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What should your heart rate be during a 5K race?

Maximize your performance by favouring heart rate over pace in the first few kilometres

Photo by: Kevin Morris

Whether you are running your first 5K or your 50th, it can be tough to gauge the pace on the first couple of kilometres. If you are coming from a more experienced running background, you are generally aware of where your pace should be for the first couple of kilometres, but it is still possible to go out too fast and expend too much energy early in the race.

It’s easy to get out too fast as your body feels at its best in the early stages of the race. Instead of focusing on pace for the first kilometre, try to pay attention to your heart rate. 

During the first two kilometres of a 5K, you should be between 80 and 90 per cent of your maximum heart rate. To calculate your maximum heart rate zones (which can vary on age and health condition), subtract your age from 220. For example, a 30-year-old will generally have a max heart rate of around 190–therefore your heart rate should be between 152 and 171 bpm for the first couple of kilometres to ensure you don’t burn out. 

Runners will often use a 10 to 15-minute pre-race warm-up to get their heart rate up for a short race. The idea behind this is to make the transition easier to reach higher heart rate zones early on. 

Many things can affect your heart rate, such as the temperature outside or the clothing you wear–if you are overdressed for the temperature, for example, your heart rate will be higher than if you are comfortably cool. 

Why we race.

There’s no need to look at your heart rate on your watch for every second of the race, but try to take a glance at it as you hit the first and second kilometre markers.

If you can be within your heart rate zones for the first two-to-three kilometres, there is a higher chance of having a negative split or stronger finish over the fourth and fifth kilometre.