First, here’s a nice interview by Pete Gambiccini with Ritz and Shalane Flanagan.

On Tuesday I headed down to Bronxille’s track for a Tempo run. I had the place all to myself for the duration, and it was a bit strange since the track compels one to run in Lane 4. (Lane 1 is 380 meters, Lane 4 about 402.) I hadn’t done a decent one in a couple of years, but I should be included them as a regular part of my diet. So far this year, I did two on the treadmill, one 2 X 6 mins. and the second 10 + 8. But the plan was for a classic 20-minute.

And it worked out pretty well. The pace was pretty even and ended up with a 6:05 average pace. And I added 5 steep but short uphills afterward.

I mention this because in responding to a post by “Janet,” I was searching for stuff on “cruise intervals,” and I came upon a nice article by Jack Daniels, of uncertain date. I realize that there are discussions about certain aspects of the science, particularly about the accumulation of lactic acid, but it reminds me of the importance of this one workout, including for the mental strength it can help develop:

Tempo Running

A tempo run is a steady, controlled run that should last about 20 minutes at threshold pace. A steady intensity of effort is important. Going too fast on a tempo run is no better than going too slow, and neither is as beneficial as running the proper pace. You could perform a longer-than-20-minute tempo run, but 20 minutes has been shown to produce positive results, and it will leave you relatively fresh for the next day’s training.

Here’s a typical workout: After a 1- or 2-mile warmmup, run for 20 minutes at your threshold pace, then do a 2-mile warmdown. Simple enough. However, a few warnings are in order.

First, it’s almost never a good idea to do tempo runs with a partner or group of runners. To run a tempo run correctly, you must complete it at a very specific pace, and it’s rare that a partner or group of different runners would need to run the exact same pace as you. In addition, when several runners get together, they all too often trun the workout into a race. This destroys the value of the run.

You must also resist the temptation to run each tempo run harder than the previous one. This is a trap many runners fall into. It’s easy to understand why. Since a tempo run is hard but controlled, you could put alittle more effort into the next one and do it faster. While this might make your training diary look impressive, it won’t add to your fitness, and it might detract from your next race.

When you run faster than threshold pace, you enter into “no man’s training land,” somewhere between threshold- and interval-training pace. This in-between pace serves no real purpose. So stay cool and keep your tempo runs under control.

Here’s another warning about tempo runs: It’s important to run at the right intensity; speed will vary under different conditions. When you encounter the wind, hills, even temperature extremes, maintain a steady effort and don’t worry to much if your splits vary from mile to mile. On occasion, it’s a good idea to run your tempo run on a track because you can measure your intensity exactly.

You might think the ultimate tempo run would be on a treadmill, where everything can be kept perfect. However, this environment reduces the concentration required to keep the proper pace, and therefore I don’t recommend it. Learning how to concentrate on your pace, though not a physiological benefit, may be one of the most important things you can learn from tempo runs.