Wise Running

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Tag Archives: tempo

90% Racing: Choosing to Give Less Than Everything

Give everything you have and more.  110%.  That is what I have always been told.  That is what I have always tried to do.  This is especially true on race day.

Unfortunately, I can’t always give 100%.  I’ve been a little bit sick for a very long time – 5 months.  I have good days and bad days.  Most of the time, giving 100% today means resting up for a few days.  If I try to give 110% when I am having a sick day, however, it may mean easing up for at least a week.   Thankfully, I have managed to manage my illness and still train fairly hard.  I have to settle for giving 90%.  I can still make progress at that level, it is just a lot slower.

Today’s race was an example of a 90% effort.  I promised my son that I would run the Butterfly Fund 5K with him today, even though it is not a goal race.  My next goal race is the Hal Canfield Memorial Mile.  On that day, I will give it 110%.  This morning I had to settle for 90%.

I was afraid of going out too fast, but thankfully my car keys jumped out of my pocket just after the start.  That never happens.  I think it was a sign:  “Stay slow and only give 90%”  Message received.  It kept me from going out too fast.  I ran quickly, but not as hard as I thought I could.  After going back to pick up my keys, I had the added challenge of weaving through the crowd of slower runners that had passed.  There was not enough room to run too fast.  I gradually picked my way through the crowd.  Unlike what I would have done otherwise, I felt no panic about the loss of time going back for the keys.  I felt good about taking it a little easier than usual.

I felt reasonably strong.  I was going fast, but not too fast.  Gradually about half of the runners around me started to fade away.  They had been giving 110% from the beginning and could not keep it up.  Yes, that is usually me.  <looking at the floor with a sheepish grin>

Today was different.  I was running within my limitations.  Today I was choosing not to try for a PR, but just to give a good effort.  90% feels pretty good.  I was relaxed and happy.  I was out for a nice tempo run and just happened to be wearing a race number.

I continued giving about 90% effort the rest of the way.  When I finished, I finished strong, but not with an all-out sprint.  I gave it just enough effort to pass a couple of people.  After the finish, I was not wiped out like I would usually be.  I was still energized and ready to go.  What a difference!

So many times in the past I have planned to go out slow and not take a race so seriously.  Each time that I reached the start line, however, I found it difficult to contain the energy.  It is difficult to do anything else but that for which I was trained: 110%

Now that I know what it feels like to give 90% and finish happy, maybe it will be easier to do that when I am not sick.  I want to race more frequently, but you can’t train for them all.  Some of those races have to serve as training runs.  Some have to be 90% runs that happen to be at a race.  If I can plan these and follow through as planned, I will be happier and wiser.  🙂


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Ask P. Mark: The Difference Between a Tempo Run and Intervals

This was the first question posted to me via the Ask P. Mark page.
Please visit that page to post a new question.  Thanks!

Q:  What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval?

A:  The short answer is that in an interval workout, you speed up and slow down several times.  In a tempo run, however, you gradually build up to the target pace and hold it until it is time to slow down for a cooldown.

There are a few people who will do more than one tempo run within a long run.  This is an advanced maneuver that I do not recommend for the average runner.

Here are the definitions for the Tempo and Intervals that I gave on the Getting Faster post:


Intervals are a lot like repeats, but have a different goal in mind.  While repeats are about increasing raw speed, intervals are more about maintaining your new speed over a distance.  Because of this, intervals should be at a little bit longer distance.  Aim for a distance that you could complete in less than 5 minutes.  800 meters (1/2 mile) is a common distance for interval training.

  • Run your intervals at race pace, but no faster.  Remember: Race pace is the pace at which you could run a 5K now, NOT the pace that you hope to achieve later.
  • Instead of being fully rested as you did in repeats, interval training does not allow for full rest.  The time between intervals should be about the same time as you took to run the last interval.  Unlike repeats, you jog during the recovery time between intervals.
  • Since the distances are longer than the distance for repeats, the number of intervals that you complete in one workout should be less.  You can do 3-8 intervals as long as you continue to maintain your relaxed form.

Tempo Runs

If you are racing longer distances, then you will want to practice running faster for even longer periods of time.  This is the goal of a tempo run.

  • Run your tempo miles a little slower than race pace, about 80-90% of the full effort that you would use in a 5k race now.
  • Tempo runs can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on your fitness and goals.
  • You can choose to do one or more tempo runs as part of a longer run or have it as a stand-alone workout.  In either case, make sure that you run a warmup and a cooldown in addition to the tempo miles.
  • To get faster, seek the combination of distance & speed that pushes you consistently near the limit of what you can maintain.  If you can’t maintain relaxed form, you are pushing too fast or too long.


