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First Marathon - target heart rate?

Hi All - I'm doing my first marathon in Barcelona in early March and am a bit nervous. I'm using this race as a target for getting a good base of training in for the summer so I don't have a target finish time, I just want to finish feeling relatively ok and pyschologically get a marathon 'under my belt' in preparation for going long (eventually). So rather than picking a race pace I want to stick to a target heart rate instead. Got some advice on this forum recently on using heart rate and RPE and now have a rough idea of my pace at different heart rates and the RPE for each, but obviously fine tuning and I was thinking of trying to maintain my heart rate at mid Zone 3 for the marathon(an experienced marathon runner told me the pain should be like a 'nagging toothache', so I think that matches with around there!) . Anybody with experience of a marathon or an IM who's done this who can steer me on this? Too high or too low?


  • I'm currently training for an ultra and then an IM. Z3 is a bit of a no mans lands. Probably slightly too high. I'd look to drop it slightly to mid-upper Z2.

    If your marathon run is the build up to an IM, then could also be worth looking at a run-walk strategy, and start training that way
  • okennyokenny Posts: 231
    unless you are amazingly fit, you are not gonna be able to stick to a target heart rate for a marathon.

    Cardiac drift will drive your heart rate up all the time, a pace giving a pulse of 130 at the beginning will become 160 at the end unless you have a very very good aerobic fitness.
    Have you read Joe Friels Training Bible? Cardiac drift and coupling.

    Base your pace on how you run in training. You should be starting to do 30km runs in training soon. Check how you feel on these runs, look at how your pulse develops over the 3 hours and figure out which pace you can handel. My main problem tends not to be pulse but rather how knackered my legs get. the last 10km can hurt....well if your me that is....
    Hope that helps.
  • jmurt71jmurt71 Posts: 46
    Thanks, will go back and have a look at the 'Bible'. I was kind of allowing for a bit of drift though and that my pace will drop as the race goes on which is why I was looking to try to maintain a steady heartrate rather than a pace - will try out a few test runs at high Zone 2. Have been doing all my LSR's up to now at high Zone 1/low Zone 2 (I'm VERY slow!) and they've been fine but you're right now that I'm building up to around 30k I'm starting to feel it in the legs - guess as long as I rest correctly afterwards that should sort itself out.
    Had considered the run/walk option but not aiming to do an IM this year - aim is to cover all the individual distances for an IM in races/sportives/swims and get maybe two HIM's completed this year which should hopefully set me up physically and mentally for next year - so might look at another marathon next year using that strategy.
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425
    Do you have any HR data from recent'ish road races?

    If so you could consider taking your half marathon HR and setting 95% of it as your marathon target. Use 92% of a 10 mile average.

    If you don't have the data but have a reliable Lactate Threshold figure work on about 95% of that. Bear in mind if you are in training for a marathon you should be doing loads of LT sessions which should raise your actual LT before the race in March.

    Average daily max temp for Barcelona in March is 15.6C with a record high of 24.3C and a record low of 0.8C. Should be ideal running
  • okennyokenny Posts: 231
    just do your long runs at a comfortable pace, relax and enjoy being outside.

    If you run enough and are in good shape you will run the right pace on the day.
    For my first marathon I really wouldn't pay too much attention to HR....
  • jmurt71jmurt71 Posts: 46
    Thanks for all the advice - I know I should just relax and enjoy it, but I love (over)analysing all the stats - guess it's just the techie in me
  • ZacniciZacnici Posts: 1,385
    I like this site, one of my 'favorites', you may find it useful:

    The bit on weight and performance should really motivate me to lose the lard arounf my middle
  • melkmelk Posts: 1
    Are there any target heart rate resources on this site?
  • danny_sdanny_s Posts: 235
    I think you can definetely figure this out and have a good guide as to what you're able to do and hold during a marathon.

    There's a couple things to answer though: If your long distance runs are Zone 1/2, and are appropriately challenging, why would you try and race in Z3? You'd want to build up to doing at least an hour of your long runs in your race pace. I like to go out and run steadily for an hour, then pick it up for the second hour to race pace or race pace + :10, and then bring it back to a steady pace for the rest. Some people recommend the last 2-3 miles above race pace.

    Also, planning on slowing down over the course of the race is generally not a good idea. For your first race, I would recommend trying to keep it split evenly to +3 or 4 minutes, not a significant slow down. If you go out faster than you plan on sustaining, you will run into a world of pain.

    I think training with a HRM for runs over 90 minutes is very misleading, unless you do them for frequently enough to know how your heart rate changes over long times. I will take a look at the numbers when I get home, but don't do anything based on the heart rate while running.

    The only thing is to have a ceiling, above which you know you've got to back off. For me, in a half marathon, if I go above 165 bpm, then I'm going to regret it. For a marathon, its 160-162 for the first 18 miles and then try and hold on.
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