Heart rates for training runs and races.

My marathon (November) plan says Easy run. How fast is that then?

My last races were halfs in March, April and May. I ran them all just under 2hours with an average HR of 170-172. My max is 192 and RHR is 60. Since then I've done mostly LSRs 10-15miles with average HR 140.

Tonight I ran 10miles in 92mins with average HR 152. So I think the LSRs have worked.

I don't think my half times are relevant now but I get such conflicting paces from McMillan, RW pace calculator and the RW First schedule. Even RW suggest that HR for easy is 123-142.


Where does that leave me with a target marathon pace time/HR? I prefer to work on HR and suspect a sub 4hr is on the cards if I can develop the endurance.


  • Maximum heart rate (MHR) - Resting Heart Rate (RHR) = Working Heart Rate (WHR).

    Training zones are normally 60-70%, 70-80%, 80-90%, 90-100%

    WHR x 60% + RHR = BPM, your easy run shouldn't be less than 139bpm.
    WHR x 70% + RHR = BPM, your easy run shouldn't exceed 152bpm.

    I only use heart rates for training, not racing. Going by your 10miles in 92mins with average HR 152, that made that an easy run, i'd say you'll easilly beat 4 hours. When I went under 4 hrs my half time time was only 1:55, and for 3:41 my half was only 1:49.

    If I was you, i'd carry on as you are, then race day i'd set off at 9 m/m (supposing the race is soon and your pb is somewhere close) no more, no less, then if at 23 miles it feels easy up the pace.

  • Thanks. That's essentially what my thoughts were, just the conflicting paces were confusing me.

    So using WHR 60-70% is easy.

    Sub 60% for LSR makes sense.

    Tempo runs I'm heading up to 170bpm which is 85% so that's all looking good.

    I've a tempo run planned for Friday which will be interesting to see what my pace is now. Initially I was looking at 9:15 for the marathon pace but you may be right.
  • Your HR profile is fairly similar to mine.  My max HR is a bit higher, HR for a half tends to be around mid 170s and I do long runs around 140, easy runs perhaps a little lower.  I would guess you could comfortably run a marathon at an average HR around 160, but there are some provisos.  Firstly, I would expect HR during a race to be higher than in training for a given pace.  (Not exactly sure why, perhaps the effects of the taper plus race day adrenaline?), also different people may suffer from cardiac drift by a larger or smaller amount which will effect the overall average.  (You may want to start out at a lower HR and let it increase later in the race to maintain the same pace.)

    So it's difficult to be prescriptive but I agree with lardarse that from your 10 mile run, you should be capable of running under 4 hours.  You've still got time to experiment before the race.  Why not try some "marathon pace" runs in training, using different approaches to pacing?  Try running according to min/mile pace first of all, then try running according to a target HR, and compare the two.

  • Thanks Phil, I think the email notifications may be down again as I missed your reply.

    Tonight I decided to go for 160-170bpm on a 4mile tempo run. Av pace 8:12 with one mile under 8mins. Av HR 163. Quite a but of undulation as all my runs and races.

    Some very interesting things happening here. Maybe there is a 1:45 half to be had in the new year?

    Some more experimenting to be had and enough time to get some 18-20 milers in. I hope.
  • So I think I'm progressing well. Last Sunday I ran the flatish Perkins GER in 1:57. Averaging 9:00/mile but with the first 4 miles around 8:30/mile (whooops) before settling in properly. Average HR was 168 or 80% WHR.

    My Friday night 'speeedwork' session has been 4 miles getting faster now at just about 8:00/mile.

    This Sunday morning I ran 18miles in 3:19 which is 11:00/mile at average HR of 152 or 67% WHR. Plenty left in the tank at the end, but that seems a high WHR and I suspect it's due to the half marathon last week.

    Two weeks to the marathon. Not exactly sure of my plan for the day, I suspect it will involve aimjing to start at 9:15/mile and getting carried away at 9:00/mileimage


  • Hi TimR. I prefer the simplicity of % of Maximum HR, rather than using Working HR. I've never heard a particularly good explanation as to why this additional complication of using two variables rather than one, is any benefit (but happy to be convinced if anyone wants to give it a try!) image

    Establishing MHR is no mean feat in itself. There are various ways. I did mine in a lab.  Eminent sports coaches like Jack Daniels have published performance tables which reverse engineer ideal HRs into running paces. I strongly suggest you have a look at a VDOT calculator to see what it says - all the theory is written up in the book Jack Daniel's Running formula which is a good read.

    Anyway, I'll stick my neck out and offer these HR zones for different levels of training (the fitter and stronger you are as an athlete, the better your ability to healthily sustain work at the higher end of these zones):
    Racing up to HMs (92-97% MHR)
    Racing in marathons (86-90% MHR)
    Intervals (93-95% MHR)
    Threshold (tempo) runs (88-91% MHR)
    Steady runs (81-87% MHR)
    Easy runs (73-80% MHR)
    Recovery runs (65-72% MHR)

    Hope this is simple enough and helpful. Cheers.

  • Thanks. I'll look at that. First impressions are that they're close to what I'm doing.

    I've gradually reassesed my max heart rate over the last three years. Picking up my current max at a sprint finish on a hilly trail 10k. I really don't think it can go any quicker.
  • Dragging this up again. Interesting to see how I've prgressed this year.

    Unfortunately the wind and rain at Rutland last year put paid to a fast time and I was struggling by mile 13 at slower than half marathon pace. 4:35 in the end. Marshals were being pulled out with hypothermia. Horrible day but I overtook lots of runners in the last 6miles who were in a very bad way. 

    I managed a 1:50:22 at the St Albans half in July and Sunday's 20mile run came in at 3:20. I unfortunately didn't wear my HRM so not sure of my HR. It felt very easy and I easily averaged 8:50/mile in the last mile.

    So a bit more confident if a sub 4:00 at the New Forest Marathon. 

    Thanks for the advice. 

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