Training series- pacing and tempo sessions

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How to get your pacing right and run a good tempo session.


Running in itself is the art of pacing.

Every runner, no matter how talented or well trained, will perform terribly in any race longer than 400 meters if he or she starts at a full sprint and holds nothing back.

So the aim in racing is to cover the distance between the start and finish as quickly as possible given one’s talent and conditioning levels. To achieve this goal, a runner must have an understanding of the fastest pace he or she can sustain through the full race 

Pacing is also critical throughout the training process and that’s why we have listed out different types of sessions in your plan

Running at different paces is critical to you improving over time. For example when we are doing speed work we are targeting your V02 max by running shorter repetitions. Doing these repetitions in a similar time allows you to get the most out of the session, so a way of tracking your time and distance now becomes important too.

Over time you will become more and more comfortable with and knowledgeable of your limits and zones and you’ll be able to execute sessions and races to the best of your ability. 

Tempo sessions

In a tempo session the focus is on running at an even pace at the runners target lactate threshold pace and/or 15km race pace and/or half marathon race pace. Generally speaking the better the runner, the closer they should be to a pace they could ideally hold for a maximum of 15km. 

So if your doing this session within your regular training week it is pretty hard – I refer to it as “uncomfortably hard” – its not as hard a doing a race that’s for sure – but on no taper and when your likely a little fatigued it is challenging. 

My tips for executing this are:
  • Make sure you are well warmed up
  • Have the route you will run well mapped out and tested – the flatter the more consistent
  • Get a handle on your pace from the beginning by using a good GPS watch and aim to hold an even pace over the duration of the effort
Personally if I cannot get runners of a similar ability to run with me for this session, in my really important tempo sets I will ask friends or training partners to pace me on a bike. This allows me to focus just on the running but raises the level of accountability.

Vlad Shatrov is one of Australia’s leading Marathoners and the founder of Runlab, a leading provider of group interval training sessions, group functional strength classes and personalized running analysis and programming.

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