8 In fitness/ running

Slow, fast, tempo, threshold… figuring out my runs before marathon training starts

I have a confession to make. I have been running for 3 years and 9 months, I have completed ten 10-15km races, 6 half marathons and 1 marathon, yet until a few days ago I did not know what my easy run / tempo run / threshold run / etc. pace was supposed to be.

I’ve always just kind of ran. And if less than 10km was on the menu then I’d run fast(er), if more than 20 was on the menu I’d run slow(er).

Last week I fretted over my slowest of slow runs with the average pace of 5.57min/km but it made me think about speed and I got curious as to what are the speeds that the experts say I could/should be aiming for when doing a specific distance.

I have to say I’m not at all hung up on speed or how fast I SHOULD be running – as I mentioned before, I’ve been running very happily for almost 4 years just at the speeds that I can / are challenging / feel right. However, with marathon training approaching, I just got curious about what’s recommended, so I entered my fastest 10k race time into this little training pace calculator on the Runner’s World website and out came the following:

training speed

Interesting, right? Looks like it’s totally ok for me to do a long run as slow as 5:50-something and looks like it’s not bad at all that I can do a 6-8km run with a pace of 4:55 min/km. Looks like my legs have sort of found the right training pace on their own. The only adjustment I’ll be making is making sure my long runs are in fact slow (I tend to run them at about 5:40 or a bit less) and I won’t be scared to push the speed on the short runs.

And finally, here are little summaries of each of these run types described above (from the same Runner’s World link):

Easy runs
Aim do 80 to 90 per cent of weekly training at the easy run pace (this includes your long runs, done at approximately the same pace). Easy runs build your aerobic fitness, and your muscular and skeletal strength.

– For me this will mean just my long run as I don’t have time for more than 3 runs a week.

Tempo runs (also known as Threshold runs)
Tempo runs will help you prepare for races of 10K to the marathon. Tempo sessions generally fall into one of two categories: steady runs of 2 to 6 miles; or long intervals with short recoveries.
Do a tempo runs once a week and make sure it doesn’t make up no more than 10 to 15 per cent of your total training.

– For me this will mean my weekly 10k run.

VO2-max runs (also known as Intervals; similar to Speed-form runs)
Example of VOx-max session: 6 x 800 metres at VO2-max pace with 4 to 6 minutes of recovery jogging between efforts.
Example of Speed-form session: 8 x 400 metres at speed-form pace with 3 to 4 minutes of recovery jogging between efforts.
Do either one no more than once a week, VO2-max runs should make up no more than 6 to 10 per cent of your total training, speed-form runs should make up no more than 4 to 8 per cent of your total training.

– For me this will mean I’ll try to alternate my tempo runs with some kind of interval training every other week.

Long runs
Long runs form the foundation of all marathon training programs. long runs build everything from your confidence to your discipline to your fat-burning. So, even when you’re not training for a specific marathon, it’s a good idea to do at least one semi-long run a week. Because long runs are done at a relaxed pace, there’s great latitude in how fast you actually run. In general, we believe that slower is better than faster. Let your long runs be your slow runs, and save your legs for other days of the week when you might do tempo runs or maximum-oxygen runs. But there are a thousand theories about how to do long runs, none of which have yet been proven superior to the others. The important thing is building up the distance and training your body to keep going for 3, 4, 5 or however many hours it’s going to take you.

– For me this means no more fretting over doing my long runs reaaaalllly slowly.

Yasso 800s is complicated, read about them from the link above 😉

And that’s that! I have a much better overview of training speeds and types now. One of these days I’ll write up my marathon training plan and once I’m back from Australia on 1st of January – let the fun begin!


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  • Reply
    Rachel Murray
    December 25, 2013 at 3:15 am

    I love your blog! I just signed up for paris 2014 and I’m loving reading your stories about it all. ;). This link will help me because I have no idea what my easy pace etc are too 😉

    • Reply
      January 3, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      Sorry I haven’t replied before – too busy being on holidays 🙂
      Paris marathon is a great race, you’ll love it!

  • Reply
    Half Marathon training tips
    December 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Simple runs construct your vigorous fitness, and your husky and skeletal quality. Do either one close to once a week, Vo2-max runs might as well make up close to 6 to 10 for every penny of your aggregate preparing, speed-structure runs may as well make up close to 4 to 8 for every penny of your sum preparing.

  • Reply
    Pacing | runrunrun10k
    December 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    […] at training plans, I’ve had no idea what tempo pace or comfortable pace means. Thanks to Mind Over Matter, I’ve been pointed to the Runner’s World Pace Calculator and here are my […]

  • Reply
    Metropolitan Mum
    December 4, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I kind of got off the running train recently and find it hard to get back on. Maybe just put the shoes on after falling out of bed? I am way too tired in the evenings xx

    • Reply
      December 6, 2013 at 10:05 am

      That’s what I tend to do, on my running days I just put on my gear first thing in the morning, drop the kids off and go. I have no energy after 5pm for anything other than yoga 😐

  • Reply
    December 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I find all these terms a bit baffling too and, like you, just try to run a bit faster if I’m going shorter and a bit slower if I’m going longer. I can’t say I like speedwork much but definitely feel like tempo runs feel more beneficial to me as a long distance runner than shorter intervals (after all, it’s fine to be running, say, 4min/km pace for a few hundred metres, but it’s probably not going to be much use when I want to run a marathon faster overall).

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