Longest tempo run for a 1/2 marathon?

As some of you know I'm doing the Helsby 1/2 in jan, along with a fair few other forumites.

I've been doing regular 8 mile tempo runs at 1/2m pace or slightly faster and am finding them really good for developing confidence in my target pace. I usually finish feeling I've still got some pace left (just as well considering there's another 5 miles to do on the day) .
I've read some people (Mike S?) doing up to 10 miles at race pace by way of preparation. What is the ideal longest distance to practise? Also bearing in mind marathon training has started and I can't take too many rest days to recover from my tempo runs!
Welcome your thoughts.


  • Hi Laura,
    I also do 1/2m paced runs up to 10 miles, but 8 miles is fine. I do not need any extra recovery after, just an easier session.

    You could use the session towards marathon training, count it as a hard session, then fit your other paced runs around what you're doing to achieve your 1/2m time.

    Good luck, you'll do ok!
  • 10 miles sounds about right.

    try also to do several runs over distance (not at race pace - just slow) as well - this gives the the stamina to stay strong towards the end. My PB is at Camberley, which is a tough course but I was regularly running about 20 miles per week which helped. You don't have to go that far though!

    Any thoughts on longest tempo run for a full marathon?
  • Well done Laura - the question I probably should have posed myself on this forum about 6 weeks ago.
    Off the top of my head, I think I've done at least 3 8-milers, one 8½, one 9 and one 10. The 10 miler in particular I found a nightmare - as much as anything due to the mental pressure of knowing I was going to have to run at a relatively fast pace for an awfully long time.
    If I get some decent rest this week, I **might** have another go at it Thu/Fri - as much as anything else, knowing you've managed the distance at your target pace is a big confidence booster.
    But if someone wants to tell me I should be looking to attempt 8 miles in 51 mins rather than 10 miles in 65 then I'm all ears.....
  • I found having ran a half marathon distance at full pace a useful preparation.

    In fact I find that running the distance at race pace but with a slower first 2-4 miles and without pushing so hard over the last couple to be of great benefit both in getting round without too much pain and getting my times down. This is not too dissimilar to what Hilly suggests but with another few miles slower warm up tagged on the front.

    In other words I would run a bit further and a bit faster a bit more often than most people recommend. But if you want your body to get used to running half marathons the best way to do it is to run half marathons - although running over distance slower and under distance faster are also useful.
  • Just read your post on the daily thread Laura. Wish I could manage an 8 miler at a pace more than 3% faster than my intended ½ marathon race pace.
    In respect of - specifically - the Helsby race, there's one point which occurs to me now, having driven round the course on Friday (and studied it on OS maps - aren't I sad!):
    8 miles would take you as far round as the village of Mouldsworth - where the course has just started steadily climbing - and it continues generally uphill until about 10½ miles (with a couple of nasty dips & climbs just when you think you've finished climbing). If you haven't got any longer runs under your belt, it could lead to the wheels falling off big-style. Certainly it's the part of the course I'm dreading most.
  • Hi
    My half marathon longest run was a 2 x 10km at 10 mile race pace with 5 min recovery. This worked extremely well for me. This gave me confidence and prevented me from getting too much fatigue.
    Try this approach if you like
    Have a nice run tomorrow
  • Thanks for the suggestions. I think I'll have a go at a 10 mile at race pace end of next week, as it would be nice to know I've done well over half at my planned pace. It's quite an important goal since I've wanted to get my 1/2m time down for a while, and it's my last chance to have a stab at predicting my flm target realistically. (the 10K race predictions seem too optimistic at the moment!)

    Mike, I know what you mean about the hillier parts, last year these didn't feel too bad but then I wasn't running for a particular time. My 8 mile tempo run loop is undulating to start, flat middle and has a horrible 1/2m uphill at the end which I use for mental 'grit your teeth now' sort of preparation (and hate it every time)! I'm sure it's a good idea to have visualised the route like you've done.

    I maybe wasn't clear in my post that I meant distance for tempo runs; I've done a few longer runs as well, currently up to 1* 12, 1* 14 and 1* 16, but at much slower pace. There's time for a couple more if all goes to plan.

    Alan, like the idea of your session, look forward to trying it.
  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Laura, if you can do 10 miles at race pace, with the final 2 miles closer to 10k pace then you'll find the 1/2 marathon a doddle.

    Regarding tempo runs I tend to do a maximum of about 6 miles with a 2 mile fast warm up and cool down (10 miles total) I try to do these at just below 10k pace heart rate.

    Any longer than this and it becomes more of a "long" run with shorter warm up and cool down periods.

