Q+A: I ran a 3:28 marathon - can I do sub-3?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by Bruce Tulloh

Q After running a sub-3:00 marathon in my mid-30s, I spent the next 17 years running only occasionally. But last year, to celebrate my 50th, I returned to serious training for the Flora London Marathon. I finished in 3:28, and this has got me thinking that I can get under three hours once again. Is this goal beyond me, or can I realistically train towards it?

A Every year we have to set new goals, particularly when we pass an age milestone. Of course, we can’t expect to be better in our 50s than in our 40s – though sometimes it does happen – but we can aim to do the best we can with what we’ve got. However, I think that as you’ve only recently returned to serious marathon training, there’s no reason why another year of putting in good work should not enable you to run faster next year. It’s partly a question of how much time you have and partly a matter of avoiding injury.

Use the next month or so to train mainly for the 10K, doing two fast sessions a week at around 10K pace and aiming for a weekly mileage of 35-40, which will help improve your overall speed. During September and October adopt a half-marathon training routine, gradually increasing the distance of your weekend run and adding one longer mid-week run, but retaining one fast session a week. In November, ease down and give yourself three weeks of lower mileage, then start building up the mileage in December, without worrying about the speed. This should give you the endurance to tackle the RW three-hour marathon schedule. You may not achieve the three hours, but the extra amount of training should enable you to improve on last year’s time.

Bruce Tulloh, RW Coaching Editor

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I am a 52 yr old fairly serious recreational runner, with 4 sub-3 London Marathons (2:52, 1992; 2:50,1994, 2:52, 2001;2:58 2003); 2004 Bracknell half-marathon was 1:21:42. This weekend I completed Stratford Shakespeare marathon (running on a pretty bad throat cold) and came in at 3:13. My training schedule was similar to as for previous marathons; ie approx 15 weeks with mix of long and shorter/fast runs averaging 60 miles a week, moving to 70+ for peak weeks, before tapering. Is that sub-3 hour marathon time ever achievabble again? or should I reset objectives in line with age!
Posted: 08/05/2006 at 17:50

I'm 53 yrs old and not run a sub 3 hr marathon since 1998 which I did in 2hrs 57mins. The previous year i did 2hrs and 55mins In 2005 (at 52 yrs) I started to train again for the London which I did in 3hrs 16mins. This was solo training (since I moved from Southampton in 2000, i've not been a club member) using my previous training logs as a guide. This year Ive managed to get in London again and set my sights on another sub 3hrs after 8 years away from serious training. I'm determined (bar injury) to achieve my aims, using the FOC(Focus, Organisation and Commitment)rule! I will also be following an advanced marathon schedule to ensure i do all the disciplines I used to hate doing, i'e., Hills and track reps. So I've put the aga milestone behind and hope no 60 yr olds or Rhino's overtake me during the London Marathon!!
Posted: 28/12/2006 at 17:47

Reading your articles guys has given me encouragment to do next years London in under 3.15. I am 53 now and the last two attemps 2005 and 2007 3.25 and 3.26,means with a bit more commitment,I could do this!

Posted: 04/03/2008 at 10:56

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