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Heart Rate Monitors And Race Strategies

I highly recommend using a heart rate monitor. Learning to run at correct efforts is very important for workout recovery and fast race times.
One disadvantage of a heart rate monitor is trying to get to the desired heart rate too fast. Learning to use perceived effort in addition to the heart rate monitor will improve you times quite a bit.
I have learned through trial and error what heart rates to use for each race distance. A good rule of thumb is to learn what the corresponding pace feels like and then find out the heart rate associated with this pace.

I try to start each race on the lower range of my desired heart rate and then as I reach mid point in the race I will pick up the pace to the higher end of my heart rate range. I save my all out effort for the last mile of a race.

Heart Rate Ranges for Selected Race Distances

5k Races
90% of maximum heart rate for the 1st mile
95% of maximum heart rate for the 2nd mile
95-98% of maximum heart rate for 3rd mile
100% effort for sprint to finish

10k Races
85% of maximum heart rate for the 1st mile
85-90% of maximum heart rate for 2nd-4th mile
90-95% of maximum heart rate for 5th mile
95-98% of maximum heart rate for 6th mile
100% sprint to finish

½ Marathons
80% of maximum heart rate for 1st mile
80-85% of maximum heart rate for 2nd-6th mile
85-90% of maximum heart rate for 7th-10th mile
90-95% of maximum heart rate for 11-13th mile
95-100% sprint to finish
Marathons
75-80% of maximum heart rate 1st - 13th mile
80-85% of maximum heart rate 14th-20th mile
85-90% of maximum heart rate 21st-25th mile
90-95% or above for 26th mile
95% or above to the finish (anything above 90% will cause extreme pain)

A common mistake when using heart rate monitors is the belief that you must give 100% effort right from the beginning of a workout or race. Learning to use a heart rate monitor and effort based training will actually cause you to train more effectively and race faster.