    BTW I'm getting excited about meeting you at Helsby!
  • Me too Drew. You and Mike can get the first round of drinks in, seeming as you'll be first home!

    I've been thinking masochistic thoughts whilst ironing this am and have devised a modified version of popsider's suggestion; will report back later this week.

  • Remember Laura that your last hard run, if attempting a pb, should be done 10 days from the date of your race. Good luck, sub 1.40!
  • Hi Laura

    Done the 2 x 10 km @ 10 mile pace with 5 mins recovery yet?

    Go on give it a go within 7 days

    Have a nice run tomorrow

  • Hi Alan,

    Not yet! After much thinking (even went out today to double-measure the distance and identify mile markers in the car, how sad!) I've decided to try Drew's suggestion of 10 miles with final 2 @ 10K pace if I can. The reasons being: a) I'm more sure of my 1/2m pace than my 10mile pace and b)now have a known route for doing 10 miles than 2*10K!
    I guess by next weekend it'll be a bit late to try yours before Helsby (19/1)?
    Thanks for asking though!
  • Hi Laura,

    I love this discussion, and I would like to say how, in my eyes, completely non-sensical it is... Now, don't get me wrong, there's a lot of literature that suggests to run 10M tempo runs at your 1/2 marathon pace. Frank Horwill (of British Runner fame), for instance, seems to be a strong advocate of this training session. Well, here's my perspective on it: I've got a 1/2Marathon pb of 69mins. Right now I'm preparing for the FLM, and I certainly expect to be able to run a 1/2 marathon close to my pb in about a month time. If I were remotely able to come close to running 10M at my 1/2 marathon pace in a training session right now, well for a start I would certainly carry on for the extra 3 miles (which after all isn't that much) in order to set a new pb... The fact is, I'm not capable - not whatsoever!- to hit those sort of times in the middle of a normal training week. My tempo runs consist of 40 mins ran at marathon pace, and even that can feel bloody hard.
    I would love to meet those runners who do 10M at 1/2M pace for, in my eyes, they're either not trying very hard in races, or they'll burn themselves up after just a couple weeks of training.
  • Wish granted Nick - cos that's what I'm attempting - but don't ever accuse me of not trying in a race.
    It might look nonsensical to you - but you're just looking at it from a marathon runner's perspective. From my viewpoint as a moderate 5K /10K runner (mainly 5K) moving up to ½ marathon distance for the first time since 1983, it looks rather different.
    In the summer months I manage 5 miles in 32 mins - 32:30 fairly comfortably, and it was in this knowledge that I set myself a target of 84 mins (6:24 pace) when I decided to enter the Helsby half, back towards the end of October (in hindsight more time to prepare would have been preferable, but ignorance is bliss).
    Unlike yourself, a veteran of a number of marathons, I'm stepping into unknown (or forgotten) territory in trying to race 13.1 miles. I had to find out for how long I could hold the pace I have to run at ( making allowances for a racing situation, I set this pace in my tempo runs to be 6:30 per mile) - so my tempo runs over the last couple of months have basically concentrated on trying to hit that standard for 8 miles, then 9, then 10. (This alongside bumping up the length of my "long" run, which previously was never much more than about 7 miles).
    It's got harder every time of course, - after one last (failed) attempt tonight, I'm going to go into the race not having managed the sub-65 10 miles I wanted, which would have given me a lot more confidence in achieving my race target time.
    What has concerned me in particular on these runs is the way in which my legs would go on me quite quickly after a certain time - the legacy of my lack of mileage I suppose. Initially I would hit trouble after about 45 minutes/7 miles - at least one effect of extending these runs is that it's happening gradually later, and not as drastically.
    I think if I'd just stuck with one long slow run a week with my tempo runs restricted to, say, 6 or 7 miles, I'd have fallen apart in the second half of the race. As it is, I reckon it's odds against my hitting my 84 minute target 2 weeks hence, but at least if conditions are reasonable on the day and I get my tapering right, I think I've got a fighting chance.
    Yes, it's been hard - and if I get through the race OK, and decide I want to try another, I'll probably take a different approach to speed training for that. But for this first one - I think these long tempo runs were needed.

