Has anyone ever run a race purely on the basis of their heart rate?

15 messages
16/11/2012 at 11:14

I've never done this but I've been reading up on using HR for pacing in races and I don't see why it wouldn't work. Like you say, the HR can give a good indicator of what state your body is in and therefore what effort you should be putting in. I would definitely consider it in the future after I've followed a HR based training plan which I'm planning on doing once I get rid of this hip bursitis!

Have you read 'Heart Rate Training for the Compleat (not a spelling mistake!) Idiot' ? It explains it all pretty well.

16/11/2012 at 12:21

I've done all of this HR business over 20 years ago.

The HR is just HR. Which is an odd thing to say if it wasn't for the fact that the condition of your leg muscles has a significant bearing on the numbers.

Race example 1. This was a 5 miler for which I hadn't had a lot of training for. Start of the race felt easy with HR at 195 bpm. This was due mainly to adrenaline.

As the race progressed, my leg muscles became more and more tired, my pace dropped, and the HR went progressive downwards to 173 bpm.

A last burst to the line managed to get the HR back to 191bpm.

Years later in an effort to avoid a fast start I used a monitor again in a race.

Result was that to avoid blowing up I had to hold the HR at 173bpm or less. 175bpm was into oxygen debt. After around 10 minutes of running I found I could hold  a higher HR at around 176/177 bpm, but not at the start.

Its a significant fact that as you get older, the HR becomes slower. Since its the heart which pumps oxygen around the system, and the more oxygen to the muscles the better, it stands to reason you run slower.

cougie    pirate
16/11/2012 at 12:26

I used to time trial on bikes to heartrate. I find it less useful when running.  Especially marathons. The only time I used my HRM for one - it wasnt very helpful. You get cardiac drift - so the HR rises as you fatigue.  I'm guessing this may be the case on half marathons too unless you're well trained.  So you could find yourself getting slower as the race progresses. 


16/11/2012 at 12:53

Hi David,

If I was you I'd be mentally prepared to underperform on the day by relying just on heartrate. Startline adrenaline and race nerves will no doubt have you starting at a higher BPM than your body needs, so you'll likely run the first mile forcing yourself to run too slow, trying to keep your heart rate at 160BPM.

Hills are another factor. Even at a slow pace a hill can really bash your heartrate up. If you were to keep your pace matched to heartrate you could end up really slow on the hills which could decimate your race time.

I find heartrates fascinating, but I only use the monitor for training runs, speedwork or time trials.

I'd only advocate your strategy to a novice track runner (5000m or 10,000m) who can't be trusted not to start too fast, who has a history of blowing up in races.   

16/11/2012 at 13:32

Why would you want to - as jamie said the adrenaline and race nerves will  raise your heartrate - ditch the heart rate monitor and run as you feel.

As a little anecdote, a former club mate of mine took us from a medal postion in third place to 12th on the last lap of the county relays because he chose to run to his heart rate - (didn't go down at all well)

16/11/2012 at 14:32

ooh, this reminds me of the film Speed
it could be a whole new type of race
everybody hooked up to heart monitors and if you go over a certain level you're disqualified!
I'd pay to see that


16/11/2012 at 15:20

Wasn't funny to the rest of the team!!!!!!

16/11/2012 at 15:24
DazTheSlug wrote (see)

ooh, this reminds me of the film Speed
it could be a whole new type of race
everybody hooked up to heart monitors and if you go over a certain level you're disqualified!
I'd pay to see that


Shouldn't that be if your HR drops below a specified level?

16/11/2012 at 15:40
K80 wrote (see)
DazTheSlug wrote (see)

ooh, this reminds me of the film Speed
it could be a whole new type of race
everybody hooked up to heart monitors and if you go over a certain level you're disqualified!
I'd pay to see that


Shouldn't that be if your HR drops below a specified level?

either would be good

16/11/2012 at 19:34

Sure I have and it has allowed me to hone down my marathon pb until I got a Boston qualifier finally at age 55. I run the first third of a marathon at 81%, second third at 85% and the final third at 89% or as close as I can get to that.  Plus for the first 2 or 3 km I take it easy at 79%. It's espcially useful for hilly courses or trail marathons.  It is based on the googlable Marco method for marathons. I find it very satisfying for the latter parts where I am always overtaking people. It lets me put energy in the bank, not time, which is a better strategy. It makes sure I run a slight negative split-half, which is also often advised.

16/11/2012 at 20:36

I am the man that Jamie Newton describes above; I get carried away and blow it. I find working to a HR a great strategy especially in a hilly event. But what HR to stick to? It has taken me a few years to perfect the technique and am still not 100% convinced that I would not be better to learn to 'feel'. But I have various heartrates for different distances  which would be specific to me and different for everyone. Definately DO NOT try this for the event on Sunday; remember -Nothing new on race day-  if you can, record your pulse rate and look at it when you get home. In time you could learn to interpret the results and use it to good effect. But not by Sunday. One good reason to 'feel' and not  use tech is that tech goes wrong and gets left at home, locked in the car etc. Good luck for Sunday!

16/11/2012 at 20:43

You could always wear the HRM, set the watch to not show the numbers and analyse the results when you get home.

Blisters    pirate
16/11/2012 at 23:49

I always train and race with a HRM. However, it is primarily used to gather data, and to give me an indication of what's happening. Being 50 means peak HR is around 170. Here are some scenarios:

-I was late for a 5 mile race, abandoned the car and got to the start line just as the gun went off. HR at the start was already 120 from pure adrenaline.

-On a HM or mara it takes me 3 or more miles to reach equilibrium. The body cools quickly, but is warmed slowly by the working heart. It's just like your car, really. Once there I will monitor that a cruising HR of 145 is maintained. If I over cook the hills in the early stages it means I'm going to be short of reserves in the last 6 miles. I'll try and keep below 150. If I can get up to 160 in the tail of the race, that's good.

-There's a maxim out there, that says that the optimum marathon race is run at 85% WHR. Now this is more art than science, because every angle is an approximation related to empirical data analysis. Should the correlation be with WorkingHR or MaximumHR? Is your maximum HR figure truly accurate? Are you trained up to optimum condition to be able to say that all previous data in the analysis equates to your current physical condition? What would happen if you decided to push for 86% MHR? What about the effect of climatic conditions?

-There are benefits of HR monitoring during a race. But it's not a tool to use to control your pace, it's a reactive measure, like trying to wag a dog by its tail. Choose a pace based on experience, Run that pace and see what the HR says. If it's a hot day the HR will be too high and you then have the chance to ease off before it's too late. Moderating by 10s/mile in the early part can save 1 minute per mile at the end. On a short race you may realise that your HR says that you still have more gas in the tank. It's a boost to help you mentally gun for it when you feel at the max already.

17/11/2012 at 01:16
Sorry, but why don't you just run ? Do you ever feel like you are comlicating it ? If you feel ok at half way push on, if you don't then you can't. I love my garmin but at the end of the day it's me doing the running. I
17/11/2012 at 05:50

The main thing a HR monitor reveals is my advancing age. 

The engine just doesn't rev as fast as it used to.

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