Sub 3

For anyone trying to crack the 3 in any marathon anywhere in the world

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04/12/2012 at 20:33
Factors I think were important for me (in rough order of importance):

1) Getting the flu jab - bizarre I know but though blessed by lack of injury (touch ronnie) i used to get about a half a dozen man-flu incidents a year. Coughs and colds I could run through ok but it always came alongside a fever which had me curled up like a prawn and calling for broth and ointments. Since flu jabs I still get coughs and colds but NO fevers - hence running continues unhindered. So although I only run 45 mpw I now run that EVERY week without fail. Consistently consistent - I think a wise(ish) crustacean said that once.

2) Every run (nearly) has some quality in it but no run (nearly) leaves me tired enough such that I can't put in some quality again the following day. What that means in practice is that I do virtually all my runs (now) as prog runs. An 8 mile plod is now 4 miles easy two at 6.30 pace and one at 6min pace then a mile jog again. Somehow feels no more tiring than an 8 mile plod but there's a soupcon of quality in there.

3) exceptions to the above = a slightly irregular mile reps sesh. Irregular in that every now and again I set out specifically to improve my avg mile splits. Sort of equivalent to bounce's focused practice perhaps? Idea is that if I continue to improve in that session I continue to improve....

4) Sonething I nicked from Bruce Tulloh's training plans - the long 'pace run'. I used to do a 5 mile thresh each week and found like many others (though not some on here) that my times were comparatively better for the warm up hm and 10k than for the big one. The pace run is effectively a longer and slightly slower thresh - slightly faster than Mara pace but for 10-14 miles. Sounds tough? It is - but for me I find it no less so than a weekly 20 miler - so I do the pace run instead.

Result = starting to eke out PBS again! Now, I have no idea whether any of this would apply to non-stick-like creatures or even whether in my case the improvement is actually down to my 'rocket science' above or whether its really to do with repeated training cycles or even simply that the gods aligned with Pisces for some freak moment in the skies above gosport.....But what I do know is that after three years an 'eke' - however small - feels mighty, mighty good.
04/12/2012 at 22:25
Joolska - top runners don't need YOUR job. There's no reason why they cant get something more routine with less hours.

Zattu - your Canova runners don't run more than 2 hours a day. There's plenty of tales of runners who shagged themselves out doing more eg David Bedford, Ron Hill.
04/12/2012 at 22:48
Padams - i fear you are right. isnt it laughable that a runner can get a grant for "better facilities"!!! All you need is a stretch of road! (Also, as physios and masseurs have no proven value, not sure how this can be justified either).
And if its rest they are after, I believe sitting down in a call centre is kind on the legs.
Bill Adcocks was a pipe fitter, Mike Gratton taught a classroom of unruly kids all day. There would have many like them.
04/12/2012 at 23:43
Zattu - I fail to see anything radical about Canova's training. What is significantly different between his methods and, say, the good old Mike Gratton plan? Just a lot of extra dressing to make it look more sophisticated.

Furthermore, there's just so many young runners aged 19 or 20 (some of his) that run 59 mins for half marathons to contradict his "10 year" theory. These are people that surely have not been hard training for 10 years??? These aren't people who are going to be even taking 2 mins off these times no matter what future training they do. They've more or less plateaued already.

Even at the marathon distance you've got wanjiru and others who didn't bother waiting for 10 years. I'll concede that it usually takes two or three marathons before a runner does his best. But is that not explained by other factors?

On a personal point, I felt like I was putting my roof on with the twice weekly speed sessions over the final weeks. In fact, very much like Canova's runners I have never done a good time (apart from one freak 10k race) other than the marathon itself. Too busy assembling the joists and hammering on slates, clearly.

In my humble opinion, long distance training is such a simple thing. Why the hell don't people just get on and do it? There's clearly no magic formula. Just look down the list of the top 20 half marathon runners. All coached by different people, (presumably each claiming their own magic plans) the end result is they are all within a few secs of each other. Just look at those 1980 UK runners with a basic idea and a pair of eager legs.
05/12/2012 at 07:05
Dids - "long distance training is such a simple thing why dont people just get on and do it." hmmmm. I agree that in the early stages - for say 90% of the improvement curve that's true. Just running lots and following a tried and tested plan will get you a long way. And For you maybe it has got you all the way - but it sounds like you went fairly quickly into running good marathons relative to your other times - others (and I am one) really struggle - witness the whopping great hm to Mara differentials a while back. Now - it is possible that we are not built for maras and you are. But is it not also possible that the standard mike g training progs don't quite work for everyone? I am certainly struggling to explain the fact that my mara and hm times did not improve when I kept the structure of training the same (and followed a standard plan) but went from 55 to 75 mpw, yet they are now improving off 45 mpw. That doesn't imply a simple relationship between training and success to me (at least not in that final 10%).

