Double Dip

After a slightly disastrous 10K at the end of the year, I contacted my old tempo running buddies. Convinced that my lack of tempo running had been the cause of my lackluster performance, I decided that I needed to resurrect the weekly tempo runs that we had done in the past. We’re starting up on Monday.

Of course, it’s always easier to run hard in a group, but yesterday I took the opportunity to see what I could do on my own. I bailed out of 5:30am track on Wednesday when I just wasn’t ready to face temps in the teens, (I know, huge wimp out) and then didn’t get a chance to fit the run in later in the day. So Thursday I decided that I was well-rested enough, having not run since Monday, to attempt my first tempo in a while…and my first double run day.

Why the double run? Many elite runners double-up, running two workouts in one day. In my interview with Elite Masters runner Malcolm Campbell, he mentioned that he’s able to complete much tougher workouts by splitting them in two. The positive effects of doubling were recently discussed in a Running Times article, Strategies for Doubling. The general wisdom is that doubling enhances recovery and even increases adaptation. How? Well, according to Running Times, running two shorter workouts doesn’t fatigue your body as much, ensures plenty of fuel stores, and utilizes fatigue-resistant slow-twitch fibers. Recovery is aided by increasing bloodflow twice in one day and by the increased human growth hormone your body produces. Adaptation comes from activating the genes that cause desirable changes for a greater total amount of time, creating a sustained pressure on adaptation. And, because your second workout is performed in a pre-fatigued state, you are able to “access different muscle fibers that you might not normally train, or to push slightly more into the depths of glycogen depletion than would be normal. As a result, you get a slightly different stimulus for adaptation.”

My tempo run was the one I find hardest: 1 mile warmup, 3 miles @ 7:07 – 7:12, 1 mile cooldown. I usually let Bill drag me through this one. I figured it would be a good test of my fitness…or lack thereof. On my route the first of the three tempo miles is downhill, so it’s usually relatively easy to hit the target pace, so I always try to go a little faster. I hit that mile in 7:05. The second mile is a long, gradual uphill, and it’s always a struggle to maintain pace. Last time I did this run I managed a 7:15 on this mile. I pushed hard, with a headwind trying to slow me, and managed 7:09. The final tempo mile starts on an uphill and I was disappointed to see a 7:30 pace on the Garmin at the beginning of this mile. But there’s a nice downhill immediately after that, and I managed to peel the pace down to 7:14 by halfway. The last half mile has a couple of small climbs and descents, but having succeeded in the first two miles I really didn’t want the last one to let me down. I rallied in the last quarter mile for a final pace of 7:07.

I had to stop for a minute because I felt like I had just raced a 5K. Pure exhaustion. And that lovely feeling like you’re going to throw up any minute. Then I jogged home. I think the key to a tempo run is that you have to look at each mile separately. If I thought about having to run 3 miles at that pace I don’t think I’d make it. But I only think about keeping pace for the mile I’m running. It’s a mental trick, of course, but one that works for me.

My second run of the day was an easy 4ish miles with the running club. We started out with a 9:42 mile that just felt way too slow. I was hanging out with the group and reminding myself that this was supposed to be a recovery run, but I just wasn’t comfortable running that speed. We picked up the pace to a 9:11 for mile 2, then an 8:36 for the 3rd mile, and an 8:26 for the fourth. I felt comfortable and relaxed the whole way, and my legs weren’t sore at all.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t have some tightness today, but for a first double I think it went well, and I’m looking forward to doing some more of these!

Here are some suggested doubles from the Runner’s World article Double Duty:

A.M.: 3 to 4 at easy aerobic base pace
P.M.: Interval workout (e.g., 6 x 800)
PAYOFF: Provides extra aerobic work without fatigue, gets blood flowing through muscles

A.M.: 4 to 5 miles at easy aerobic base pace
P.M.:4 to 8 miles at a conversational pace
PAYOFF: Improves running economy (how efficiently your body uses oxygen), boosts weekly mileage, and provides a good fitness base

A.M.: Long run; or 5-K or 10-K race
P.M.: 2 to 3 miles at a conversational pace
PAYOFF: Increases blood flow to muscles, flushes waste from muscles, and speeds recovery


  1. This is great information… sometimes I double up because of my schedule does not permit me to do a long run all at once…it’s nice to know that I am still getting the same benefits.

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