Marathon Series with Tom Hamilton – Tempo and Threshold Runs

Published: 13 Jun 2023

Marathon Series with Tom Hamilton – Tempo and Threshold Runs

Boost Your Running Performance with Threshold and Tempo Runs

Running is a fantastic way to stay fit and active, but if you’re looking to take your running to the next level, incorporating threshold and tempo runs into your training routine can make a significant difference. These specialized training runs can help increase your lactate threshold, enhance endurance, and improve your overall performance. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of threshold and tempo runs, how to find your lactate threshold, and how these runs can help you achieve your running goals.

Understanding the Lactate Threshold

Before diving into the specifics of threshold and tempo runs, let’s briefly discuss the concept of the lactate threshold. When you run, your body produces lactic acid, which gradually builds up in your bloodstream. Once you reach your lactic threshold, your body can no longer rely solely on aerobic metabolism (oxygen) to produce energy, leading to an increase in lactic acid production. Excessive levels of lactate can result in fatigue, exhaustion, and muscle pain, ultimately hindering your performance.

Threshold Runs

Building Endurance and Speed: A threshold run is a training run performed at a steady, relatively high-intensity pace. By training at or near your lactate threshold, you can enhance your body’s ability to clear lactate efficiently, allowing you to run faster and for longer durations. Here’s how you can find your lactate threshold:

  1. Heart Rate Calculation: Your lactate threshold is typically around 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. Most GPS watches nowadays can calculate this for you, making it a convenient option for monitoring your training intensity.
  2. Experienced Runners’ Pace: For seasoned runners, the lactate threshold pace often falls slightly faster than their average pace for a half marathon. It serves as a helpful guideline to gauge your threshold intensity during training.
  3. Perceived Exertion: Although less scientific, you can estimate your lactate threshold by feel. A threshold run should feel comfortably hard, challenging enough to push you but still sustainable throughout the duration of the run.

Tempo Runs

Sustained Comfortable Intensity: On the other hand, a tempo run is a training run performed at a controlled but comfortably hard pace, slightly slower (10-15 seconds per kilometer) than your lactate threshold. The goal is to find a rhythm that you can maintain for a more extended period, working on both physical and mental stamina. Here are some benefits of incorporating tempo runs into your training:

  1. Improved Endurance: Tempo runs help boost your overall endurance by challenging your body to sustain a faster pace over an extended distance.
  2. Increased Efficiency: Regular tempo runs make your body more efficient at clearing lactate, delaying the onset of fatigue and allowing you to maintain a higher intensity for longer periods.
  3. Enhanced Performance Indicators: Tempo runs can increase your maximum heart rate and improve your VO2 max, which translates into better cardiovascular fitness and performance gains.
  4. Fatigue Reduction: By training at a comfortably hard pace, tempo runs help your body adapt to the demands of sustained effort, ultimately reducing fatigue during races and longer runs.
  5. Marathon Time Improvement: The combination of increased endurance, improved lactate clearance, and enhanced efficiency can contribute to better marathon times, helping you achieve your goals on race day.


Threshold and tempo runs are powerful tools that can elevate your running performance and take you to new heights. By incorporating these training runs into your routine, you can increase your lactate threshold, boost endurance, and achieve faster and more efficient running. Remember to find your lactate threshold through heart rate calculations, experienced runners’ pace, or perceived exertion. So lace up your running shoes, set your training goals, and enjoy the benefits of threshold.

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