I coach myself each training cycle.

I am my easiest client because I don’t really have a set in stone training plan.

I found early on in running that having a laid out plan before me does not motivate me – in fact it does quite the opposite. I stress the night before about the workout. I wake up and wonder how I will fit it it. I feel bad and get down on myself if I don’t do it or it doesn’t go as planned.

Each week I know what I need to do. The only set in stone run is my long run and even then it is only the distance that is set in stone, not what type of long run I will be doing.

I know I need to do a weekly tempo. In order to get faster at the marathon – you have to run faster at least once a week if not more.

Yes long slow distance works, but it doesn’t mean that every single run you go on should be slow. The mistake I see runners make most often is going too fast on their slow runs and too slow on their fast runs. They then wonder why they show up to the marathon and don’t pr.

They over cross train. They over lift. They do do do and sometimes running is in what you don’t do. It’s about holding back when you need to and putting all your effort into the runs that you are supposed to.

On slow days I go slow – so slow that sometimes it feels painful.

In the winter I normally run on the treadmill once I get Chloe on the bus and before Colton wakes up. Today I wanted to go back to sleep, I did not want to run. My lack of motivation worked out because baby C woke up very early because he is sick. I put a pillow and a blanket on the floor of the playroom and we snuggled while Miles played around us.

2 hours later baby c was ready for bed and I was ready for a run.

1 miles in to the run I felt good so I decided it was tempo day. 3 mile warm up followed by 3.1 miles at a 6:31 pace, which had it been a 5K race would have been a 20:14[my fastest treadmill tempo to date]. I needed to cool down but Miles was loosing his patience right around the time I heard baby c crying – my cool down would have to wait.

When baby C went down for his second nap I did the remaining 4 miles I had wanted to run at a very slow recovery pace.

If I had a million dollars and could pay someone to watch my kids for me – I would run 10+ miles a day.  I feel better on days I really push myself – on days I literally DREAM BIG & RUN LONG.

I do tempo runs so I am THIS happy on race day.

Those 3.1 miles were painful – I wanted to quit. I didn’t. Actually I don’t ever really quit when it comes to running. It’s a bad habit to get in to. I thought about running sub 6:30 for the tempo but didn’t think I could manage 3 miles at that pace. So I picked a goal that was hard but realistic and went for it.

Do you give up? Pick goals that are too hard? Or are you realistic with yourself? Dreaming big but knowing your limits?

Are tempo runs a part of your marathon training? If not – why not?


  1. Good for you for getting your runs in! I’m a big believer in tempo runs, I think they really help your body get used to running at a faster pace and maintaining that pace for your run.

    I tend to stress about training plans too. If I don’t get enough rest, I worry about hitting my target paces. Maybe I should go with a more adaptive approach like yours. Keep it up!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Though you made some valid points in your blog, you take yourself WAY too seriously. Someone who makes the comment that they would rather run 10+ miles and have someone else watch their kids suffers from extreme selfishness. I enjoy running, hell, I even love it, but I don’t let it run my life. Think about it, when you’re on your deathbed will you wish you had ran more or spent that precious time with your family. Just sayin.

  3. I run tempos as they’re built into the clinic I go to. I definitely need them too – my speed has gone to pot since my last marathon.

    I’m one of those slow too fast, fast too slow runners. That’s why I’m super excited to get my heart-rate/lactate test done this year and finally train that way.

  4. Yes, I try to run my recovery and slower runs very slow and my speed work at top speed that I can handle. I just finished the Winter Triple this past weekend, 3 half marathons 3 days in a row. I finished the first on on Saturday very happy with a 13 minute improvement over my half 5 weeks ago. I ran the 2nd half the next day at a very slow pace with a friend, more than 2 minutes per mile slower. I think that really helped me recover for the 3rd one because I felt good the next day and pushed the pace again. Ended up running the 3rd half marathon 4 minutes faster than the first one!

  5. Mile Posts By Dorothy Beal says:

    Anon – thanks for your thoughts. It takes me less than 1 1/2 hours to run 10 miles. I am a stay at home mom who is always with my kids, so much so that hubby and I have never paid a babysitter to watch them and rarely go out alone with out them. I spend more time with my chilren then I would venture to say most Americans do. When I am on my deathbed I will feel great about the time I spent with my children as well as the many thousands of miles I have run. It is not selfish in any way shape or form to care about my health and strive for goals I set in my running life further I didn’t say that my children had to be awake when someone was watching them. I get up very early saturday mornings to get my longs runs in before they even wake up. :)

  6. I agree with you – tempo runs are SO important. And I just did a post on the fact that I have been doing my long runs too slow – running 20-30 miles is easy for me – and I was doing it at a pace where it was no longer making me faster or a better runner. I am now shooting for 30-45 sec slower than goal MP. We’ll see how it turns out.
    And I agree – it’s tough to not be able to have a set time to run each day – my runs are all dependent on my little guy. When he naps, I run.
    Keep up the awesome work =)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I stand corrected, my apologies. I admire the fact that you’re able to get up early and pull off the long runs, before the family is up and that you’re a stay home mom, too…probably the hardest job in the world. Good for you for managing it all while posting solid times.

  8. You make a lot of great points in this post. I really struggle with my paces, and I think I am one of those that runs every non-long run too fast and the long runs too slow. It’s one of my goals this year to really work on that.

