Running pace vs. heart rate - What to do about a slow pace with a fast HR? (Read 98 times)


    I'm a 44yo M OCR/trail runner. I've been doing trail runs and OCR (obstacle course racing) for 5 years. My HR always seems to run a bit faster than other athletes close to my age. I've compared my results to other athletes around my age who are getting better results than I.
    athlete #1 Maintains a ~9:45 pace with an HR around 140-145. He had a race pace for a 5k OCR of 8:19, and spent most of his time 172-188. He won the race.
    athlete #2 Maintains a ~8:20 pace with an HR 135-140
    athlete #3 Maintains 6:40-7:00 pace with an HR ~160. At the same OCR listed with athlete #1, this was his race pace.
    athlete #4 Maintains a low 7:00 pace with an HR in the 140s

    me: Averaged a 14:40 pace with an HR 180s up to 195 by the end.

    Bear in mind, for an obstacle race, this is their time with the obstacles. So their running pace between obstacles is considerably faster.


    At a 12:00 pace I hover around a HR of 160. If I get up around 10:00 pace my HR gets close to 170. I recently did a mile time trial. 7:06 was my time and my HR was 200 the last quarter mile, pegging out at 204.  I cannot come close to their pace for any sustainable distance because their 5k race pace is my all out sprint pace.  I could understand if I this was my first season, but I've been training consistently for 5 years.

    I practice good running mechanics (midfoot striking), breathing, and have worked with a nationally known running coach on my form. I don't run with a stimulant-loaded preworkout. And spend 80% of my runs in the aerobic zone (145-160) going an easy 11-13min/mi pace. My volume: 10-20 miles a week, plus some biking. I train in the heat and on trail. My max distance is 15 miles. My shorter runs (2-4 miles) usually have some intervals in them unless it's a recovery run. I feel like I'm getting in enough cardio to improve, but maybe not?

    (2019: I consulted a cardiologist to make sure I didn't have any cardiac problems. He didn't note anything significant. We tried a med for a little while but it didn't help).


    What do I do? I feel like I can't be competitive. These guys are running fast with a low HR. I can't even keep up with them and I'm gassed. Do I need to stack on more volume?


      1st - different people have different Max HRs. For example, my Max HR is 193. But my friend's Max HR is 161. Our personal records are very similar - he is a little bit faster at shorter races (he is also 10 years younger). What I am saying - higher HR doesn't mean you are slower.


      2nd - why did you decide you can compete with some runners? I know many runners whom I cannot compete with - they have both, higher Max HRs and lower Max HRs.


      3rd - you didn't say anything about your training. You also didn't say anything about other runners training. What I mean - if I just started running after long period of inactivity (several months), I could run 9 minutes per mile pace at ~155 bpm heart  rate. 5-6 months later I would probably be able to run 7 minutes per mile pace at heart rate of 150. I am the same runner, with the same Max HR, but training makes a world of difference.

      paces PRs - 5K - 5:48  /  10K - 6:05  /  HM - 6:14  /  FM - 6:26 per mile

        Run more.  Ask athletes 1,2,3&4 how much running they do - I'd bet it's more than 10-20 miles per week.

          Yes, training makes a huge difference but there's also the fact that some people are just plain better runners than others and that comparing heart rates between different athletes makes no sense at all.

          Runners run

            I will agree with all of the responses so far. And I would especially concur that running 10-20 miles per week with a long run of 15 miles is not a great volume nor is it a good balance between shorter runs and a long run.


            Also, you did not mention anything about how often you are experiencing injuries, colds, burnout. And you mention that you feel gassed. I expect you may feel tired a lot. If so, it sounds to me like you are running low weekly volume with a relatively high overall intensity.


            Perhaps it is time to look at your aerobic base, or lack of.


            I would suggest that it is possible that your HR is running so high because you have, over the years, trained your body to run that way by running too hard all the time.  You say that you spend 80% of your time running at a HR of 145-160 plus you are throwing in some higher intensity intervals. If that is correct, it is entirely possible that 145-160 is too high for you right now because you could actually be bumping into your anaerobic threshold without yet having fully developed your aerobic base. At age 44, to train exclusively aerobically, you probably would need to do ALL of your training volume at a HR of around 126-136 until your aerobic base is established. If you can train at that HR range for about 400 hours over the coming year (roughly 8 hours per week with a stepback week of 5 hours per week every fourth week), and try to have at least two 2-hour run days each week, you should after a few months start noticing that you are getting faster at this lower HR. Then, once you get your aerobic system fully developed, you can return to the 80/20 method and you should find yourself running much faster with far less effort. Also, if 8 hours per week is too much to fit into your schedule, you can run fewer hours per week, but it will take you longer to reach 400 hours. And by the way, if you have to slow down to a walk in order to maintain the lower HR, then so be it and walk. In fact, early on you may have to do a lot of walking. There are no shortcuts to aerobic base building. Workout with your targets being expressed in time spent on your feet at low HR rather than miles run for now. But ultimately, once your base is well developed, you will still be doing 80% of your running at HR 126-136. But you will now be faster at that HR and after most of your runs your will feel like you could go out and do it all over again if you wanted to.


            And finally, if you start seeing good results sooner than 400 hours, than all the better. You will be faster, you won't feel as tired, and you will be running consistently month after month without injury. But without a solid aerobic base, everything else is going continue to be much harder.


            Here are some links that you can refer to. If you will take the time to explore them thoroughly, you will see this in a different light.










            This stuff really works. So good luck and wishing you well.

            I intend to live forever . . . or die trying.

              Also if you have a smaller heart it has to pump faster to get enough blood to the muscles. This is why women usually have a higher heart rate.

              55+ PBs 5k 18:36 June 3rd TT

              " If you don't use it you lose it,  but if you use it, it wears out.

              Somewhere in between is about right "