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Using RPE in a race
Using RPE in a race

Do you have a trail or hill race? Or just fed up of being reliant on your watch to pace you? Check out our tips on racing to how you feel.

Steph avatar
Written by Steph
Updated over a week ago

The typical way to run a race is to work out your target pace, practice this in your training and use this to guide you on race day. Providing you opt for a realistic target based on your training and fitness levels (you will be given an estimated target from Runna), then it is an effective way to run and you are more likely to hit your goal.

But what if you don't have a GPS watch, your race isn't on a perfectly flat course or the weather is terrible on race day? Or have you ever thought that being bound by a certain pace, might be limiting your potential? This is where racing to RPE (rating of perceived exertion) comes in. Before reading the following information, we would recommend that you firstly check out our article on understanding RPE here if you are unfamiliar with RPE.

How to race using RPE

A key thing to note with any race is that your effort level should build throughout the run. The start should always feel easier than the end and therefore we would expect your RPE tonbuild throughout the race. Lets be honest, we are probably going to feel like we are close to a 10 (flat out, maximal effort) on the RPE scale by the end of a race. We will be working our hardest to get to that finish line as fast as possibly can!

For shorter races (10k or less) then we would expect the effort to feel harder from the get go, compared to a longer race (marathon or ultra). At Runna, we suggest using a RPE range for your race and have outlined some targets below.


Start at a RPE of 7, building to a RPE of 8 by 3k, giving it our all (RPE 9-10) for the final 2k.


Start at a RPE of 6, building to a RPE of 7 by half way, pushing to a RPE of 8 by 8k and giving it our all for the final 2k.

Half Marathon

Split this race into 3, starting at a RPE of 5 for the first 7k, pushing to a RPE of 6 from 7-14k and giving it our all for the final third!


Split this race into 4 start at a RPE of 4 for the first 12k, 12-24k moving that effort to RPE 5, from 24-36k cranking up the effort another nudge to RPE 6 and for the final 6k giving it everything to push to the finish.


This will depend on the distance of your event but you want to start a RPE of 3-4, and build the effort similarly to that of a marathon. Divide your race into 4 or 5 and crank up that effort at each stage!

It might seem a bit daunting running to effort but we would encourage you to give it a go at your local park run or when you are racing off road. You might find you get that those extra percentages out of you and push yourself harder than you think. It is also quite liberating to be free from your watch beeping at you! If you go for this approach, let us know how you get on!

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