    By the way, I have to believe that anon doesn’t read your blog very much. It’s very obvious how dedicated you are to your children. Um…hello? Running with a triple stroller? Who does that except someone who loves spending time with her kids. :)

    Keep up the great work! You are really an inspiration to me and to others.

  9. I like your take on not having planned training. I always try to plan and it stresses me out more than when I just do what feels right that day. (Although I always plan long run distance as you mentioned.) This makes me feel like I’m not crazy to go about training that way.

    I do tempos sometimes but not weekly – need to get into it and to really challenge myself with speed. I’m super slow and enjoy running, but would like to get faster!

    Also, keep up the great time management and work with running and kids. It’s very admirable.

  10. Most times I’m TOO conservative so i want to change that for 2012. I want to make it more of a point to do my speed and tempo runs on a more regular basis. Right now I’m in “first marathon training mode” so my mentality is to get the long runs in on the weekends, shorter ones in after work, and finish the marathon without wanting to die! I’ve made great strides (no pun intended)in my half marathon times over the past year and definitely notice a huge difference when I focus on speed. If your muscles don’t know how to go fast you can’t expect them to just do it on their own without some guidance.

    As for training plans, I agree with you. They’re somewhat stressful and I think they can set you up for failure. I am loosely following the Galloway and Higdon plans but don’t have it in me to follow them to a tee.

  11. I love your approach! I went through too many days last year with a set “must do this run on this day schedule.” It didn’t work. I would end up exhausted and unable to do what I had set out to or worse, end up injured! I made adjustments and have seen so much improvement in myself. Love tempos and speedwork. Need to work on slowing down on my long runs.

  12. OH MY GOSH. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I ran an awful 8 miler today, and even thought I KNOW that I do this ->”going too fast on their slow runs and too slow on their fast runs,” my pride is getting in the way of me taking it easier on my easy days. I’ve been suspecting for a while that I’m overdoing on easy days and that it’s getting in the way pf being able to hit my times on tempo runs or intervals. You’ve convinced me.

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for such a timely post! You rock my world! :)


  13. Thanks for sharing this! Personally, I find it much easier to run tempos and do the speed work and I don’t do enough slow runs. I guess I need to do some more research and figure out how many miles of each I should be doing. I am my own coach but have much to learn!!

  14. Mile Posts By Dorothy Beal says:

    Hey Tia – do you use McMillans Running Calculator [www.mcmillanrunning.com]. It’s a great tool to help you figure out how slow your slow runs should be.

  15. Mile Posts By Dorothy Beal says:

    For sure if you overdo it on the easy days then you can’t keep up on the hard days :) Excited to see what happens when you give it a try!

  16. katie maehlmann says:

    I do agree that tempos help with speed on race day, but you can also use 5 and 10ks as the speedwork you need for marathons. I say this because I’ve run 2 3:20s and a 3:18 without ever doing a tempo run, just racing shorter distances. Whatever works, right? I’m a stay at home mom of 2 too, so I agree it’s hard to fit it in with all of the other obligations.

  17. Mile Posts By Dorothy Beal says:

    Katie – you can definately use races as workouts and they do help you get faster at the longer distances – but just think if you did tempos how much faster you could get [wink]. That being said I know some runners who have a hard time doing any speed work unless it’s during a race when the pressure is on. Whatever works is totally right!

  18. Thanks for this post! It ties into what I am doing right now. I am trying hard to run slower on easy days and not push myself too hard. But today on my speed day, I didn’t let myself cut out an interval and kept the pace up. I want to push myself hard and I had the same thought, “pain” right now will make me happier on race day!

  19. I agree with the loose training plan. When I see a calendar full of things that I have to do, it freaks me out and I start to dread it. Or I think that is what I started to do last year on my marathon training.

  20. I get really nervous for tempo runs and, therefore, they aren’t my strong suit. Probably why I’m not so good at the marathon…

    I AM really good at running my easy days easy though! :)

  21. I love tempo runs, but don’t get to do them much anymore. I look forward to real training again, instead of ‘just running’. Personally, I think I set realistic goals; but I absolutely hate when limits are pushed upon me. For example, I’m already slowing down due to the pregnancy, and I flat out do not like that…

  22. I do not give up in fact I’m extremely opposite, if I struggle on a run I push harder because I know it will make me stronger. I’m pretty realistic with my goals though because I know I can do a lot more but I want to build up to it instead of jump and get injured. I use tempo runs and I like them, I’m with you on setting up my a plan as I go, I also vary my pace with how I feel too which seems to work good for me.

  23. This is great. I wish I had read it before my run today. I knew i was exhausted and my body could not push. I tried. it was not pretty. instead it would have been better to just rest or go slow.

  24. i need to hire you as my coach!

    and I too would (have!) hired a babysitter so that I could go running. It’s more than just for physical reasons, I am also a stay at home mom and sometimes I need that mental break to help make me a better mom/person! It’s not selfish at all. (and kudos for the anon commenter for coming back to say so!)

  25. I just discovered your blog from Susan’s Nurse on the Run.

    So glad I decided to click over, there is a lot to learn from you!!

  26. Mile Posts By Dorothy Beal says:

    Glad to have you :)


  1. […] clicked through my Google Reader, I came upon fellow FitFluential Ambassador Dorothy‘s post, “My Fastest Tempo Yet: Do You Tempo?”  The following words figuratively leapt off the screen and slapped me across the face, Slapsgiving […]

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