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Sounds simple eh? Well it can be, here’s how…

Going into race week, how often do we pose ourselves questions that we expect to answer during the race itself?  
“Can I last the distance?””What pace should I set off at?” or “How will I cope with the climbs or descents at pace?”

To find out the answer during the race could end in disappointing feedback. Most runners’ weekly training plan consists of steady to easy runs with track and hill rep sessions sandwiched in-between. The weekend could then consist of the race itself and a longer easy paced run. Of course, track, interval and hill rep sessions are a sufficient way in building speed, stamina and endurance, whilst giving a good indication to where your fitness is at.

However, sessions require rules to follow. You or your coach set the guide lines to pursue – you push yourself to your limit and are obligated to stop at a certain distances. You complete the rep, you recover, you go again. Setting off fast, you work hard until you get the gratification of the required recovery that follows. The session ends, the next day you’re back on your easy day to recover and reap the benefits and ready to go again the next day. 

Within any of these sessions, do you honestly learn how you’ll cope under the stress of various race conditions? Can you confidently line up at the start knowing that you can withstand whatever the unknown of the race throws at you? When do we truly ask ourselves the questions of how we’ll cope under certain conditions, different terrains, long straights between long mountainous climbs or technical terrain after steep but runnable descents? 


Described in various ways, from steady state, to lactate threshold, to tempo run, but for this blog, let’s assume we simple mean ‘moving at effort. The point of this session is to learn how you’ll cope under any circumstances. Once the run is complete, you’ll begin to understand where your strengths or weaknesses lie. This can then inform the rest of your weeks training based around the information gained and allow you to form your race plan. 

The 8 mile session is a suggestion and can be reduced or added to depending on the course. Around an 8 mile course will take between 45-60 minutes to complete depending on ability and will give suffice time and distance to see how well you can hold an ‘effort’ over your chosen route.


You should have 4-5 courses in mind that will incorporate all different factors that will test your stamina, strength, endurance, technical skills and work different muscle groups. For example, one run could be a 1000ft+ run that has a mix of trails and fell. Another could be an out and back that has one very steep long drag of a climb. Even undulating road running should be included. All terrains, all kinds of elevations and work at a tempo pace.


Ideally, you should aim to work at around 80-90% of your critical race pace. If you can hold around a 5:30 minute mile pace for 10k, your effort should be around 5.45-6.00 minute mile pace. However, as you’re running over various terrains and climbs, rather than look at pace, learn to work off ‘feel’.

Everyone should know where their red zone is, for the tempo run you should be looking to put yourself on the border between ‘red’ and ‘amber’ zones. Look to run at a constant effort that never quite dips into the red zone, but hard enough that you’re consistently working throughout.


You should learn where your strengths and weaknesses lie – the kinds of terrains that will help you make up for lost time, where to hold back and when to go with the pack. Over time your body will adapt and it will become almost second nature, you’ll become an experienced racer without the years of racing and begin to see more consistent race results because of it. The Tempo 8 Mile Run can be adapted and altered to suit your goal race – add or reduce distance, climb or change terrain and you’ll begin to tailor the session to train your body, system and phycology for your upcoming race.

It will also gauge where your fitness is at, which will help set expectation levels accordingly – very important for mental state, before, during and after the race. Having the session during race week, whilst also nearer the beginning of the week will also give you an indication of fatigue levels, whether you’re feeling fresh or sluggish and therefore inform how you should approach the last few days before the race. This could be to reduce mileage, quicken the cadence or simply just to tick over as you’re already in prime racing condition after months of ‘The 8 Mile Tempo Run’.

About the author

Endurance State Coach, specialising in long distance and trail running disciplines. As an all round runner with a successful background in a variety of running disciplines, from 5k to Ultramarathons. Chris has competed internationally for Great Britain and England in various mountain running disciplines.

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