11 Weeks of Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training: Time To Taper

Well, the hardest part is over.

8 straight weeks of 2 mile increases on the long runs peaked this past Sunday with a 20 miler (that I’m happy to say went WAY better than the 14 mile disaster from my 8 week post).

I’ve now completed runs of 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20 on the weekends and it’s officially time to taper.

The long run(s) and Ironman spectating

My goal for the longer runs on weekends has been to stay close to a 7:30/mi pace, knowing that when I really got into the 16-20mi range, that would fall off a bit.

I managed to keep ~7:45 overall pace for the 16, 18 and 20 mile runs, which considering I didn’t have nearly as much base & build training as I did during my Ironman training, I’m pretty happy with.

Common “long slow distance” knowledge would tell you that you should be running the long slow runs close to 1min slower than your anticipated race pace – and with a target 6:50 pace for race day, that meets the criteria.

I thought that it would be only fitting that I make sure to run my 20 mile run on the same day as Ironman Maryland – 1 year removed from completing that race.

I also had the opportunity to head down to Cambridge & watch my good friend Jarrett compete in that race, crushing his first Ironman in just under 14 hours.

The speed runs, intervals and fartleks

Outside of the long weekend runs, the main focus of the weekday runs has been the longer speed runs on Tuesdays.

Over the last several weeks, those runs peaked up to a 10 mile run with the middle 7 at race pace or lower.

For the most part, those are going well. The first ~4 miles of those 7 are downhill and or on rolling hills, but the last 3 can amass up to 2-400ft of total elevation gain combined.

Needless to say, those miles aren’t usually under 6:50 (they’re more like 7:15), but they sure are good training for the hilly Baltimore Marathon course coming up in a few weeks.

I’ve ended up deprioritizing the interval runs later in the week if I think they’re going to result in a conflict with the long run on the weekend, but there will be a renewed focus on them knowing the LSD runs are going to start dropping off.

The need to regain the ‘bounce’ in my step over this taper is key, considering my cadence has been consistent (170), but my distance per stride has taken a hit in recovery from these long runs.

I’m trying to retain and put into practice all of the advice we laid out on how to run faster with less effort, but the key will be recovering pre-race to be able to do it all effectively.

Goals for the marathon taper

In order:

  1. Don’t get hurt
  2. Stretch relentlessly
  3. Nail the speed run pace targets
  4. “Push” the long taper runs (10 & 8mi) to be at or below 7:30 (so not race pace, but not total lollygag either)

I obviously(?) have the confidence that I’ll finish the marathon – we’re past any fear of that with the 20 miler going well.

The main question now is, will I be able to string together 26.2 consecutive <6:50 miles? Honestly? Not sure.

Despite the 7:45 average on the long runs, the last 2-4 miles of those runs are typically >8:00 pace – so I’ve got some uncertainties thanks to the falloff of pace at distance.

Sure, adrenaline will help – but it also doesn’t typically sustain itself for 3 hours.

Either way, I’m looking to give it a good run (pun intended), hopefully not implode, and be able to share my learnings with you all here.

It’ll be a fun challenge, and challenging it will be.

I’ll check-in with you all prior to race day, but until then.

Happy training!

PS: For my next attempt at this – I’ll be following a different sub 3 hour marathon training plan!