    Btw there are a number of Horwillian devotees on this forum - wonder what their take is on this?
  • Mike,
    Well, of course, in your circumstances it might make sense. But what you are doing are not tempo runs: they are time trials ran at 1/2 marathon pace...
    Now the main target of Horwill's articles seems to be club runners of a similar level as me... If you consider thatI run everyday (twice a day sometimes) and that I do at least one tempo run a week, with the accumulated fatigue of a week's training, running 10M at 1/2 marathon pace is roughly the same (in term of effort & recovery) as running a 1/2 marathon (given that you will have tappered for the race, that the adrenaline will be flowing... etc).
    I would much rather, if that were feasible, take a day off every week, and set a new pb for the half-marathon each week-end, than do any tempo runs.
    The only example that springs to my mind of runs done at 1/2M pace was a training session of Ingrid Kristiansen's:3x10mins at 1/2Mpace with 5mins recovery in between + 5mins at 10K pace to finish it of... that is certainly well short of 10 miles, and what's more, that's interval training.... I don't think, in the course of a normal week of training, that anyone should hope to do much longer than a continuous 20/25mins at 1/2M pace.
  • Hi Nick,

    I think it's the complete difference in our running backgrounds, current levels of training and abilities that explain the differences in approach here. You are an elite runner and I'm pretty much a regular leisure runner. If your 1/2m pb is 69 mins (congrats!) I guess your marathon target is aroundm 2.30? At that level - elite training, the effort you put into 40 mins @ marathon pace is bound to be much higher than someone like me and the difference for you between the middle of a normal training week and having tapered much greater.

    Although I've run a fair few 1/2 marathons this is th first time I've been at all structured about the training and tried to practise the pace properly. So just to put it in context my pb is 1.50 and my target 1.44-45 for Helsby. My 8 mile tempo runs are now taking around 62 mins. I agree this may not meet the definition of a tempo run, but it seems to me to describe the session well - practising race tempo for a period of time.
    I'm also doing the flm and 40 mins @ marathon pace currently feels relatively easy, as you might expect when I'm running 3 mins slower per mile than you are! I'd be concerned if it didn't given I've got to run another 3 or so hours on the day.
    Thinking ahead post Helsby, why wouldn't longer tempo runs at 1/2m pace be really good for marathon training anyway? Don't profess to have much knowledge of different speed training but in my eyes it seems a far more relevant session than doing intervals on a track. Or maybe that's just because I find them easier.

    Good luck with your marathon training Nick.
  • Feeling a bit more mellow this morning, following on from a solid, alcohol-free ( & only thrice punctuated by trotting downstairs to pick up the Test score on Teletext) 9 hours of zzzzzzzzzzs.....when I dragged myself over to the PC last night to discover the session I'd just attempted was being denigrated as nonsensical, I was a bit cross!
    Now rather more interested in the details of your training Nick, and what you define as tempo pace relative to actual race pace.

    Was also intrigued by the Kristiansen session. I've had to train on my own the last 2 Tuesdays (normally I do a key session with some Wirral AC runners on that night) & I came up with the idea of 3 x 2 miles at or above actual target race pace off 3 minute v gentle jog recoveries. Expected it to be, if not straightforward, then manageable - but found myself dying on my @rse on the last interval. But I'm sure if I did this as a one-off session in the summer I'd find it quite easy.
    Finally, if you'd rather have a day off & go for a ½ marathon pb in exchange for dropping a tempo session, why have you never tried it - just for a change or as an experiment?
  • Hey Laura,

    Again, I think I might not have made my point forcibly enough. Frank Horwill, who advocates the 10M at 1/2 marathon pace session, very much focuses on faster runners. I've dug out the UK rankings for this year, and here's what I've found. Jon Brown ran a 62mins 32s half-marathon this year. His tempo run of 10 miles at half-marathon pace should therefore be run in 47'42". However that's only 10s short of his best of 47'33 for the year!!!
    Paul Evans ran 64'47" for the half. He should therefore do his 10M tempo runs in 49'30". However is best time for the year is only 49'57"!!!
    Jo lodge ran 74'01" for the half. She should be doing her tempos in 56'29", just one minute short of her year's best of 55'21".

    So yes, this session is certainly totally unsuitable for elite athletes, but Mr. Horwill doesn't seem to see that...

    Now let's take the example of a very normal runner I coached a couple of years ago. She started as a complete beginner. After 6 months of training (she was preparing for the FLM also) she ran a very hilly half-marathon in 95mins (Islwyn half-marathon, in Wales). Unfortunately she didn't run a 10M that year, but her 10K pb was 42mins. Well, even doing only a 10K tempo run at her half marathon pace would have meant running it in 45mins (and if you consider that we should probably take off 3 or 4mins of her half-marathon time due to the extremely hilly course, she should run her 10Ks tempo in 43/44mins!). Running even only a 10K tempo run at her half-marathon pace would have been suicide!
    In my view, running 10M tempo runs at half-marathon pace in the course of a normal training week is either suicidal, or it suggests you should be much more ambitious with your half-marathon target...

