard aerobic effort as Lydiard (I think) once described them. 

    The actual paces refer to blood lactate levels - often referred to as MMOL.  However, for practical purposes they can be associated with 5k pace.


     Fast (traditional) tempo:  4.0 MMOL = 5k pace * 0.93 for 20 - 30 minutes.

    Medium tempo:  3.0 MMOL = 5k pace * 0.90 for 30 - 60 minutes.

    Slow Tempo:  2.5 MMOL = 5k pace * 0.87 for 60 - 80 minutes.  (Notice this is about marathon pace).

    So, for someone who ran 5k in 18:41 - 6:00 mile pace, they may mix in the following tempo workouts:

    25 minutes at 6:27 p/mile or

    45 minutes at 6:40 p/mile or

    60 minutes at 6:54 p/mile.

    These are difficult workouts for those who aren't well trained aerobically or who are predominantly fast twitch (me!).

    These can all be done all year round, but my preference is to start the slow tempo during base and then slowly add the others.  I will add in fast tempo work towards the end of the base period.  During the V02max phase I would continue with the odd fast tempo as maintenance and add some slow tempo work into my long run for the same reason.

    It has been shown that extended running at these paces helps more fully develop aerobic capacity and lactate threshold which is helpful at all distances.  Incidentally some will argue that the medium and slow tempo paces are "junk quality mileage".  Jack Daniels did in the first edition of his book, but changed his tune in his second.  These neglected paces are coming back into fashion and you can run some really good times just off these types of runs.

     *** Note - I don't claim any of this to be mine.  There is extensive discussion on these on letsrun.com.  The specifics here I gleaned from a guy posting as "Tinman" there.  I will try and find the thread if you're interested.

    Good luck.

  • Moraghan,

    Thank you very much for you detailed and very interesting response. I would indeed appreciate the link to the original discussion if you can find it.

    My times currently are pretty slow compared to most on these forums. However, I am keen to increase my fitness and pace. My long term goal is a sub 20 5k (currently 28:12 PB), but as I have yet to run any races my time and distance goals may well change.

    As I am new to running (less than a year), my pace is getting better and better at quite a fast rate at the moment, and as such I feel that I should be re evaluating my pacing on a regular basis. Would you agree that this is a good idea, or should I stick to the same paces for a reasonable period?

    All the best


  • MoraghanMoraghan ✭✭✭

    Hi Darren

    Best of luck with your goals.  They look good - achievable but stretching!

    I like to adjust paces every 4 weeks and base these adjustments on a race performance.  So, at the moment I try and run a 5k every 4 weeks.  So every 4 weeks I get a new pace to work at - assuming my 5k was quicker than the previous.

    What I find is that towards the end of the 4 weeks the pace will sometimes nudge up a little bit - which is okay, as it's reflecting an increase in fitness not me racing a workout. 

    What I am finding is that as I start a new period I can only manage 5 miles at a medium tempo pace, but by the end I can do about 8.

    I'm a fan of using race times and not conjecture to set my training paces and NEVER base tempo paces on GOAL 5k pace, always CURRENT 5k pace.

    The thread is here:


  • Moraghan,

    Many thanks for your help. Very interesting indeed

    all the best


  • thanks for all the advice., really  useful to hear from experienced runners. Am having another go tomorrow and try the mid 4 miles just a little slower.
  • Hi, Hunnymonster

    add another 20years and 5bmi to yours, and thats me. rest of all your other dimensions are same as mine. yes i also fail to complete a run of 4miles in one go.

    however i have lernt in 3years of running sooner or later ( gradually ) we will get there. in my first 2years i was not able to run one mile in a go but now feel confident to soon compete in a 10k run.

    i guess we need to ( train to ) get STRONGHER, thats my suggestion to you. 

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