Optimum heart rates for racing

Hello everyone, just a question about heart rates. I know they say the optimum training HR is between 60%-80% but does anyone know what advised heart rates are for set race distances? I would presume for example that a half marathon would have a different on to a 10K.



  • I think my Half Av HR is about 88% of max.
    Reckon my 10k would be a little bit higher, but its probably all very personal. If you're not used to running that hard, you won't be able to do it.

    I tend to go on effort more than HR myself.

    So 5k - flat out
    10k - slightly less than flat out
    Half - fast
    Marathon - steady

    Really useful eh ? ;-)
  • I run 50 miles a week and have been running nearly 2 and a half years. I have 37 min 10k PB and 1.24 Half Marathon.

    My problem is my mind is weak when I race these days and I lack the mental power that used to make me a better runer. Although on a treadmill I can run a lot better as I set the speed and then keep to it as for obvious reasons I cant lose concentration and slow down whilst on the treadmill.

    If I can work out the heart rate thing it would be similar and staying within the set HR parameters would help me a lot until I can rebuild confidence as a runner again.

  • Mark - what about doing a race with milemarkers on - so you know whereabouts you are with your PB and so every mile you get a check ?
  • I like Cougie's classification, but I question 'flat out'. This implies (at least, to me) 'as fast as you possibly can'. But doesn't this mean sprinting?

    Now you can't sprint for 5000 metres, so it's back to the original question...
  • OK - it was a bit tongue in cheek - but its pretty much flat out. To me anyway.

    What I want to know is, how come I can run a marathon non stop, but if I want to get home in a hurry I can only manage about half a street before I'm puffed out ?
  • As for the mile marker proposal I would no more rely on the mile markers in the average race than national rails timetable although Sir Rodger Bannister would have been proud of me in the Brighton Super heroes 10K last year as I broke his record during one of my mile splits.

    The running a few blocks thing whilst late for work happens to me to. I put it down to the extra weight and reduction of free movement from clothing and baggage. Also you are resisting the run too as you really dont want to be doing it and feel uncomfortable and focus on the negitivity.

    Anyway I guess as for the heart rate question I will just have to race a 5k as hard as I can and see what rate I consistantly hold. Perhaps a VO2 max test would clear things up for me? Any ideas how I can test this?
  • The following rates may be of some help it was taken from "Heart Monitor Training for the Compleat Idiot" by John L Parker.
    one mile 98-100%, 5K 90%, 10K 85%,1/2 marathon 80%, marathon 75%
  • Thats interesting Cat - cos I did a 10k yesterday which was as hard as I could possibly have run (I think!) and my heart rate was 182 i.e. 85% of max.

    So there may well be something in that formula...
  • Well thank you very much I will now try this out and see what happens.

    I thank you all for your help
  • I find it so hard to keep my marathon HR down. Maybe I'm still under trained for it, but my HR just drifts in the second part of the race.
  • Well the heart rate can race a lot especialy in a marathon. Its all down to dehydration and the less water you have the lower blood volume.

    That means the blood gets thicker and the heart has to work even harder to transport the same amount of oxygen.

    It happens to us all as I dont think its possible to hydrated in a marathon. I even notice it in a 10K.
  • My max HR is about 188. I do 10Ks at around 170, which is around 90%. To be honest, 85% of MHR on a 10K would be far too slow for me!
  • those figured from Parker are Working HR not Max HR, and are for less experienced runners.
  • Please can someone give me some guidance!

    I am training towards a half marathon in a couple of months time, and I am aiming for 1hr 30.

    Now, I currently run 8 miles at about 1hr 28 minute half marathon pace, with a HR of 153 average. Its steady at this rate through the distance, so my plan is to just up it about 1 mile per week, if I can. I run hills once a week and a long slow run at the weekends.

    I'm a bit worried that I am pushing too hard here - using the 220 minus your age (I'm 43) formula, I am looking at running for 90 minutes at 88% of max.

    Anybody help me?


  • I've just bought an HRM, but obviously haven't got it set right. I tried 3 miles as a test at a fairly good pace (for me) and apparently I spent all but 1 min above 'the zone'and a lot of it at 100%. recorded Ave 157. max 169. How do I work out my targets? The 220-age thing is way off for me as I'm 52 (female)and 55ish resting rate. There must be more to it than that?
    I am trying to increase my pace, or rather maintain it for a 1/2 marathon, not just 10K.
    Can anyone help please?
  • The 220 minus age thing is about as reliable as the BMI scale ie very little.

    What you need to do is work out your maximum HR yourself. The best way is to find a nice hill thats long and steep and do reps up it. You will really need a HR monitor as you cant really count 190 beats per minute. So check your heart rate before you start then you need to run up the hill 3 times as hard as you can. Then take a 1 minute standing recovery and do the 3 reps again. Take your pulse.

    This should be your maximum heart rate or as close as you will get.

    Also when I say do it as hard as you can I mean pace it for exhaustion at the end of the 3 reps, 1 minute recovery then total exhaustion at the end of the 2nd set of 3.

    As for "the slow one" you are training way too hard. I am 28 and run 50 miles a week minimum and I do not go outside 145-150 BPM as a steady traing run. My maximum HR is 195.

    Since you are 43 I would guess that your threshold is at least 10 beats per minute less than mine. I run a half in 1.24 and 10k in 36.

    So according to the books which I go by you need one 90-120 minute long run a week, either hill reps or tempo run on tues, reps of 8x3 minutes - 4x6 minutes (or inbetween) on a fri or sat and 2 or 3 steady paced (65-75 BPM) runs of 45mins to an hour with the remaining 1 or 2 days off.

    You need the steady runs to be solely in the areobic zone and not creeping outside. The idea of the steady runs is for your body to recover from the hard anaerobic runs whilst still building stamina.

