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What Heart Rate Percentage to Run a Race at

by Paul
(Dublin, Ireland)

I have been following your programs starting with beginners program 3, then 10k and am presently doing the half marathon training program.
I haven't competed in a race yet.






I try to go by 'perceived effort' as well as my heart rate monitor, but do not really have enough experience to tell my pace by feel alone - some days my runs just feel easier, and other days they hurt like hell!!

So I tend to try to stick to the target heart rate zones more than anything - just working at the higher end of the zone on the days I feel better.

Anyway - my question is, when I do compete in my first race, what heart rate zone should I 'race' at? If I were to guess I would start in zone 2.5 for first 10k, then build up to zone 3 and finish last mile or so in zone 4?

Also, I assume that an intensity strategy would vary between different race distances?

I guess that with experience I will figure this out for myself, but I just don't want to end up spoiling my first race by going too hard, or being disappointing with a time below what I am capable off. So any general rule of thumb would really be appreciated.


Answer by Dominique:


Hi Paul,
Thanks for your question. Great to see that you are doing my running programs! First Beginners Running Program 3, then the 10k Running Program and now the Half Marathon Running Program.

You don't know how happy it makes me to see that I can help people go from running only a few minutes to running a half marathon!

About running races... running by heart rate is a good strategy for your running workouts, but hardly ever works when you do a race. The excitement of the race is often enough to make your heart rate a little faster than usual, also see my heart rate monitor-page.

In races it is generally best to run even or negative splits, i.e. run each and every kilometer at the same pace, or even start off a little bit slower to then run faster towards the end.

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That is so tough. It is so easy to go out too fast when you are trained and fit and feeling well. So it requires a lot of discipline and learning how fast you are going. Which gets better with experience.

It is best to do a few "tune-up" races before you run your big race. You are training for a half marathon now. Probably enough time to run the half marathon in Dublin on 25 October.

If that is your goal race, see if you can get into a 5k and/or a 10k race and use these as test races. You'll get used to the excitement of a race and your race times will give you a good idea about your goal time for your half marathon as well, simply use my Race Conversion Calculator.

If there are no convenient tune-up races available, try to do a few goal pace sessions. They will help give you a good idea about your abilities.

So whatever it takes, get a rough idea about what your abilities are. Then when it comes to race day, especially if you want to do a longer race like a half marathon, start of easily and control that pace.

Get Marathon Training Secrets Now
and...
KILL Your Next Marathon

Marathon Training Secrets eBook


For more race advice, check out my page about running races.

Hope this helps and get racing soon. It is a fun part of running!
Cheers,
Dominique

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