I must get sub 3hr marathon next Spring - but how?!!

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12/10/2012 at 17:12

Hi all,

I am an experienced runner (49) capable of 1.25m half marathon, 40m 10k etc., but nothing better than 3.07 for the marathon. Just ran Chester with just my normal weekly training runs of up to 7m with just 2 x half marathons as long run prep in the last 2 weeks beforehand and still managed 3.14 but really want to apply some extra attention to getting that elusive 2.59 next year for my 50th!

I guess I am guilty of simply heading out most days for between 4 - 7m and just run with no speed work etc., I then run the usual races throughout with 2 or 3 marathons per year mixed in.

Considering the above what would be the best advice for the next 6-months to seriously give it a good go in order to finally crack the sub 3hr? I usually find I can comfortably get to half way, and beyond, in the target time but then run out of puff before turning in some 8m miles for the last 4 or 5m's etc.,

What is the best option - is it to follow a dedicated sub-3hr plan, change diet, loose weight (11st 7lb) increase mileage (approx 150m per month) or all of these!! Plans seem the most difficult - much easier to just head out and run!

As I will be 50 next year I would love to achieve this either at London or a late summer marathon (Chester again) if things don't work out. Woudl love to hear from anyone with similar experiences of trying to crack this target.

Thanks all. 

12/10/2012 at 17:56

you simply need to give the marathon the respect it deserves.

if you're not doing a good 3-5 training runs around the 20mile  distance, how can you possibly hope to perform well over 26.2 on the day?

12/10/2012 at 17:59

Thanks Stevie, perhaps I worded it wrong - my normal marathon trainign takes place in the months leading up to London where I certainly do put in the long runs (plus a 20m race which I did in 2.15 this year) but used the Chester example to illustrate some core fitness is there at least!

Plan to keep the long runs going from now through to April (if it helps!).

12/10/2012 at 18:07

To be fair, 3:07 is a pretty reasonable return off a 1:25 HM and 40 min 10K.


You just need to concentrate on stuff that address what you perceive to be your weaknesses. So, fast finishing 22 milers for instance, 10 mile progressive runs starting steadily and working through marathon pace, HM pace and finishing around 10K pace for instance.

12/10/2012 at 19:15

HF - my last sub-3 was at age 47 (I'm 58 now), and I reckoned 1:24 ish converted to the mara goal. A (the) key factor relevant to you is that a 2:15 untapered 20 miler (6:45 pace) meant (with taper),  I could go thru in the mara at that pace, leaving 44 min for the last 10k ( a bit over 7 min pace);  which if properly prepared (see prf above), is definitely doable. 

12/10/2012 at 19:25

Thanks all, I thought I was going to be fairly close this year after the 2.15 20m but then ended up with a stinking cold 2-weeks out which really put me back - was still not quite over it on the day. Perhaps not the best option either to run another, hilly, marathon 3-weeks out from London too so legs were probably still tired.

Will leave the extra marathon for next April and concentrate on London. Just feel 2.15 for the 20m doesn't leave me enough for the final 6m but as Birch/PRF says is dooable if you have the prep beforhand. Perhaps I was on the way this year but need to find the extra 5% or so to be sure.

12/10/2012 at 19:34

Since the numbers are coincidental, it may be of interest that I ran a 2:15:03 20 miler in the build up to VLM and then VLM was 2:57.

For Chester last week there was no 20 miler in the build up but a 1:18:41 HM and that led to a 2:55 marathon (probably worth 2:53 as a VLM equivalent).

It might help with some of your number crunching but so much of a marathon is circumstantial that you cant be surprised if the time isnt quite what it should have been in theory.

12/10/2012 at 20:04
Try giving up the pie & mash hammers fan! Ran Chester as well last week but a bit slower at 3.56 so respect!
12/10/2012 at 20:04

I went sub 3 at Chester getting a PB of around 15 minutes - the main difference to my training was more mileage...especially mid length mid week runs as well as the long run on the weekend. Some of the long runs were also partly ran at MP. I followed the P&D 50 to 70 mile a week schedule and didn't miss one session.  As a note I didn't race at all in my build up expect one 5k park run 3 weeks before; and my current half pb is 1.27 which I got in March.

13/10/2012 at 00:04

Agree with 15West, I have done sub 3 twice now off of a 1:27 half pb. I have also found regular track sessions to be of help and of course "focus". The first time I achieved it, I was coming back from an injury and trained 10 months with the sole focus of a sub 3 at London. The second time it was a little easier only 6 or 7 months! Of course, if you have natural ability you probably can just turn up and do it. But for the rest of us it is amazing how far you can go on lots of miles and relentless focus.

Blisters    pirate
13/10/2012 at 22:24

One Gear, (with due respect) you need to give that HM time some attention. You should get 1:23.

