Tempo Run For 100km Trail

Build your speed for a 100km running race. It might be easier than you thought. Including a tempo run for 100km training can give impressive results.

Working on your base endurance will get you most of the way for a 100km race. But we want to get all the way there.

What Is A Tempo Run?

The definition of a Tempo Run has varied a lot. Many treat it as a run around the anaerobic threshold. Even the definition of the anaerobic threshold is up for debate.

When training for an ultra marathon we take a different approach to the tempo run. It is not a set intensity. Instead it is more a feel that progresses over the training plan.

How Fast Should Your Tempo Run Be?

The intensity is under what most call the anaerobic threshold, and higher than your normal easy pace. Extra guides is it may be close to your marathon race pace. Erring on the slower side at the start.

For those of you using heart rate, we would choose around 80% of HR max if your anaerobic threshold is between 85-90% HR max. For those who use the Phil Maffetone formula we will take it as between 15 bpm below MAF heart rate up to MAF heart rate.

How Long For A Tempo Run?

It should approximately one hour to cover the course. Add a warm up and cool down on either side of the tempo effort.

What Terrain Is Best For A Tempo Run?

Pick a mostly flat to undulating course. You want to be to keep a constant effort. No big climbs or anything too technical that create a variation in effort.

Pick a course you can repeat each week. This is a good session to help mark progress.

How To Start Tempo Runs

In your first couple of tempo runs pick a pace that is only little faster than you standard easy running pace. It should feel sustainable for the full distance. You want to feel comfortable that it will only take some extra concentration to get through. Aim to maintain the same speed from start to finish, or just a very small increase over the full run.

If you finish the run like you didn’t quite do enough. You got it right.

This is the perfect run to practice good technique for an extended period of time. Keep your posture in check. Aim to find fluidity in your stride.

How To Progress The Tempo Run

Over the weeks the pace of the run should gradually increase. This should be from two reasons:

  1. Improved efficiency, where your pace is faster for the same effort level.
  2. Increase in effort level. As your body becomes conditioned, we should increase slightly the intensity we run the tempo run.

Try to run on feel. Record all the data you usually do. But don’t look at it during the run. Use it to compare how you felt with the results. Doing this over a few weeks will help hone your sense of pace. An important skill for race day.

Tempo Run Example

My own tempo run is as follows.

From my house I take a 3km easy warm up to the starting point of the tempo section.

The tempo course is almost flat, with a couple of very small and mild undulations. It is a mix of bitumen and concrete with nothing technical.

It follows an out and back course of 7km. Which I cover for two laps bringing the total to 14km. Which is about an hour or so of running. Two laps makes it easy to analyse how I ran after the run. I can easily see if I ran evenly or had negative or positive split.

The return home is the same 3km back home.

Surprise Yourself

This approach is a bit different from most recommendations. It is effective. You keep progressing without burning out. Take this approach during your base building. Repeat for a few weeks. You will surprise yourself how much better you can handle your next level of training.