Over the last 17 years I have run 21 marathons, 18 of them in ironman (long distance triathlon) races as the 3rd leg, the remaining 3 were standalone. My first in London I did just to see if I could do an ironman race, I was actually faster in the triathlon 3 months later than I was at London ! Marathons on their own are HARD ! and they hurt for longer afterwards. I am not sure I can say I ‘enjoy’ running marathons but it is a massive buzz to cross the finish line of any race and marathons are epic.
My times have certainly varied, PB’s are 3hrs 12mins for the standalone to 3hrs 21mins in an ironman, I am proud of the fact I have never been over 4 hours in an ironman marathon except for the Norseman which is bonkers so I’m happy with that. On a slightly negative note, my PB is on a short course (Manchester 2015) and a number of the ironman courses I’ve completed are also what I consider as short, some noticeably, its accepted by most athletes in an ironman because all you want to do is get to the end but in a standalone there is no excuse ! Triathlon seems to permit a margin of 10% to screw it up either by accident or on purpose, the latter helping some courses claim to be the fastest on the planet ! I don’t expect London to be short though, a full 26.21875 miles for me to try to achieve my goal of going sub 3.
After qualifying for London at the afore mentioned short marathon course (times were adjusted for GFA qualification) I have decided to take my place at the start line in 2017 and try to break 3 hours for the marathon distance.
Now that I have started to look into it and set a target in my head its become all too apparent that ‘saying’ you want to break 3 hours is about as helpful in achieving it as a chocolate fireguard ! However, a goal is a goal and you need to start somewhere, plus they all seem achievable in your head until you actually start looking into the work and effort to get there. None are easy and hard work is definitely the constant factor, along with many others I am sure.
So, why bother ? What is it going to take and I am disrespecting the distance by throwing an arbitrary figure out there ?
Firstly, I never underestimate anything, one of the reasons for this blog, I want to be clear how to achieve something, as for why bother, at my current age and exercise activity its possible I have 2 years to try to get to this time, if I miss in 2017 then the aim is to be under the GFA time again to qualify, however, I prefer ironman and the effort for a marathon just eats into the other training for the swim and bike so I want to try to get this done quickly.
Sub 3 is certainly a popular target, I hesitate to call it the ‘ultimate’ amateur target in marathon running as this really is a personal thing, be it sub 5 hours, 4 hours or even trying to get under 2:37 (sub 6 min pace), its a goal and don’t think I have ever entered a race without one, this just happens to be quite significant. I think I can get close to or break with the right training. It also seems a nice round number 🙂
The question now is, is this possible for me ? I have consistently trained and raced well at ironman, not so at standalone running but that’s the effect of ironman, you don’t have time to focus on one discipline. I have consistently under performed at every run distance if you take my ironman as a guage, I struggle to get under 20 minutes for 5km, 40 minutes at 10k and half marathons yoyo between 1:30 and 1:27. Out of my depth ? Mmmmm
Turning to the theoretical experts in this I have consulted a few books and websites, this is even more confusing. Based on my goal of 2:59:00 my equivalent times for ‘other’ distances are listed on the Jack Daniels chart below, for comparison, lets start with my PB’s –
1/2 marathon – 1:27:30 – Based on the chart below, a bit of kick in the teeth, I should be able to knock out a 1:25.
10km – 39:45 – again, the chart below says I am way off the mark, 10 secs per mile in fact, over the marathon that’s over 4 minutes, this might be a problem.
5km (in the last 5 years) – 19:50. A whole minute slower than I should be.
What jumps out is the pace, I already knew really what I need to get to but when you see it on a chart it sort of sinks in further, 6:50 per/mile or 4:15 per/km. That’s scary.
There’s another way to check out what I should and shouldn’t be able to do, if I put in my current PB for the half marathon, it can tell you what you ‘should’ be able to do at other distances, based on this it says I should be able to get to a 3:02 marathon.
That sounds amazing, but its not sub 3 ! As an aside it also says I am under achieving at 5km and 10km (not surprising as I am long distance athlete) but if I attempt the marathon in the best shape I have been in the last 12 months I can expect to fall 2 mins 30 secs short ! Not really inspiring is it ?
One last attempt at geeing myself up, the Yasso test, I attempted to benchmark my running using this last week. If you want to know what these are have a look here http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/yasso-800s needless to say, coming out of Christmas 7kg heavier than I went into November and not doing a boat load of speed work these were as expected, I hit 8 of them and averaged 3mins 16secs. If you read the article or already know, this theoretically equates to a 3:16 marathon. Not only would this be less than optimal considering the goal but if I decided to have another go at it a year later I would be outside the qualifying time for any marathon in my age group that has a qualifying entry criteria. (usually 3:10 or 3:15 at my age)
Am I down beat ? No, not really, I tend to accelerate my training pretty quickly in January and February, I have stopped swimming and I’m only cycling twice a week, I have 92 days until the start of the marathon, anything is possible !
