10k heart rate question

At the weekend I ran in my first 10k for a long time.  I wasn't sure what pace to go for so I thought I'd use heart rate instead.  My target was to stick to about 165bpm until 6k mark and see what I had left for the last 4k.

I started towards the back of the field and ran steadily for the first couple of km...at the sort of speed which felt like in training would have yielded a heart rate of around 165.  My monitor was showing 170 and I attributed the small difference to race day excitement.

I felt good and kept going...the next thing I was overtaking a few people and my heart rate was up at 180.  This gave me a dilema as I felt OK but wasn't sure if I could keep this rate (close to my theoretical maximum) going for another 7 or 8 km.  When I say I felt OK I mean that it felt tough (beyond comfortable but just about sustainable...maybe...if that makes sense)

Anyway, to cut a long story short I did keep it going untikl the end and I was very happy with my race...I finished in 46mins...a personal best.

Anyway my questions are: 

(1) Is it normal to be running for so long at what I thought to be my maximum heart rate? 

(2) Is this actually what I was doing or is it likely that I have a higher maximum heart rate than I thought I did?

Some background facts

- 42 years old male / heavy-ish (14stones) / regular but not too serious runner

- run 3-4 times per week (1 track + 1 x 70 mins long slow run + 2 or 3 slowish 40mins)

- never use HRM at track but try to keep HR around 150 for my long slow run and 160 for others

- up to now I've not seen my heart rate much above 180 and that's running fast-ish (for me!) up a long  



  • We can't really answer any of your questions unless you can tell us your measured maximum heart rate.  I suggest you go and do a max heart rate test then come back.

  • fat buddhafat buddha ✭✭✭
    most people never know what their max HR is as they never attain it - so what you have seen is what your thought your HRmax was isn't!

    theoretical and practical maximums can vary quite a lot - the old 220-age for max HR isn't that good a guide.

    if you want to see what your max is, find a nice short steep hill - run up and down it about 5 times at max exertion until you're nearly sick and then check.

    10k races are balls out events for most and many run them at a much higher HR than in training - that's what brings results!
  • I'm one year older and average 180-185 for that distance. But as the others have said without knowing what your real max heart rate is, figures don't really mean much.
  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    Did you take a note of your actual maxHR during the race itself?  I'll wager, if you were balls out towards the end, it's probably not too far off your actual max and will make you realise that your theoretical max simply does not apply.

    Having said that your actual max may be even higher than you think.  My max is around 200 and I run my long runs at around 145 - 150.  160 is what I'd call 'high aerobic', i.e. getting towards marathon pace, which is around high 160s to 170.  I'd run 10Ks at around mid 180s.

  • Lamb Chop - well done on your pb. Good running there.

    It sounds like you have slightly under estimated your max HR. From what you say you seem to have paced the run about right. As others have said it would be interesting to know what your max HR was during the race - assuming you hit this just towards the end and collapsed over the line that would be close to your actual max HR. If you cruised across the line then your highest reading is probably a little lower than max HR. However, I think you have established your benchmark effort level for 10k. If I understand how it works, more hill reps and intervals etc will allow you to run the next one at the same effort level but faster. image

  • Was it a hot day? That can definitely make a difference to your HR level. Mine is always faster when it's hot.
  • Thanks for the replys guys.

    Hmm this max HR test sounds painful but I'll give it a go...not right now though I've just had my lunch.

    The day was hot for sure...early Saturday afternoon in central Holland...was around 35 degrees C.

    OK, a first for me I have just installed my ANT agent and training centre software to give some actuals (or at least actual readings).

    • 0-7 mins: HR climbs from 135 to 180 bpm
    • 7-30 mins: at or around 180 bpm
    • 31-34 mins: big double spike first to 207 bpm then down to 191 bpm then up again to 224 bpm (maybe here I got passed by local women's running club?)
    • 34-42 mins: back down at 180 bpm with standalone spike of 211 bpm at 39 mins
    • 42-end (46:55): quite sporadic for the final push max 227 min 197

    Having done this it is clear to me that either (1) my HRM (Garmin FR60) is horribly inaccurate or (2) I don't really conform to the 220-age model.

    Thanks for the contrats Gyraffe...I am quite chuffed with the time...which my watch reminds me is 46:55 and not 46 mins.  Still a personal best though.


  • Lamb Chop - those spikes could be caused by static. I'm pretty confident my own max HR is around 189 bpm but get spikes in the 220s regularly - especially when wearing technical clothing, cycling into the wind, or in range of cb radio or similar. You could have a very high max HR but you wouldn't really expect spikes like that when running as hard as you can.
  • 220 - age is a notoriously unreliable way to "calculate" HRs anyhow.  I do HR training and using that method would give me a max HR nearly 30bpm less than my actual max HR, obtained at the end of a bust-a-gut session, which had me nearly image with effort.

