Heart rate training & my comeback

So here I talk about the reasons we need to run slow and easy to improve


This post is all about improving the pace I can run at an easy heartrate, which for me is 140bpm. Your own number will be differnece based on 75% of your actual (not estimated max) This is a great measure of aerobic fitness, and a healthy reminder that big changes can take a long time.

How has that worked out for me? Well, in the run up to December 2017 I had been intermittent with training but managed to run a 307 flat trail marathon on a bitter winters day. Not my bst but a good indicator of my fitness level. Then, being dad to a newborn kicked in and training went right to the bottom of the priority list after caffeine, sleep, hugs, rocking a screaming ball of dribble, sterilising stuff on repeat and making sure there was always cake available.

I then set about doing some running with a limit of 140 bpm. There was interval and tempo runs too at times. But wanted to make sure there was plenty of lower intensity base miles too.


In the run up to my 2:48 marathon in 2016 I was knocking out 7:45 minutes per mile for a 140-145bpm heartrate (flat tarmac not much wind). This gave me a marathon pace of 6:20 or so with HR at 165-170 rising to 173 in the last few miles. I was also capable of sub 18 minute 5Ks, 36 minuue 10K and 1:20 half marathon at this time.

Comeback begins

As I slowly started back training in May 2018       Here I am averaging 9 min miles for 140 bpm. There was a good headwind in the first half of that run so the early miles are 9:20 and the latter down at 8:40. A really good example of where HR can help you keep an even effort level and forget about actual pace to make sure you are training at the right intensity. felt slow and hard work.

IMG-20180622-WA0000.jpegLate July 2018 and “some training” on no real schedule has got me down to  8:40 miuntes per mile. We had been traveling so there was mix of long walks, cycling, runs all at an easy intensity. There had also been a lot of continental lager, eating whatever I felt like, and close family were noticing I had put on a little weight. I was also not fitting my skinny runner 30” trousers. I had been teaching the nipper to do the plank though.


August 132 miles      and we’re at 8:20 it’s a big gain for just getting active with 3 runs a week. I think the biggest gains are when you go from a period of inactivity to some activity.

September 197 miles    I’m working now to autumn half marathons.

October 114 miles    1:27 (6:40 pace at a half marathon) is still slow compared to my best, but there’s a regular training habit, an a real hunger to work hard again. I’ve always found that over a winter I can turn half marathon pace into my marathon pace if all goes well. So optimistic that a sub 3 is ont he cards if I can stay healthy and get the training in.

November 236 miles     by mid November there is some  7:55-8:20  miles,  the volume is paying off now.

December 187 miles, January 180 miles, February 114 miles

March  198 miles  there some 7:50s in here as I reach a peak for London Marathon. surprised to have moved this so little since November.

April 134 miles. London is a bit of a dissapointment at 3:04. I was ill in the days before hand, and with hindsight I had the fitness for a 2:57, but not the fortune and I’m more than happy to have still pushed myself to the limit I had on the day and not backed off.

May 110 miles. some fun races and trail runs.

June 155 miles. 140bpm is getting me 8:00 – 8:15 have I really detrained that much? I think I’m actually still improving and hayfever as well as higher HR to deal with cooling int he summer may be at play here.

July 210 miles.  7:45 – 8:00

So, I’m getting close again to my best ever pace for 140bpm. Running is feeling really good and I’m managing 50 mile weeks. I’m not exhausted, not getting ill regularly like I have done during hard training in the winter. This is the first year I’ve focussed on running through the summer (and not ridden my bike) with no months under 100 miles. Im feeling mentally fresh and ready for a consistent set of training weeks through to Malaga marathon in December. I have some autumn half marathons that will show if these training numbers actually convert to race performances!

I’m optomistic of a 1:22-1:24 half marathon in Ocober if I can keep this up. And then, deep breath, there is an opportunity to train for a spring marathon PB. Whether I want to actually do that I will deal with once I’ve got the half time! Life as a working parent is very different to when I was able to sustain 200 miles a month. I’m finding new ways to run consitently and not have it impact on family life as much as it did. The post long run day out is now something I can handle! I used to spend the rest of the day ont he sofa, but can mow walk 5 miles with a big rucksac. The first few of those were harder than most interval sessions I’ve done.

Most importantly I need to remember why I run when planning goals. I run because it makes me feel good. I love getting out in nature (and industrial estates with good company), it relieves stress, helps me manage mental health and allows me to indulge in more ice cream than I should. I do want to be quicker, yes, but I identify as someone who loves running these days not someone who can run a certain speed which I was guilty of in the past. That said, I get a kick out of improving my times and there’s nothing wrong with that.


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