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The Difference Between Tempo Vs Threshold Runs

The Difference Between Tempo Vs Threshold Runs

You've probably heard the terms "tempo runs" and "threshold runs" thrown around, but what exactly are they, and what's the difference?

If you're on Strava, you've probably scrolled past many runs from your keen running mates with either of these terms. Running lingo can be weird, but it doesn't have to be complicated. Let us explain these terms for you.

First, what is a running threshold?

Your running threshold is like your body's redline, the point where you're pushing it to the max before hitting the wall. The threshold is the pace you’re running at which you’re producing more lactate than your body has time to clear it. Most runners can figure that their threshold pace is equal to a pace they could race at for 50 to 60 minutes.

Tempo runs are all about cruising just below that threshold. You're not quite hitting the redline, but you're definitely pushing it. Tempo runs, also known as lactate threshold runs, are your ticket to building up that endurance and speed. You’re maintaining a steady pace that's just a touch below your lactate threshold, that point where your body starts to produce more lactate than it can clear.

By running at this sweet spot, you're training your body to clear lactate more efficiently, helping you push harder and faster without hitting that dreaded wall. 

It's not an all-out sprint, but it's definitely not a stroll in the park either. Tempo runs challenge both your body and your mind, teaching you to push through discomfort and keep those legs churning.

For a tempo run, let’s say your threshold is around 5 minutes per kilometre. You'd start with a cruisy warm-up, then hit around 5:30 - 5:45  per kilometre for a solid chunk of your run.

Now, threshold runs, they're a smidge different. Threshold runs dials up the intensity a notch.  You're running smack bang at or just below that threshold, which helps your body get better at dealing with lactate buildup.

You're teaching your body to handle higher levels of lactate without slowing down. It's like training your engine to handle more revs without overheating, balancing on that edge between comfort and discomfort.

But hey, that's where the magic happens! If your threshold's at 5 minutes per kilometre, you'd do a warm-up, then spend a good stretch of the run clocking in at around 4:50 minutes per kilometre.. You're literally teetering on that redline!

Why and when you should do a tempo / threshold run?

Building tempo running and threshold running into your marathon training plan (or just general training plan) provides multiple benefits. These include:

  • Boosting your overall endurance
  • Allowing you to generally run at a faster speed for longer
  • Making your body more efficient at clearing lactate
  • Potentially increasing your maximum heart rate
  • Increase VO2 max
  • Improve ability to shake muscular fatigue
  • Ultimately improve your running time + speed

So there you have it, a breakdown of what a tempo / threshold run is! Hopefully you’ll take this new-found knowledge and add it in your training regime. Give it some time and effort and we’re sure you’d be setting all kinds of new PB-s in the future!