Anyway I am interested by the fact that you seem to be the opposite kind of outlier to me. Whereas I have never run a decent Mara but lots of comparatively faster halves and 10ks - you appear to be the opposite.

What does a typical dids training week look like (pre-sharpening phase)?
05/12/2012 at 08:32

Interesting discussion.  And I have to say that I’ve changed my mind on the subjects on training philosophies / professional vs amateur runners / washing machine manufacture etc about half a dozen times in the last couple of pages. 

Whether we follow one plan or another, I think it’s fairly important that we believe in what we’re doing - Paavo Nurmi’s “All that I am, I am because of my mind”, if you like.  And this psychological strength is as crucial during training as well as in a race.  When the mind is in a good place, hard training becomes easy.  Progress is rapid.

I find it hard to believe that different people will not respond differently to alternative training plans due to natural or nurtured physiological differences.  But belief (or lack of belief) in a training plan, mentor, Phiten necklace, energy gel, massage stick, barefoot shoe etc* should not be underestimated.  Unfortunately, this effect is inevitably impossible to measure!

From my own experiment of one, I think a rested mind and body is important.  And here’s where the professional athlete, or amateur athlete from less stressful environments have an advantage.  If my sleep pattern is disrupted, or if I have a tough week at work, I run like a fat drunk bloke.

 *strangely though, I don’t think the whiteness or your whites depends on whether you believe in your washing machine or not.

05/12/2012 at 08:34

NtS – great to hear things are going well for you sir!  Things are fairly good here at Castle Njord.  Njordette gave me some significant stress a few years ago when she was diagnosed with autism, and then repeatedly excluded from school by the crappest headmaster on the planet who thought physical restraint was the best way to deal with a scared child who’s neural pathways resembled Piccadilly Circus at rush hour with Running Bhoy in a shop window.  Njordette is now at a different school, much happier, and life is good for both of us. 

Running-wise, I ran a reasonably quick marathon in 2010, but have since sought solace is the twin preserves of the ageing (and slowing) runner – beer and ultra-marathons.  However there are rumours that I may attempt another quick marathon next year, before switching focus to gaining a Silver Medal at Comrades in 2014 (before the arthritis gets much worse!).

05/12/2012 at 10:00

Njord - I think that is a key point, belief in what you are doing! I'm with you on the disrupted/lack of sleep. I still don't know how coro deals so well with it!

I love the Maurice Greene/Robson Green line NtS I'm the opposite with the flu jab; I'm supposed to have it because of my asthma, but I find if I get it I end up worse off. Some interesting ideas there. Funnily enough, I've been trying to mix up my morning runs a bit in the last few weeks. Previously they would have just been jogs (at around 8:30 pace), but, for a number of reasons, I have started with maybe a 2m jog and then sped up a bit for the rest (anywhere from slow to steady). I find that I often feel more refreshed after it than I would do maintaining a jog throughout. It will be interesting to see if it continues like that as I get back into proper training.

LD - give me a few mins

05/12/2012 at 10:19

Christ alive that's a lot to take in, espcially off 4 hours sleep (Daughter has a chest infection)!!  Some very interesting thoughts.  I can't add any insight as I'm reletively new to all this and still "finding my feet" although I'm adament bosch make the best washing machine.

17 yesterday (11+6), 7 this morning 5 later. No triples for me the wife would go mad at the extra washing!!

05/12/2012 at 10:25

LD - some good points raised there. Bear with me, this could get long

You have misread some things though. I didn't say anything about 10 years of hard training, I said that he believes it takes 10 years to build your aerobic house before you are ready for hard training. The simple fact is that the Kenyans, much like the British/Irish runners of yesteryear have a much better developed natural base than we do.

I guess, overall, my main point is this - how do you improve? As I see it, you provide a stimulus to the body, the body has to adapt. Once the adaptation has taken place, re-applying the same stimulus in the same manner will simply produce the same results, so the stimulus has to change to bring about further improvement, otherwise you will plateau.