The Gift of Running is now available in both paperback & ebook

Paperback Version – Amazon.com

Ebook Version – Kindle Store




Running Faster: My New Weekly Routine

“I’ve always felt that long, slow distance produces long, slow runners.”   – Sebastian Coe

I am in the “Crazy Speed Training” phase of 2012 as determined by my annual goals & plan.  As I plan my weekly routine, I have to think about the types of runs to include.  I have blogged recently about “How to Run Faster” and it is time to follow my own advice.  In that blog, I listed several general types of runs:  repeats, intervals, tempo runs, & easy/long runs.  Hence, that list was my starting point when I sat down to establish a basic weekly schedule or runs.

Repeats:   1 Day of 400 meter repeats

Crazy speed is my main goal for the next few months, so any training routine must begin with repeats.  Since the biggest goal I have for this time is running mile in less than 5 minutes, it makes sense to run my repeats at 400 meters.  400 meters is a good distance to train because it is about 1/4 of the goal distance.  I can run 400 meters at a much quicker pace than the pace that I can maintain for a mile.  Training at this new speed will gradually strengthen my legs.  The plan is to run eight to ten 400 meter repeats at a pace that is a little faster than my goal pace.  Remember that in repeats you get full rest in between.  It is speed training, not endurance training.

For the next few weeks, I will run the 400s between 71 seconds and 75 seconds.  When that seems comfortable, I will speed them up a few seconds for a few weeks.  Once my legs have adjusted to this, the pace for a 4:59 mile will feel easy & relaxed compared to the pace on the repeats.  🙂

Intervals:  1 Day of Yasso 800s

Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World magazine found a relationship between his 800 meter interval training and the pace of his marathons.  He noticed that if trained regularly on ten 800 meter intervals with  jogging 400 meters in between and no rest, that his pace on the 800s would predict his race results.  If he ran the 800s at 2 minutes & 50 seconds, then his marathon time was around 2 hours and 50 minutes.  If he ran 800s in 2:40, then he would finish his marathon in around 2:40:00.  That is why this workout is named after him.  Not everyone gets the same exact results, but it is a good starting place for training for a faster marathon.  Since my secondary goal is to run a faster marathon, this workout seems to be the next piece of the puzzle as far as a training regimen.

Remember that this is interval training, so these will not be nearly as fast as the pace for the repeats.  Repeats are about building speed.  Intervals are about getting used to a slightly faster pace.  In the first week, I intend to run my Yasso 800s in 2:40.  I was running them around 3:00 a year ago, but I am a lot faster.  In a few months, I want to be running the Yasso 800s in 2:30 or a little below.

Tempo Runs: 2 Days of Short runs (3-5 miles)

Even though I am working on raw speed for a while, I have already gotten quite a bit faster over the last year.  I want to use my two short runs of the weeks to embrace that new level of speed.  In my last training schedule, short runs were supposed to be run at around an 8 minute mile pace.  In this speed-focused phase, I want to keep the pace of my short runs between a 6:40 mile pace and a 7:10 mile pace.  This is a lot slower than my repeats and intervals but it is still a lot faster than my pace a year ago.  In a few weeks, this pace will feel routine.

Long Runs:  1 Day of 8 to 15 miles

I love long runs, so this is my day to rekindle the passion for running deep in my heart. On my long run days, I will not display my pace or time on my Garmin.  I will only use it to tell me how far I have gone.  I am setting my third screen to only display the distance.  This is my day to relax and enjoy the run.

As for the distance, I have just wrapped up a marathon training phase.  Hence, any long run less than 20 miles feels like taking a break.  I will set a minimum distance for the day and run farther if I feel like it.  I can do that because my mileage will be so much lower on the other days that I can afford to add a few miles safely.

Rest Days:  2 Days of “Full Rest”

By full rest, I mean days in which I don’t run.  I can still mow the lawn or go for a walk in the park.  Full rest just means no running.  No running, even if I feel healthy and refreshed.  I am 44 years old.  I need these days to heal.  Rest days are an important part of getting faster!

So that is my new weekly routine.  I have not preset the order in which these days occur.  The details of my life and how my legs feel will determine this.  I just have to get it all done.

After a couple of months, I will add the sub-5 minute mile to my list of accomplishments for the year and begin a new training routine.  I’ll let you know as I go.


“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor




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