7 Things I Learned from My First Tempo Run in 5 Years

Yesterday I just barely completed my first tempo run in 5 years. It wasn’t pretty, but it was one of those times where you learn a bunch of lessons really quickly. Here’s the knowledge I brought back with me from my run.

1. Run at the Right Pace

don't know kim

Like I always say: Don’t be Kim Kardashian

I used this Runner’s World article to decide what I wanted my ideal race pace to be during my 5k- 9:35/mile. I also used it to determine my ideal half marathon race pace-9:52/mile. After you know what you want your overall race pace to be, this article/training plan allows you to figure out what your speedwork pace should be for 400s, 800s, 1600s, and tempo runs.

When planning an ideal race pace, it’s important to be honest with yourself about what you think you can and can’t do. I think my times might be a little overzealous (at least for the half marathon) so I’m prepared to alter my training paces accordingly if I’m consistently not hitting my times.

2. Stick to the Pace

stick pace

So starting out, my first mile was a 9 minute mile when I was supposed to hit 9:15. My next mile was 9:36. So I was still close to my overall mile time, but a tempo run is supposed to focus on consistency, not overall outcomes. A pace starting out may feel great at first, but there is a reason why Tempo pace calculations work. By the middle of mile 2 I felt like I was DYING. And I shouldn’t have. A tempo run is supposed to be tough, but not impossible.

3. Plan Ahead


This means a lot of things. It means:

  • pre-plan the course
  • know mile markers (and quarter markers)
  • wear the right clothes
  • give yourself enough time to complete the workout
  • Upload the workout to your Garmin if you can

I did one of those things for my run (I was wearing the right clothes). I have a Garmin FR220 which I love dearly, but I didn’t upload this workout to my watch, nor did I figure out what my quarter mile markers were before hand. This meant I was checking my watch A LOT to see where I was pace-wise.

A tempo run is all about keeping the same TEMPO, like in music…get it? It’s a lot easier to know how you’re doing, when you know where you are and have specific checkpoints.

 4. Understand that It WILL Be Difficult


The whole point of a tempo run is to get your body used to pushing itself when it is exhausted. As Jillian Michaels says: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” A tempo run is not supposed to feel great. You should feel strong, but pretty spent by the end. I felt spent by the middle.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Push Yourself

push yourself

But what if I throw up? But what if I pass out? But what if I have to walk?

These are all things that run through my head during a run when the going gets tough. Obviously, passing out should be a real concern, but chances are, I’m not going to. Tempo runs work to build up your mental strength to keep going. Speedwork is short and sweet and focuses on training your body to move faster. Tempo runs train your mind to work harder, even when you have miles left to go.

6. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

beat up

Especially if you’re new to this (like me!) Not every run is going to be amazing/perfect/on point. I had to cut half a mile out of my first tempo run because I was running late for work and my legs felt super dead. Bad runs happen to good people sometimes. The important thing is to:

  • evaluate what went wrong
  • don’t over think it
  • make adjustments if necessary
  • start fresh next time!

7. It Will Get Easier


Or at least, that’s what I tell myself 😉

What gets you through a tempo run?


6 thoughts on “7 Things I Learned from My First Tempo Run in 5 Years

  1. OMG THIS WAS HILARIOUS. And basically that second to last last gif is any track workout in a nutshell. Tempo runs on a treadmill are the hardest for me, but other than that it is just concentrating on the run that your are on, the mile that you are on, and nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise you might actually kill yourself


    • Ugh I HATE the treadmill, but I can see how it would be a good way to do a tempo run (not so much any type of repeat workout). Luckily my tempo runs are starting small (3 miles) but my half marathon plan has me going up to 6 miles (still not too many technically) but those 6 miles will be ROUGH!


  2. Love this post – hilarious! Tempos are tough for me – I find that I’m never going quick enough… It seems like I do better if I start off slower and run it more as a progression run… give that a try and see if it works!


    • Thanks! I’ll have to give that a try! I usually end up racing progressively (except for the first mile) because I’m so nervous that I’ll gas out halfway through. It would make sense to do some runs like that, if that’s how I naturally tend to race anyway!


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