In Canova's case, his runners' progression tends to eventually see them running the marathon after serving an apprenticeship at shorter distance (similar to the idea that you run 800m when you're young and marathons when you're older, but with a quicker progression). Within that approach, the marathon training will change as you become a more mature marathoner.

As an aside, I only gave Canova as an example of how training can evolve. I didn't say it was radical, or the 'right' way. How it differs from other training though tends to be that it funnels paces towards specificity as you approach your target race.

I think you'll find that Bill Adcocks ended up retiring due to knee problems related to his job, so there is a lot to be said for a more relaxed working environment (e.g. office work as you've pointed out). Bill Adcocks training also evolved over time, incidentally, thereby providing a constantly changing stimulus.

In respect of runners aged 19 or 20 who have run a sub-60 marathon, well I've had a look, there are 14. Of those, at least two (Eric Ndiema and Geoffrey Kipsang) had serious question marks raised about their ages. One of them achieved the mark on an assisted course, and only 3 others were actually under 20 (Wanjiru being one). None of them are names I recognise as being trained by Canova.

Running 3hrs a day? Yes, Ron Hill and Dave Bedford might not be the best of examples, but as you've said, there are always outliers - Geoffrey Mutai's standard training    As I understand it, this is what he has progressed to as his standard week. What he done, training wise, to get to this stage I don't know, but it is interesting as a stand-alone moment in time.

Like Njord - I would be interested to see your standard training. I've identified some deficiencies in mine, and some of what I was previously doing sounds like it could be similar to yours. I beginning to think more and more, that the key to maximising your marathon potential is to improve your 10k potential. I've found a surprising amount of commonalities across various approaches that seems to back it up, so that's personally where I'm heading as I, similar to you, don't run good 10k times relative to my marathon time (my mara/10k conversion comes out as 4.5, which is just incredibly tight).

05/12/2012 at 10:26

I hope your daughter is better soon SL.

05/12/2012 at 11:57

Listen gents, consider the following:

  1. Ovett and Coe did very, very different training plans, but both ended up in the same place
  2. Gebresellaisse appears to run a very standard marathon plan to the Mike Gratton one. I’ve heard it said that Paul Tergat does his intervals before his tempos, however…. They also end up in the same place as Canovas runners.
  3. The runners from the 20s to the 50s did some very different approaches (eg, Zatopek, Peters etc) and look where it got them!

The overwhelming picture, when you disentangle the minor detail is that before the 1970s all sorts of different things were tried and failed. Jim Peters flogging his body in all-out speed sessions, Dave Bedford doing ridiculous 200 miles/week. Since then all runners have, in one form or another, generally just run high miles, combined hills, fast and slow running, and peaked towards the end. I don’t think the marathon world record has improved much over the last decade, not improved by more than 2 or 3% since the mid 80s despite the huge influx of dedicated Kenyans, more research and science.

Furthermore, ALL athletes plateau fairly quickly after a short time. There is no-one that, say, is running 59 mins in the half-marathon aged 20 that will be doing 56 mins aged 25-28. They get there and try and stay there for the rest of their careers…. Hoping that they will eek out a tiny bit more at the sharp end, or peak at an Olympics like Kelly Holmes, Baldini, Viren.

Mo Farah could try every freak method his whacky coach can devise, run on underwater treadmills, chase lions in Africa, wear compression socks – he might knock off a few secs but he ain’t gonna break the world 10,000m record!

Canova is merely the latest in a line of gurus (not just running) who hit on something that sounds good, that have a few disciples and case studies. However, it’s nearly always something tried and tested with a load of dressing smeared over the top. He attracts a few good athletes on the back of it – which then makes his method seem even better. The myth magnifies.

The Atkins diet swept the world, but all it was that eating protein makes you feel less hungry. You eat less calories. Big deal. But try telling that to someone who’s just read his book and is entangled with the legend.

05/12/2012 at 12:08

Well said Njord, self belief and self expectancy are powerful things esp at my end of the sub3 spectrum, maybe not so much at the TT and SL end. I remember when I was a proper (teenage) runner and saw the light go on for a few kids when they realised they could be good, they went on to bag county honours and international vests.

I'm with Dids (for once) running is a simple sport do it lots and you will get better if you believe you will. That local fella to me was running 1:46 for 800 50 years ago and he was doing intervals and hill reps on the local streets. Long distance running isnt popular and doesnt appeal to the Playstation generation, once it does we will see some folks go faster. Idiots like me shouldnt be finishing near the front of races, I was running 2min 800 aged 16 and couldnt get in the club team. Mo might help inspire a few nowadays though.

