Running a Marathon with a HRM

I've read lots of advice on the forum stating that you shouldn't race / run a marathon with a HRM - well I ran berlin marathon on Sunday with a HRM, having trained with it for the last year, and it was brilliant. I did the first 2 miles at 60-65%, then stayed at 75% until the last 5 miles when I stepped up to 80% for the last 5 miles. I've had a few injuries and a cold for the last 3 weeks so it really helped with the pcing. I mantained near-perfect pace the whole way deviating from 10min 35" miles by only a few seconds according to the 5k split times on the web-site. I finished really strong and according to my biased husband anyway looked much stronger going over the finish than most others I was finishing with. I love my HRM anyway, but now I'll never hear another word said against it!! I said before I'd never do another marathon, but I'll definitely do another, I know I can do under 4 hours next time!

Happy running!


  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Good point and well done. A marathon is the only event I would now use my HRM in, for exactly the reasons you stated.

    When is the next time?
  • Well, planning to get pregnant soon so realistically year after next. I'd love to do London, as the atmosphere sounds incredible. I am from Edinburgh however and that's June so that could be on the radar too. After doing Berlin it'll have to be somewhere special!
  • my favourite sort of cross training!
  • Great result Furryness. I used my HRM for Blackpool Marathon and for other 1/2M - it really does help to keep me to pace. I usually keep in the zone until the last 2 miles, then switch off the beeper and just go. As you say, after running with one, you can finish feeling much better than most of the other runners. Doesn't seem to work so well for races under 1/2M for me - didn't do as well at the GSR as i hoped.
  • A cheeky question (& not tooooo serious), will you be using the HRM for the cross training?
    Also, from the male perspective, would Mr Furryness be using the HRM?
    Good Luck with the outcome of the cross training! It's a fair while ahead but it would be good to know if / when there was 'news'.
  • Glad to hear of your success with HRM at Berlin, and well done btw! Now I used my HRM at Windsor and I’d welcome some comment.

    I have used my HRM to dictate the intensity of various training runs since I started training in May. I guess I get a bit obsessive about tracking performance but I’ve been plotting average HR vs Pace for all constant speed runs over a variety of distances (4m to 15mile) at a variety of paces (7:10 to 9:30) and I calculate the trend relationship for runs/races across every couple of months. Basically this shows me I’m getting fitter (lower HR for same speed).

    Now in the 4 weeks before Windsor I clocked 2 10k’s at 7:15 pace averaging 174. My trendlines suggested that to reach my target 1hr40 at Windsor I should be running at 169HR. nb the standard pace/distance formulae also suggested a 45 min 10k runner should be able to do a 1:40 1/2M. I have completely ignored all articles/recommendations which give HR targets for races, preferring to rely on analysis of MY performance capabilities.

    During the race (after my planned slow start) I focussed on my race pace based on the (dubious) markers allowing my HR to fluctuate as we went up and down hills. Out turn was 7:45 pace at avg HR of 172 - 87%WHR/91%MHR (and I was dead beat at the end). Up to mile 10/11 I was able to manage the effort with control - shedding HR on the down hills (to say 166) and raising HR to 179/180 on the ups; after that point I was stuck at ca 174/175.

    What were my conclusions:

    Heat/hills at Windsor – can’t accept it as all my runs races involve more hills than Windsor and several have had as much heat.

    Dehydration : Possible explanation for last 2 miles but I was consistently high all day

    Overtrained: Unlikely - I’d tapered in a way I’d never done before

    Wrong performance model: I think this is the case. Distance and pace are important in combination at the edge of the performance envelope. Presumably this reflects lactic acid build-up and tolerance. Thus in 10K’s I build up LA and finish saturated. At Windsor I built up a little slower but saturated at around the 10/11mile mark. Thus I’ve just confirmed that a good shape for a wheel is round and granny can now suck eggs competently, and I’ve probably proven to myself that Ron Grover was right

    Next steps: More training to raise the aerobic threshold and lactate tolerance and to read up a bit more on elementary physiology.

    Would I wear the HRM in future : absolutely, helps me manage the start and is a good reference, but not a bible.

    Interested if others have had this experience or could arrive at different conclusions.
  • On the question of using HRM for "cross training" I'm afraid I would embarass myself with how high it doesn't go! (oops, hope hubbie doesn't read that one!) I have had to print sfh legs question out to go away and think about it, but rest assured when my brain is in gear I'll be back with a thought!
  • Just read an interesting article - - with regards to this:

    Three studies from an international conference on the use of heart rate monitors, recently published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, reported that heart rate during racing is substantially higher than during training at the same pace. One study, from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, found heart rates measured in a 10K race to be 20 BPM higher than while training at the same speed; during a marathon the rates were 19 BPM higher than when training at marathon race pace. The researchers write, “The heart rate difference could not be explained by differences in running terrain or added psychological stress.” I looked up a 1995 article that found the same phenomenon; there the authors speculate that “increased sympathetic arousal in the races” accounted for the difference. This suggests that the excitement of racing accounts, at least in part, for the higher heart rates. The upshot is that using training heart rates to select race paces will lead to slower-than-anticipated race times. As a result, you could end up racing up to 20 seconds per mile slower than your pace at the same heart rate during training—and that could turn a planned 2:37 marathon into a 2:46!
  • I think this makes sense intuitively, but I don't think it was my experience, but it was difficult to tell as I was about 30" per mile off the pace, but then had a cold, had only run 3 times in 3 weeks and had had a majorly stressful time at work flying off all over the bloody place, so I'll stick with the HRM for racing for now.

    Happy running!
  • The controversy rages on but I'm glad you found it worked for you Furryness. I think for beginners it is a very good way of pacing yourself and be confident about not going out too fast. I imagine most beginner marathoners are more concerned about avoiding the wall than getting a particularly fast time. Like you I used mine during my first marathon this year and came in spot on the time I had trained my long runs at losing only 3 mins in the second half. When I looked at my position relative to the rest of the field according to the split times I had improved by several thousand between 10K and finishing. Whilst my time was nothing remarkable (4.08) I took this as a sign of good pacing for my level.

    I guess if you get experienced with racing you can allow for a higher HR or develop a good pace judgement without one.
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