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What is Lactate Threshold Running Pace?

What is Lactate Threshold Running Pace?


Many coaches feel that it is the best measure of endurance running fitness. It is recognized by Ironman University as the ideal way to calculate run training zones for an athlete. This metric serves as a valuable benchmark, assessing aspects of both speed and endurance. LT offers insightful feedback on your performance across distances ranging from 5km to the marathon. In this blog I am going to talk about the concept of lactate threshold running pace and testing options for finding your numbers. The significance of knowing your lactate threshold running pace lies in three key areas:


*it serves as an indicator of your current running fitness.

*It enables the establishment of pace-based training zones.

*Test results can be applied to predict your time or pace for various other races.


Understanding Threshold Running Pace

Threshold Running Pace represents your best average speed in a 60-minute race. It serves as an estimated marker for your lactate threshold running pace – the point at which lactic acid in the blood is building faster than your body can get deplete it.  Fortunately, determining your threshold run pace doesn't involve the need for blood samples, although I have seen that done in a lab setting. Engaging in workouts at your lactate threshold pace enhances your capacity to sustain higher effort levels over extended durations. When integrated into a progressive training plan, threshold training emerges as a powerful method to enhance your running performance.

 How do you arrive at your lactate threshold run pace?

1. It can be done in a lab setting on the treadmill as part of a VO2 Max test. You simply start by walking on a flat treadmill and the speed and incline slowly increases. Your lactate threshold can be seen on the screen where your body is producing more and more lactate without being able to rid your body of it. There is a lactate threshold HR that I use from this test to calculate your training zones

2. You can also do this test at the track at no cost. This involves a 30-minute solo time trial on a flat course without any training partners. Why avoid training partners? When running in a race setting with others, the natural inclination is to push oneself harder. This solo 30-minute test aims to mirror the intensity you might experience during a 60-minute competitive race. To gauge your average pace during this trial, use a GPS watch or smartphone. Begin with a 10 minute warm-up accelerating to a tempo that you feel you can sustain for 30 minutes. Start your phone or watch timer and maintain your fastest consistent pace throughout the entire duration. Essentially, run at the speed you believe you can sustain for the entire test. Once the 30-minute test concludes, stop your timer. (See instructions below.)


Post-test, review your average pace (heart rate) across the entire 30 minutes – this becomes your new threshold running pace. In some cases I have found the track test to be more accurate than the lab test.


From here I will look at Ironman training zones and calculate your Z1-Z5 for run. It is a good idea to re-test about every 6 to 8 weeks as your fitness level increases. For bike zones, it is best to use a power meter and calculate your FTP (functional threshold power) but I will save that topic for another post.


Have you thought about hiring a coach for your next iron distance event? Click the purple button below and fill out the short form for a free 15 minute chat with Mary.

Mary Timoney

Ironman University Certified Coach

USA Cycling Coach

ACSM Trainer



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