    It seems to be the best way to do it as believe me I have tried lots of ways and got myself into terrible states.

    Well I know I started the forum to ask about heartrates but since I have learnt a lot in the last few days I may as well pass it on so any questions I will try to answer.
  • Thanks Mark. I'll give the hill reps a try - I live at the top so won't have to stagger far home to recover! Hang on a min, how long is long? in mins perhaps?
  • Hi Mark,

    thanks for that. Sorry for the stupid question, but what's the "aerobic zone" and anerobic mean?

    Oh, I assume you mean 65 to 75%, not bpm?

    cheers, nick
  • Ah well done you spoted the deliberate mistake 65% not BPM. In basic terms Aerobic means running whilst using a direct oxygen supply from the lungs

    Anaerobic is about 80% upwards of your maximum and comes from stored oxygen in your blood and musles. For example you can run 100 metres whilst holding your breath and the time should not be much different to when you are breathing.

    If we did not have this ability to store oxygen then we would not be able to run faster than 80% max full stop. This is because oxygen used directly is just not concentrated enough to create that level of performance due to the intence effort of being in that anaerobic zone. The single greatest thing holding a runner back is the ability to transfer oxygen in the blood and deliver it to the musles that is what you are training to improve above all.

    The idea of long steady runs (aerobic) ie 75% max heart rate is to get your body strong to begin with and be able to cope with the length of runs that you want to do. Once you reach a certain level of fittness its all about pushing the threshold of your aerobic fittness. For example you can never run in the aerobic zone above 80% max no matter who you are but you can certainly run faster and faster every month inside that zone by gaining fittness of the aerobic nature. The more you raise this level the faster and faster you will get and on top of that you will have extra ability still to get faster from anaerobic speed sessions on top of that.

    In a race like a 10k you use about 95% aerobic and 5% anaerobic but dont let the 5% fool you its still important as for me having no anaerobic fittness and on the other hand having peak anaerobic fittness can be a difference of 3 minutes or more in a 10K.

    The aerobic fittness is a long hard process of improvement with lots of long runs. But the anaerobic is where you have the power to make a big difference withing a month or 2. This is why you do speed reps, hill reps and tempo runs etc.

    One important point is that you should only start doing this kind of training when you feel that you can comfortably do your target milage on a weekly basis in the aerobic zone. You need a good base or if not there are a few problems that can occur like injury or (as i experienced) the bottom falls out of your running and you end up a good 400 metre runner but your stamina fails.

    There will be no problem so long as you have a good base and you maintain it whilst doing the next phase of training.

    Well I hope I answered your question but feel free to ask anything else.

  • Oh yes answer to Scriptor,a long run is 25-30% of your overall weekly milage ie 40 miles a week overall would mean a 10-11 mile long run.
  • thanks Mark, but I actually meant how long for your suggestion to find my MHR - "The best way is to find a nice hill thats long and steep and do reps up it." We have some pretty long hills around here! so, a couple hundred yards, half mile....? or in minutes?
  • Oh yes how silly of me to miss out the main part of the equasion. The reps should last a minute each. Any less and you dont get the heart rate high enough any more and you get tired and your heart rate goes down anyway.
  • Thanks again Mark, I'll have a go tomorrow.
  • Heart rate in races is a poor guide as adrenaline etc have a big effect. I remember some research done that suggests there's little, if any, variation in heart rate between distances in races.
  • I've followed this with interest...like slow runner I have been using an HRM recently (lucky enough to have been lent An S725 for a few months image(but that's another story)) and have found that naturally,  I have been running at an average 154/158 BPM.

    I measured my MHR against a half-mile long, two-hundred foot high hill about halfway through a nine-mile run and It came out at 184 BPM. We do have the longest hill in the UK sea-level to 2300 feet in six miles, which is a very nice runimage but I figured pushing myself up the little one after a good few miles would give a fairly accurate result. I'm 44 and have been running for about three months now.

    This means that without meaning to (without HRM) I have been naturally running at about 80/85% max Heart Rate.I'm hoping to do a half-marathon in the spring and have been looking at the traiing plans and they all recommend running at 60-75%MHR. Im already doing 10+ miles at weekends and 6-8 miles before work every other day, do I have to do slower runs?image

    I feel that it will be harder for me to run slower...does this make sense to anyone? image

  • Hello Angus and welcome to RW

    It will be harder at first to run slower mainly because your body is used to the pace/rate you currently run. But with patience and peserverence you will get there. Don't expect instant results

    You have a few good advantages on your side you are a relatively new runner so you will continue to make improvements for many years, but you have to train smart.

    Yes do the slower runs but not all at the same pace mix it up a bit but  do keep the majority of your runs at an aerobic pace. We are in the season now where most peple build their pace lots of aerobic runs with perhaps once a week anaerobic session, fartlek hill reps etc

    You seem to have built up to a few miles already that looks good. Do this and come spring time i can see you running a good time for your half

    You have to be careful not to do too much fast stuff, as this can invite injury you don't want that Once you have built a big enough base for you you can add faster stuff. But don't be in a rush to do so you can get by and run good enough times for a long time on pure aerobic work

    Sorry i've been rabbiting on Any further questions just ask

  • Thanks for the encouragementimage

    Every answer seems to bring out more questions...but I'll keep asking until I understand, that's usually my wayimage

    If running at my present effort (80/85%) gets me nine-minute miles; how will running at a lower effort rate (60-75%) help me to improve my time? I guess I'm thinking I'd like to be able to run seven/eight minute miles: too ambitious maybeimage

    Ah...just read Mark McFarlanes last post...aerobic fitnessimage

    I think I'll give it a go...longer, slower.

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