    If you're going to use HR, then I'd suggest that you find a particular system and use that, taking appropriate readings, otherwise if it's just 220 - age, then I'd forget it.  And certainly don't worry about comparing your HRs from the race v the figures based on the 220 - age calculation.

  • Yes Gyraffe, the first 2 spikes (double spike at 31-24 and single spike at 39) look like outliers on the graph.  I cannot recall a big effort going in at these points.

    The finishing 5 min burst from 42mins to the end while choppy averages out at 213 (min 197 max 227). This coincides with what felt like my biggest effort.  I would be more inclined to link these values to effort.  I am very surprised by the 220+ values but I can understand how I never saw them on the day...I was totally Donald Ducked!

    Jeepers, I have read people's comments about the accuracy and utility of the various models but had always assumed that it was there or there abouts for me.  Will look into it some more and will definitely try (1) the max HR test suggested above and (2) trying a different HRM.

  • The thing is the 220 stuff is based average population.
    So if you looked at the distribution you'd get something like below

    Where the centre point represents people who fit bang on 220, and either side people who vary from this. As you can see most people vary from the central figure.
  • If you're getting spikes like that then if it was winter I'd suggest that you weren't warmed up and so weren't getting a proper contact with the chest strap. In that kind of heat however it's highly unlikely that you weren't sweating enough to make the contact, so I'd suggest that either you don't have it tight enough, or that it slipped down and you adjusted it or something like that, thereby causing the spikes.
  • Who here has actually done a Max HR test and what sort of hellish experience was it?
    (Speaking as someone who is a real wuss for any type of speedwork).
  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭
    Fido2Dogs wrote (see)
    Who here has actually done a Max HR test and what sort of hellish experience was it? (Speaking as someone who is a real wuss for any type of speedwork).

    I have and - in my experience - it just doesn't push you as hard as you can push yourself in a race.  If we're being honest there is always another gear we can shift into if needed, and I find I'm willing to let myself hurt a lot more in a race than for any kind of one-off session or test. Hence I clocked high 180s during a max HR test but I have regularly hit 190s and up to 200 at the end of 5k - 10k races.

    IMO the max HR test is all well and good for someone who wants to get a better initial estimate than the guess-work of the 220 minus age formula but I do think that anyone who races regularly is likely to clock higher HRs when they really push themselves.

  • I have done a max test a couple of times but probably not quite max enough.  Both times came out at 195/196.  I've seen 195 at the end of a 10k race with a hangover before so I'm happy to use 196.

    It's not pleasent to do the test.  Funnily enough, it's easier to do when you're not particularly fit.  Not that I'm advising anyone to do one who has never done any exercise of course.

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    Another thing about max HR tests - I believe the idea is to have a jog warm up then run up a hill three times like a mad thing.  No matter how hard you try I'm not sure you're spending enough time getting the heart up to anything like its maximum potential activity. During a 10k race my HR typically rises very quickly over the first k but then continues rising for the same pace, until a final push when I can eek out another few beats, if I've got anything like a sprint finish in me.  It's only after this sort of effort that I've approached the highest HR I've ever seen. 

    Or compare it to an interval session where HR obviously dips between each effort but the max HR for each rep rises slightly each time.  I don't think  3 'reps' of a hill after a gentle warm-up are enough to get near the zone.

    ..so that brings me back to my personal recommendation for a max HR test: a RACE.  image

  • I haven't done a specific max test, but in a race, came out at 191 max and at the end of either sprint after LSR or speed sessions have clocked around the same figure, so it's sufficiently consistent for me to feel happy using it in my calculations.

  • I always thought it was 5 or 6 hill reps, expecting you to peak on the penultimate one?  Anyway, a race aint a bad way of doing it.
  • I'd use the race as your max HR.

    I'm very similar to you, in as much as I'm 40, and I recently did a 10k PB of 46:50.

    My max HR peaked at 193BPM as I crossed the line (but I am a sprint finisher, and there were plenty of people to overtake in the last 400m)

     Averages for the mile splits were: 

    Mile 1 = 7:02 = 168bpm

    Mile 2 = 7:27 = 177bpm

    Mile 3 = 7:50 = 178bpm

    Mile 4 = 7:51 = 179bpm

    Mile 5 = 7:57 = 180bpm

    Mile 6 = 7:28 = 183bpm

    Mile 7 (actually the last few hundred metres) 1:13 = 191bpm

    You can see from those figures that a) i need to work more on consistant pacing, b) 220 - 40 = 180, which is not very accurate for a peak HR, and c) that (IMHO) you need a longer, sustained hard effort to really get you max HR. Hill reps could do it, but I would think they need to be reasonably long.

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