    If you can manage 10M at half-marathon pace on a weekly basis, why don't you just carry on for an extra 3miles. You will be setting half-marathon pbs every week!

    The aim of a tempo run where you work close to your aerobic threshold, is to raise that threshold... The interest of doing sessions at race pace lies in that you will be able to hit that pace from the start of the race (you will know what that pace 'feels' like). You certainly do not need to practice running at race pace for over an hour a week to get the hang of it! A tempo run of 20/25mins at half-marathon pace will be largely enough.
    Add to that a 6x1K at 5K pace on the track (or on the road if you prefer) to work at your lactate threshold, and your preparation will certainly benefit from it. This session, to me, is a key one (whether I am training for a 5K or for a marathon) and I do seem to benefit more from it than from tempo runs. You might consider it speed training, but after having worked at 3k/5K speed on the track, or on a marked portion of road, the first few miles (at least) of a half marathon feel like a jog on the day.
  • Mike,

    The reason why a day off and a race would most likely not result in a half-marathon pb for me is that I cannot sustain more than 20mins (or3x10mins) at 1/2 marathon pace in training. If I could do those 10M tempo runs you're aiming for, I'd take the rest day, the race (and the pb) every time :-)
  • Nick,

    I think I am getting the gist of your advice re. tempo runs and lactate threshold training. Can I be cheeky and ask about long runs and what part they play? I'm aiming to get close to 1.25 at Wilmslow and currently run 12 -15 miles at the weekend between 7 minute mile pace (over 12 on flat) and 7.20 over the 15 which is very hilly.

    My other training consists of a 10k club run at probably half mara pace with a competitive finish, a 38-50 minute cross country hill run and whatever else I can fit in depending on work/childcare commitments. I've arranged to do a track interval session fortnightly which will probably be part of the "whatever else".
  • I'm glad I asked the question as it's raising some interesting different view points.

    I come back to the fact that I'm a beginner and have found the tempo runs work for me in improving my training times (also got a 10K PB before xmas); I don't do long ones every week, probably more like every 10-14 days. I'd be interested in other people's views as well, since I suspect that when, like me, you first start to introduce harder training sessions you're bound to improve almost regardless of what they consist of.

    Presumably the intervals sessions some of us do with a club (typically hill reps or 3 min intervals) count as lactate threshold training?

    As for the 'normal' runner you mention, her improvement seems exceptional for a complete beginner in 6 months. I'd be surprised if the 'average' person could achieve that regardless of the training.

    Where are the Horvill followers? Why not join the debate and defend your guru!
  • Hi Laura,
    if what you do is wrong, then what I do is also wrong! Maybe this is the difference between us 'normal' runners and those championship runners like Nick.

    When I was going for my 1/2 marathon pb in November, my marathon paced runs took on a similar course as yours. I started at the beginning of my 8 wk training cyle with 5 miles 1/2 marathon paced runs building up to being able to do 10 miles at that pace at least 10 days before the race. I also included in my week a lactate threshold run made up of 10k paced intervals or 5k pace on the track.

    On this training my 1/2M improved from 1.36.56 down to 1.34.20, which I think is very good, my 10k time a few weeks after this also improved by 30secs.

    I really cannot see how that can be wrong training if it works.

    I'm not burnt out, but then maybe I've yet to reach my true potential because I don't train right!

    I'm an average club runner and run with championship level runners and it was one of these who suggested I build up my 1/2 marathon paced runs from 5 miles to 10.

    By not doing the final 3 miles on the day of the training run ensures not leaving the race on a training run, but giving you the confidence to know if you can run 10 miles at pace, you can hang on for another 3!

    Happy running:)
  • Popsider,

    I'm not a physiologist so I only have a very vague understanding of those things... I think on a long run, you tend to burn glycogen stored in the muscles and liver first, then fat. They say you hit the wall on a marathon once the muscles glycogen stores have been depleted. However, the process is not as simple as switching suddenly from glycogen to fat... it happens progressively. I think what long runs do is that they get your body used to burning fat a little earlier (or more efficiently)so your glycogen stores will last a little longer. Another benefit is that time on your feet tends to build up the number of capillaries in your legs, and that an increase in local bloodflow will therefore result in an increased amount of oxygen available for the process of glycolisis (well, something like that anyway....). As a general rule, you should not hit the wall on a half-marathon (I think it still would be possible, but not in the time you're aiming for). It therefore sounds reasonable to restrict your long runs to the amount of time you intend to race for, and perhaps to run the full distance once or twice (just to comfort yourself in the knowledge you can do it). I seldom run longer than 90mins when I'm preparing for a half, and I find doing anything longer than 2H15mins extremely boring (and draining) when I'm preparing for a marathon. A interesting session I am going to try this year in preparation for the FLM, is to run the last 10K of my long run at race pace to simulate the tiredness in the last few miles of the marathon. However the prospect of this session is too much to face for me at the moment (I know I wouldn't manage it) so I will leave it 'till the middle of March
  • Hilly,