Personally, I fitted a similar profile to Hammers, who, if I recall correctly was a stalwart 3:15 contributor. I was aged 48 when I finally hit sub 3.
Key factors?
The previous year I did a lot of racing and long interval training. Pbs in every distance except marathon. On the year in question I still did a number of shorter races, but the focus was clearly on the big one. It was all about mental strength. You'll need to strength to put in some strongly paced distance training. I was recommended that I needed to be doing 60mpw, but the log shows only 50 average. Having the bottle to give it a go is important. But you've got to be prepared for it to go tits up and not have another chance for 6 months.
The year I went sub 3, I did do it twice, but didn't pb in any other distance that year. What does that say? How do I know?

13/10/2012 at 23:45

Blisters, 1:25 would be a dream. But I have to admit I haven't focussed on a half for some time - in fact I don't really do many races, usually just London and maybe my local half or 10k once per year. The fastest I have ever done a half has been the first half of London the last two times. I have done unofficial half pbs on both occasions.

Apparently not allowed to claim these as official pbs and certainly not recommending to anyone else that the way to do a sub 3 hrs is to do a half pb for the first half and then just hang on!!!

15/10/2012 at 09:26
HammersFan wrote (see)
I guess I am guilty of simply heading out most days for between 4 - 7m and just run with no speed work etc., I then run the usual races throughout with 2 or 3 marathons per year mixed in.

Herein lies the answer I'd have thought. Speedwork should be a core element of your training to get faster. marathon specific speedwork should include a mixture of fartleks, threshold/tempo runs and intervals in addition to your long runs which are designed to increase endurance.

If you start to include these early in your schedule, you'll see the benefits

15/10/2012 at 18:17

Thanks all, will especially look out for some speedwork plans as this seems to be the most obvious gap in my schedule. Some other great tips above though and I will be paying attention to them over the course of the next 6-months.

18/10/2012 at 13:41
I too hope to get under 3 this year, last year only managed to do 3. 11 despite racing a 20 miler in 2 12 in the build up. Possibly slowed by the weather - was a storm during the mk mara. Am trying to do as much bad weather training as possible to toughen myself up.
18/10/2012 at 14:15

Surrey - Racing a 20 miler in a marathon build up is a very risky thing to do. If you do, you'll probably have a 90% chance of having scuppered your marathon right there.

A bit slower than expected marathon race pace is about where to pitch it.

18/10/2012 at 16:54
Thanks park run
The 20 miler was more than two months before the mara so should have been plen tof time to recover.
18/10/2012 at 17:35

Best way I know to build up endurance is back-to-back long runs. If you're running out of puff like you say, consider trying these: - do a semi-long run the day after your long run, working up to 22+12, say every second week. Absolutely kills at first but it does get easier. I did them every other week in building up for a 50K which was 10 weeks before my mara. Then (after a week or two of rest & light running) dropped my weekly mileage a bit and went for speedwork in the lead up to the mara.

06/11/2012 at 10:23
parkrunfan wrote (see)

Surrey - Racing a 20 miler in a marathon build up is a very risky thing to do. If you do, you'll probably have a 90% chance of having scuppered your marathon right there.

A bit slower than expected marathon race pace is about where to pitch it.

Thanks PRF, this is interesting as I tend to do 4 or 5 half's in the 3-months prior to London and a 20m race about 4-weeks out. I would have thought this was good for building up race speed. Is this considered bad practice then?

07/10/2013 at 18:03

Looking at some of the posts I must conclude that I am either not destined to run sub 3 or I am going about it all the wrong way. Perhaps its genetics? Some of the guys I run against in the local League fixtures I beat easy on the shorter distances?

Regarding the point above i did neither a 20m or HM in the 16 week build to this Marathon. 

As a very brief synopsis: Running seriously for 3 years. 1st Marathon 3:12 in atrocious conditions, London this year in 3:01, and I put that down to the hotel restaurant not delivering its promise to open early for breakfast and ended up running on a porridge to go) so immediately signed up for the Mablethorpe yesterday (6th Oct). Trained to a 16 programme, up to 65m at peak week. Had a plethora of PB's during the course as a 17:15 park run, a 36:11 10k, and a sub 1:20 HM. Carbed up 3 days before the Mablethorpe, iso gelled out of my eyeballs during the race and faded at 18 from a solid Avg 6:46 pace to 7:05, then 8, then walked 10 mmile, then jogged at 8 mmile to come in at 3:11:01. I don’t know what went wrong. I ran at least 6 plus 20 races at varying paces easy, steady and some split 10m at easy, 10m at MP. Intervals on a Tuesday on the track varied from 6 x 1m to 5 x 2k all below 5:20 pace, Wednesday was a mid-week long run peaking at 13m, Thursday was a traditional tempo at about 10k, and HM pace from 3-6miles depending on what was in store for the weekend. 4 weeks before I peaked at a 23miler at 7:10 pace and felt amazing!!!! I tapered from then and felt strong and fresh on race day. I have a Good for Age entry into London next year already, so what do I need to do? My diets spot on, I supplement, I ice bath after LR's...............I’m licking my wounds at the moment but know I can do it!!!!!

Any advice and support would be much appreciated!!!!


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