Tempo runs. Some love them others dread them. For the longest time I dreaded them each and every week. I knew the importance of them but they always hung over my like a dark cloud.

The great thing about tempo runs is that they can be one of the biggest confidence builders during marathon training.

When I talk about a tempo run I am referring to a run that is done roughly around goal race pace. For the marathon these tempo runs typically start at 6 miles and I work my way up to 10-11 by the end of the training cycle.

It’s easy to look at those long tempos in the beginning and panic, but trust me when I say – don’t! Just like with anything the more you practice at it the better you get. One thing I always remind myself is marathon pace isn’t really every going to feel easy. It will get easier but it is never truly easy. Marathon pace always to me feels “moderately hard” even up until race day.


Regardless if you love or hate tempos they are a necessary part of training and helping you get that shiny new PR!


Here are 5 simple tips that I’ve used this training cycle not only to learn to love tempo runs again but to embrace them for what they will ultimately help me obtain!


Practice Your Mental Strength

Use your tempo runs as a way to help you practice your mental strength for during your race. Focus on one mile at a time and don’t get ahead of yourself. If you try to think of the end before you even get through the first mile then it is going to be a tough run.

The tempo run can be great for practicing your race day. Act as though you are running your goal race and work on being mentally tough and focused.


Break Your Tempo Up into Sections

If you think of the tempo as a whole it can seem overwhelming. I’ve used a lot of mental tricks for tempos – for example if you have a 9 mile tempo instead of viewing it as 9 miles I either break it into three 3 mile sections or just look at each mile as something I need to accomplish.

You can’t get to mile 9 without getting through miles 1-8 first so I just focus on one mile and each mile that I get through is an accomplishment. Whatever you have to do to mentally make it easier on yourself is key.


Don’t Overthink It

It’s easy to see a tempo on your training schedule and start thinking about it, but really what is the point? The more you think about it the more you put too much importance on one run.

I try to to focus on one run, one workout at a time. Wait until the day of to focus on the run at hand. Don’t worry about it ahead of time it will only make it harder. The mental side of running is just as important if not more important than the physical part of it. Don’t over think it. Just focus at the task at hand each and every day.


Have FUN!

Are you stressing out over tempos? Dreading them? Chances are you aren’t having fun! I always tell myself if I’m not having fun then what is the point? I’m never going to be some amazing elite athlete – I do this for me and me alone so if running isn’t fun then I shouldn’t be doing it!

It may sound silly but I always tell myself to make sure I am smiling each and every mile. Even on the hardest miles I make sure I can still smile through it all!



If you’ve read up on ways to help your mental strength then chances are you have heard of visualization. You have to picture your goal in your head. Picture the finish line, picture the feeling of accomplishment, picture how you feel at the end of your workout – focus on the end result not what you are going through in that current moment.

During tempo runs I often visualize the feeling of crossing the finish line or how it will feel when I hit the workout. I visualize success in my mind. It may sound a little far fetched at first but the more you practice it the more it actually does work in getting you through even the toughest runs!

It’s also a great practice to work on before race day to help you be mentally strong come race day!


Tempo runs can be FUN! Yes, I said it – fun. We often put more on a particular workout than needs to be and that is when we lose focus, start to panic, or cannot stay mentally strong.


Which workouts do you enjoy the most? How do you handle really hard workouts?

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