Ah, tempo runs. The runs where you expect all of your training and hurting and fatigue to show you, to prove to you, that your hard work is paying off and that you can sustain your goal pace for more than four minutes.
Will I tell you how to produce a great, rewarding, properly-paced tempo run? No, but I will give you step-by-step instructions on how to ensure that it’s terrible.
Step 1 (to be completed 48-72 hours prior to tempo run): Tell yourself it’s going to suck major ass and that you will fail at it.
This step is best completed while runner is positioned on a flat surface: bed. As you try to fall asleep, continually stare at the ceiling and think about how you’re going to hate your tempo run. You should also make sure you have a firm understanding that you will fail at your tempo run.
If you cannot find relaxing bed in which to perform step one, it can also be performed during any fun or relaxing activity: Getting a massage, spending time with friends or family, walking your dog, and more. Ensure that you’re fully enjoying yourself so that you feel the full effect of useless negativity.
Consider the following terrible, useless mantras to ensure you’ve properly completed step one: I’m not ready for this. I’m not strong enough for this. Why do I even try when I know I can’t do it? I’m going to suck at this. I swear to God, If I don’t do this right, I am dropping out of my race.
Step 2: Place your GPS watch on your arm in a way that ensures you are able to look at it even when you tell yourself not to.
During your tempo run, you may think it’s best to simply push yourself forward, with confidence, and speak to yourself in an encouraging way. You should avoid this. In order to make your tempo run as difficult as possible, you should continually stare at your GPS watch to the point that it begins to affect your form.
Here are some signs that you’re properly performing step 2:
- The arm on which you’re wearing your watch is mostly still, rather than propelling you forward. Your arm should be still when looking at your watch, and if your arm doesn’t remain still for nearly your entire run, you’re failing at step 2.
- You run into people or step on debris while on the running path or road. You should not look ahead! If you look ahead with your chin up and with confidence, you’re not looking down at your watch. A benchmark goal with step 2 is forcefully running into someone.
- You use the pace on your watch to judge how you feel rather than physical symptoms. Don’t feel like you’ve reached lactate threshold pace? Who cares! If your watch says you’re running at a pace at which you should have reached lactate threshold, assume you’re fatigued and start walking. Physical symptoms tell you nothing, obviously.
Step 3: During your run, assume everyone else is running at least 6 times faster than you are to ensure you feel bad about yourself.
Remember that person on the running path that slowly ran ahead of you? You should assume s/he is a 4x Boston Marathoner, who won every time, and who also completed an Iron Man the day after each Boston win. It does not matter if s/he was running by you slowly; your goal in this step is to assume that you’re a terrible runner in comparison to everyone else.
To begin step 3, briefly break the stare at your GPS watch and identify any runners around you. Look at their stride and try to identify if they’re sweaty. Assume that said runner is moving faster than you, has better form than you, and probably just began running two weeks ago – but can already beat you.
COMMON QUESTIONS REGARDING STEP 3
- What if the person isn’t sweating?
- Assume that they’re so great at running that it’s effortless, unlike you.
- What about walkers – do we pay attention to them?
- Absolutely. Run next to them, awkwardly, to compare yourself and realize that their walking speed is close to your running speed.
- What if we actually are faster than other runners? Do we fail step 3?
- You are not faster, so don’t ask me this ridiculous question.
STEP 4 (to be completed immediately after tempo run): Stop the GPS watch, identify that your time is 4-7 seconds off from your goal pace, sit down, and cry.
It’s important that you don’t spend any time telling yourself that you tried really hard and are almost at your goal pace; that’s detrimental to completing all of these steps. Instead, you should find a quiet area at the park where you can cry over a trivial difference.
OPTIONAL: If you want to add physical anguish your mental anguish, skip your pre-planned cool down/recovery jog. Throbbing legs go perfectly with throbbing sinuses from crying.
STEP 5: (to be completed within 24 hours after tempo run): Jump to extremes and consider canceling your appearance at your race.
After resting and having some time to think about your tempo run, the last thing you should do is put it to rest and tell yourself something lame like “I’ll get it next time – I just know it.” This is the time when you should be seriously considering if you should even run the race for which you are training.
Asking yourself some of the following questions may aid you as you begin step 5:
- If I can’t handle this pace at ___ miles, how can I handle it at ___ miles?
- Why should I even run this race if it’s just going to be the same time as my last race? There’s no use in doing it if I’m not going to achieve my goal.
- I’ve been broadcasting on social media that I want to hit the time of ___ and I obviously won’t be able to. I should drop out of the race, delete my social networks, and delete myself from the running community.
I hope that these steps help you completely ruin your temp run in a way that ensures at least 72 hours of insane mental beatings that shouldn’t occur in the first place.