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Training & advice

Threshold run

What is a threshold run? The simple answer is that it is a run carried out at an intensity or speed just below where your body would not be able to get rid of the acidosis that builds up in your muscles. You can only run above that pace for a short amount of time before you start to feel like you are running through treacle. This is why threshold runs are very important for road-runners - especially half marathon and marathon runners as you should aim to complete most of that race just below this critical level.

A rough guide to your threshold pace is your ten mile race pace; so if you work out your average time for each mile in a ten mile race it will give you an approximate threshold pace. If possible you should also look at your average heart rate for that race, so that you have both heart rate and pace to guide you on your threshold runs.

How much threshold running should be put into your training programme? The answer to that is ‘a lot’, but there also needs to be sessions run at other paces too. There should be some faster running and some very easy running. Both of these play an important role in your preparation for your target race.

Threshold running sessions come in various guises. You could do some threshold running within a steady run. It could be something like a six mile run with the middle three miles at threshold pace. It could be a lactate shuttle session with 400m sprints just above lactate threshold followed by 400m just below, or it could be long repetitions such as 4x2km or 5x1 mile.

Listening to music whilst carrying out these sessions can help you to settle into the right cadence for the pace you need to hit. You should work out how many steps you take in one minute at your threshold pace and then find tracks with the same Beats Per Minute (BPM). Please note that you are matching your PACE with BPM and not your heart rate, as your heart rate will be higher. It is important that you realise this and don’t try to match BPM with heart rate or you will be running at an intensity that is far too high. You can use your heart rate as a cross reference to check that you are running at the right pace. For example your threshold pace may be at a cadence of 166bpm and your heart rate could be 174bpm.

The average runner should be looking for tracks between 160 – 170bpm for their threshold run.

Some examples are:

160bpm           Kaiser Chiefs                          ‘I Predict A Riot

                                                                        ‘Everyday I Love You Less And Less

                        OutKast                                  ‘Hey Ya!

                        Frank Sinatra                           ‘Mack The Knife


163bpm           Queen                                      ‘We Will Rock You

                        Green Day                               ’21 Guns

                        Muse                                       ‘Unnatural Selection


166bpm           The Manhattan Transfer          ‘Baby Come Back To Me

                        Depeche Mode                        ‘Barrel Of A Gun

                        The B-52’s                              ‘Private Idaho


169bpm           Arctic Monkeys                      ‘When The Sun Goes Down

                        Billy Idol                                 ‘Rebel Yell

                        Billy Joel                                 ‘The Longest Time

Once you’ve established the BPM you need for your threshold runs and found the tracks you want to download, you need to make up your playlists according to the session you are going to run. 

If it is three miles at threshold pace you will need 20 – 30 minutes of music at the same BPM according to your pace. 

If it is a lactate shuttle run you will need to alternate the tracks just below and just above your optimal BPM. So if your BPM is at 163 and you need to alternate tracks with 166bpm and 160bpm, then go out and run a few miles adjusting your pace according to the beat of the music. 

If your session is long you may want to have the music playing continually with slower tracks for the recoveries. A session could look something like this:

Maroon 5 – ‘This Love’                                  Warm-up (94bpm)                   3:26

Foo Fighters – ‘Everlong’                               Increase warm-up (158bpm)   4:09

Scissor Sisters – ‘Laura’                                  First rep (184bpm)                  3:38

Maroon 5 – ‘Makes Me Wonder’                   Recovery (118bpm)                3:31

Simon & Garfunkel – ‘Mrs Robinson’            Second rep (184bpm)              3:50

Lady GaGa – ‘Poker Face’                             Recovery (120bpm)                3:57

Black Eyed Peas – ‘Imma Be’                        Third rep (184bpm)                 4:17

Michael Jackson – ‘Billie Jean’                       Recovery (118bpm)                4:52

Mary J. Blige – ‘Family Affair’                      Fourth rep (185bpm)               4:25

JoJo – ‘Leave (Get Out)’                                Cool Down (88bpm)               4:04

So now it’s over to you! Go out there and look for those tracks that make your threshold sessions more enjoyable and exhilarating. We would love to hear your selections