I walk past this every day in the hallway, I will be using plenty of inspiration to get up and get it done over the next 3 months.
The plan is for my coach to increase my mileage, ensure I don’t do anything daft to get injured and I’ve also entered a boat load of build up races including a few half marathons in February and a few 20 milers in March. April 23rd doesn’t seem a long way away but with nothing to lose (except my current marathon PB) I am underway.
In conclusion, no goal should ever be underestimated, its not a real goal if its easy anyway, I have the utmost respect for anyone that sets a target and achieves but no less for those that reached out and fell short but gave it everything in the process. I will still be aiming at sub 3 but have a healthier understanding of the hardwork and pain over the next 13 weeks of training. Plus putting it out there adds a certain level of ownership now, I am sure I will be leaning on the faster runners at WRC over the next few months as we have a healthy group of quick athletes to push me along.
For anyone else embarking on a spring marathon, good luck with the training and build up races and see you on a start line or 2.
I’m never that convinced that the race time predictors work that well for people who have trained at the volumes, and for the extended durations over multiple seasons, of IM training… plus they don’t account for the sheer bloody mindedness either!
You’d regret finishing a 3:02 thinking you had something left in the tank a lot more than a 3:02 where you’d given it everything… nothing ventured, nothing gained…
See you on the start line!
Cheers Neil, I am sure I would hate a 3:02 about 5 minutes after being ecstatic that I finished 🙂
Great blog entry and source of inspiration again my friend. I love your “anything is possible” wall and that’s how you must approach this, just train, train, train with discipline as you always do. I now know I should start creating goals for myself too instead of just turning up for events with the “get round” attitude.
Hope to get out and train with you sometime pal I believe you can do whatever you set to your mind too pal, just how willing you are to get there. I know you have the minerals despite the calculations of the above charts, go at it and whatever happens will be epic… It’s the London Marathon so enjoy it
Thanks Brad, would be great to get out and train, and yes I will be enjoying the fact that its London too.
Good to see you giving it a go, I know that
when you set your mind to a goal you always
FWIW here’s my take on going sub 3
Use 2.50 – 2.55 for calculating your training pace (for intervals and race pace efforts).
The reason for this is that it gives you a buffer. If you can barely manage 2.59 pace in these training sessions you will need to have a very good/lucky day!
IMHO Mileage matters, averaging 50+ mpw with a couple of bigger weeks (around 70) is probably the minimum most people can get away with.
Long runs – do as many 20 milers as possible (at least 5) – keep the pace slow (8-9 min/mile) use run/walk to help recovery. This run is just about conditioning the body and the mind.
Over 20 miles is not necessary, 16-18 miles is too short.
Speed work (marathon specific) – eg 5 x 1 mile reps (should be under 6mins), 2 mins walk recovery
I wouldn’t bother with anything under 1k (i.e. stick to efforts around 4-6 mins)
Race pace runs – Gradually increase the length of time you run at race pace by including efforts in a steady run. Gradually build up so you can run 10 miles at target race pace in a 13 mile run. Half marathons are one way to do this but you need to be disciplined to stick to your pace. If you can’t achieve target race pace in these runs as the race nears (relatively comfortably – i.e. not red-lining) then you need to adjust your target
Use these runs to practice taking race nutrition during the race pace efforts.
All other runs should be very easy to boost your volume. typically 3 – 6 miles. Use double up days during the big weeks (i.e. 2 runs on an easier day).
You will get tired so don’t expect to maintain too much cycling (if any!) the odd easy swim is fine but running has to be the priority.
Recovery – Sleep is the number one priority, eating clean – real food.
Checkout James Dunne – Kinetic Revolution for great tips on mobility and strength work for running a marathon.
Then don’t be like most people and waste all the hard work by going to fast (i.e. above target race pace) in the first 5-6 miles on race day. Getting ‘time in the bank’ and hanging on for the last 6 is a myth, you can’t cheat it!
If your training has got you in 2.50 – 2.55 shape, then you should have enough in hand as you inevitably slow down over the last 6.
I know we are all different and there are many ways to train but by achieving 90% of this training (over a 12 week period) and getting my pacing 95% right I managed sub 2.53 on a hot day at age 43.
Cheers Malcolm, that’s ace info, appreciate it mate.
I’m not sure these predictors can deal with people that have been IM training, and have that incredible base, or the sheer bloody mindedness of an IM finisher!
Mine suggests results way out frim where I am, or believe I could be…
Mind you, running a 3:02 and thinking afterwards that you had some left is much worse than a 3:02 where you’ve given it everything!