05/12/2012 at 12:12

And I agree with TR who agrees with Njord. The importance of self-belief, however, is at its most potent when it gets you out on the streets to do the training when, without it, you wouldn't be arsed.

Since you ask about my training,  I did a few years unsuccessfully trying to break 3 hours, stepped up my training a little to get to 2:57 for a marathon, then just went loosely into a high mileage Mike Gratton plan.  Ie, ran a lot of miles, usually twice a day, added in some hills (although never enough), and then a period of 8 weeks where I combined long intervals (and some short intervals)…. Increasing them in terms of volume and decreased recovery time.

Long runs progressing from easy long runs to fast long runs (eg, 4 miles of MP and 4 miles of half MP during them).

In actual fact, it took me a year of this (two cycles) to get to my approximate peak.  Of course, I’ve tried variants since. More races, more tempo, more hills, added cross training…. Maybe it helped a bit, as I was getting older, but it was all in vain. In 2010 I genuinely thought I was in shape to break 2:40, but didn’t. I thought this because I was completely injury free all during the build up, had run more miles overall and had run a lot more races so felt more ready.

My 5K PB is a pathetic 17:20 ish, a decent 10K of 34:30, my half-marathon PB is 1:17:30 and I did four marathons around 2:42-2:43 and another four under 2:50. (One of those in the hot 2007 London Marathon – would have been equivalent to 2:38-2:39 based on my position of 188th).  I always feel I could have improved my shorter race times, but only ever used them as marathon warm-ups really.

Cheerful Dave    pirate
05/12/2012 at 13:51

Blimey, the only point I was making originally was that for those in here, the limiting factor in how quickly we can run a marathon is more likely to be life getting in the way than physical factors that can be measured.  Obviously that doesn't apply to full-time athletes, or those with jobs that allow them lots of flexibility to train.  Yes, it's perfectly possible for us to get lots of miles in, following whatever plan there is, but it's unlikely to be at ideal training times or allow proper rest etc.  I doubt there's a training programme out there that recommends 10 miles at gobi o'clock, and another session at 7pm.  True, the difference at the end of the day might be small, but it's a difference nonetheless.

Sounds a bit simplistic compared with some of the posts on here but I'm a simple fella.

Marigold is the only one I know of on here who changed jobs so he could train better.  He improved a fair bit, although how much of that improvement was down to his change in job only he can say.

05/12/2012 at 14:21

CD: but I'd be a terrible postwoman.  I really hope that's not the key to success

05/12/2012 at 14:58

CD – I think you’ve opened up some healthy debate!

Getting back to your point then. Paul Tergat, I believe, does his first run at 6am, his second at 10am! Shows that you probably don’t need to be too hung up about the exact times you run. There won’t be many who can do that and hold down a job here.

However, for most people who will do the more normal morning/afternoon combo running:

  1.  You only work about 230 days/year, and will not work for 135 days/year (weekends, hols etc). So immediately you only have to worry about being an athlete 65% of the time.
  2. Most people could do the first run of the day at 6am every day – whether it be a commute or not. Therefore, you only need be concerned with 30% of your runs. In fact, if you believe in a rest afternoon once a week, then it’s even less.
  3. Most people won’t have any bother with running home or running in the early evening 80% of the time. So, that leaves a grand total of 23 runs/year which may cause you a problem. But, one way or another you’ll be able to do 90% of those afternoon runs. Maybe you leave early and work from home, or maybe you sometimes have to run at 10pm, or sometimes you have to run round Schiphol airport, or stuff your bag in the left luggage at Euston and get a later train home like I used to. SO THAT MEANS YOU MAY MISS TWO OR THREE RUNS IN A YEAR. BIG DEAL!!!
05/12/2012 at 15:59

crickey - when do i get time for 8 pints of strong belgium lager and a sleep in!

Cheerful Dave    pirate
05/12/2012 at 16:01

After you've finished your post round selbs.

05/12/2012 at 16:48

I think that my current employment does help. I st ill get up at 4ish even though work doesn't start until 7 these days. The first 3 days after a race are quite harsh but I reckon the aimless walking around each day helps quicken recovery. The only sress I get is finishing in time for the school run. The only real downside are days like today that contain snow and ice, even rain is bearable.

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