There’s a lot of confusion about what threshold running is, Some people think it’s just about running fast; others believe it’s about running at certain speeds.

There is an element of truth in both of these, but threshold running is about exercising at predetermined heart rates that are a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

Knowing your threshold running pace is valuable for three reasons:

  • It indicates your current running fitness
  • It can be used to create pace-based training zones
  • Test results can be used to predict your time or pace for other races


This session is meant to be run as fast as possible while remaining entirely aerobic (in other words, the body is replenished with as much oxygen as is being used during the activity – at no stage will the body go into oxygen debt).

Accomplishing this is often difficult because it is not easy to tell whether you are running entirely aerobically. In fact, it can feel extremely hard, particularly if you’re slightly under the weather and, consequently, struggling to reach your usual heart-rate zones.


[Photo :Michael Lokner]

If all that sounds too scientific, don’t be alarmed. You don’t need to step into a sports science lab to calculate your maximum heart rate – and, subsequently, your threshold levels (although this does produce the most accurate results). But it might be helpful to own a heart-rate monitor. These can differ significantly in price, but, at their most basic (and cheapest), they will tell you what your current heart rate is.

Threshold Running Pace is the gold standard measure of endurance running fitness.
It’s a useful yardstick because it measures elements of both your speed and endurance. It provides you with useful feedback on your current form across all distances from 5km to a marathon.

Threshold Testing

  • Do a 30 minute solo time trial run on a flat route.
  • Start with a warm-up of 15 minutes easy jogging (nothing faster than your 5km race pace)
  • Begin the 30 minutes time trial. Press start on your phone or watch timer and run at your fastest consistent pace for 30-minutes (running at the fastest pace you think you can maintain for the entire test)
  • After you’ve completed the 30-minutes test, stop your timer.
  • After the test is finished, look to see what your average pace was across the entire 30 minutes.

This is your new threshold running pace.

Threshold training


After knowing your threshold, it is important to work on improving it. Your heart rate should be set about 5% below your known threshold. Threshold reps can be anything from five minutes up to a sustained run of 25 minutes (unless you’re an elite athlete, We wouldn’t recommend anything further than that). So you might mix and match during any one week, completing a session of 4 x 5mins with a short recovery and a 20-minute continuous run.

If possible, precede each threshold with an easy recovery run. It’s also worth checking your threshold every eight to six weeks.



  • Improved speed endurance over 10km upwards
  • Speeds up marathon pace.
  • Stamina to run strongly towards the end of a distance event.



Some example sessions


  • 4 x 5mins with 60 secs recovery 
  • 3 x 6mins with 60 secs recovery
  • 3 x 8mins with 90 secs recovery
  • 2 x 10mins with 60 secs recovery
  • 5 x 5mins with 60 secs recovery
  • 1 x 20mins
  • 3 x 10mins with 90 secs recovery
  • 2 x 15mins with 90 secs recovery
  • 1 x 25mins

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