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Mel’s 60 Minute Workout: Meat and Potatoes Tempo Run


One of the most effective workouts in a triathlon run program is the long tempo. Tempo pace in running is defined as the pace that you can hold for an hour- so this mirrors the type of work you are doing on the bike at Functional Threshold pace.

To determine what pace you should run this workout, follow these guidelines:

Race Splits: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5 km pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10 km pace.

Heart Rate: 85 to 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate.

Borg Scale: An “eight”  on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a five; racing would be close to a 10)

Talk Test: You can say “is this comfortable?” but you could not complete sentences, particularly as the duration of the run gets longer.

The length that you should be running your tempo workouts depends on what you are racing. Sprint and Olympic distance racers might only need three to four miles or twenty minutes of work. Longer distance racers can also get a lot of benefit out of twenty minutes, particularly if one of the tempos is off the bike. To run a strong half marathon you will want to push to six to eight miles and for the marathon eight to 10 miles as you get stronger. This week’s 60 minute workout will give you a few options on how to build your tempo effort. This is a continuous run so move smoothly straight from the warmup into the effort without stopping.

Warm up:

15 to 20 minutes starting with very easy running and get a bit faster every five minutes.


Option 1: 5 x 4 minutes at tempo pace with one minute of easy running between intervals.

Option 2: 2 x 10 minutes of tempo pace with two minutes easy running between intervals.

Option 3: 20 minutes of straight tempo pace.

Another way to make this workout more challenging is to choose an undulating route that forces slight variation in pace as you run up and down hills. This is great for building additional strength and reinforcing your ability to maintain the effort when the terrain changes.

Cool down: Without stopping, roll into one to two miles of comfortable easy pace to cool down.

This workout should become a benchmark in your training. Adding a bit of time in every training cycle to your tempo duration until you have built up to an appropriate length for your race distance will allow you to comfortably maintain hard race pace late into the run off the bike. Using these tempo runs in your transition running off the bike is very race specific and will train you to run very well off the bike. However, that is a more stressful workout on the body, so start with stand-alone tempo runs and build the transition runs into the program as your training progresses.