    If it works, it's obviously not wrong. I'm just trying to offer a different take on the subject. Again, I am simply suggesting that running a 10M tempo at 1/2marathon pace in the course of a normal week of training is equivalent in terms of tiredness and recovery time to actually running that race.
    I know which one I'd prefer to do...
  • Nick, we all train differently depending on what suits us and our differing abilities/experience/time commitments and available advice. You are obviously a more talented natural runner than some of us so your training will obviously be what suits you! That does not mean that us runners who choose to run long tempo runs will be burnt out within weeks or whatever, or that we aren't working hard in races.

    There are many schools of thought on types of training for all distances and who is to say that any one way is the best. It's all relative to individuals.

    Happy running:)
  • Nick, I've just look back at your responses on this thread and I would like to ask you a question please.

    1. Why is it suicidal to run 10k tempo runs at 43-44 pace (based on you 'normal' runners 42 10k time? I am a 42min 16 sec 10k runner and do my 6 mile tempo runs at 44 mins. It's a tough session and I do this only about once every 4-6 weeks over a hilly route.

  • Hilly,

    I think it's our definition of a tempo run that differs... What you're talking about here is a time trial, which you do relatively seldom. I do at least one tempo run a week, and this is usually followed (not the next day but the day after) by an intervals session on the track. I would not be able to run that close to my race pace on a weekly basis... or otherwise, I would not manage the intervals that follow.
    Traditionnally, a tempo run is one which is done at a pace close to - or slightly faster than- your aerobic threshold (a pace at which it becomes difficult to talk). The session you do, on the other hand, is close to your lactate threshold (the point at which lactic acid starts to build up in your muscles). That's fine... you should work at that pace too, but interval training is a much more efficient way to do this because it does not takes so much out of you (it is easier to recover from say 6x1K at 5K pace) than it is from a 10K ran at close to 10K pace.
    Now, it might not feel this way to you, but this would suggest that you are very much a 'one pace' runner, and that you would benefit greatly from doing intervals on the track....
    You give me your improvements as a sign that what you're doing works... Well, it does and it doesn't... Any form of running will lead to improvement up to a certain point. I have never ran longer than 20mins at 1/2 marathon pace, yet in the last year I have improved from a 72 1/2 marathon, to a 69 one. In the last 2 years my marathon time has gone down from 2H34 to 2H27. My training partner has improved from a 3H20 marathon to 2H40 following the same regime. We must be doing something right too... The point is, we probably do many mistakes... but we do enough to keep improving...
    You might feel that you benefit from running that close to race pace... but it would jeopardize the rest of my weekly training. Done every week, it would lead to me getting injured... Interval training is, in my view, a much more efficient way to exercise at lactate threshold.
  • Thanks a lot people, I thought I had finally sussed out the speed training thing then I go and read this and now I am confused and depressed.
    When I ran my first half marathon last year I expected a time of around 1.45, much to my surprise I ended up with a time of 1.36, and according to my mile splits it was run at an even pace throughout. Adrenaline? Fear of being last or something else?
    I then ran a marathon a few months later but blew up when the wall hit me about 19 miles. That was due to inexperience and not having done the long runs slow enough or for long enough. Another topic there.
    At the moment my speed work consists of threshold training of 5 miles at 10k pace, 6.50min/ mile, and on alternate weeks 5 reps at 6.30 mile pace with walking recoveries.
    The rest of my running is done at slow pace of 9 min miles including my long run which this week will be 15 miles.
    All this is for a marathon at the end of March, a half 2 weeks before that.

    Any comments welcome.
  • Hi Nick,
    I think it is as you say our definition of tempo running that differs.

    Basically then to do a tempo run I would cover my 6 miles route by doing 2miles warm-up, 2 miles at between 5-10k pace(about 13mins)followed by the last 2 mile easy?

    Isn't my session done yesterday basically the same as doing your interval session of 6*1k at 5k pace. I did 3 miles warm-up, 6*800m at 5k pace with 400m recoveries (on the track)followed by 2 miles cool down?

    Sorry for all the questions, but it is a genuine interest.
  • Sorry Sarcy I'm not ignoring you but I take it you too are asking Nick to answer. I agree this speedwork business takes a bit of working out!
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