8 Weeks of Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I’ll cut to the chase with this post – sometimes, training is just hard.

Not every session is perfect, some are downright bad, and not every one of them even happens. It’s something I learned all too well during Ironman training.

Sometimes life interferes, sometimes you’re just tired, sometimes you’re super motivated and your body says “nah dude, not today” – it happens.

And that’s ok, it happens, we just move forward.

So since the last time we chatted, here’s what’s gone right, and what’s gone wrong on this sub 3 hour marathon journey.

The good

Well the best news is that my shoulder tear scare was all for naught! No tear, just some severe tendonitis to deal with, weekly PT and self stretching. That’s probably the best possible scenario considering had it been a tear, this whole running journey would be over and I’d be writing about recovery.

But we’re not here to talk about shoulders, we’re here to talk about running.

So ok, what’s happened there? Well, my last 2 ‘long’ speed sessions have gone pretty well.

I had a 6 mile run with 4 miles of race pace ~2 weeks ago, and an 8 mile run with 5 miles of race pace (ouch) this past week.

In both cases, I found that I was able to warm up around 7:15/mi, and hit the <6:50 pace hard for the middle miles, despite running on some serious hills.

On both runs, my race pace intervals started right at the lowest point of my run, which meant that a few of those miles were basically straight up hill. Climbing some of the 145ft, 160ft, 180ft elevation gain hills at race pace and recovering afterwards have been the highlights of my training sessions.

The shorter (~5mi) interval runs where I have race pace 800’s almost feel easy and that’s exactly what I’m looking for at this point in my training.

The bad

This really fits more in a “the mediocre” category, but that category doesn’t exist, and it wasn’t “great” so… here it is.

My 8 mile “long run” 3 weeks ago was good. My 10 mile run 2 weeks ago was fine. My 12 mile run last week was ok (kept my pace right around 7:30 for my long run) BUT I was more tired than I wanted to be on miles 11-12.

It’s hard to tell whether that can be attributed to the fact that I’m running up hill almost the entire second half of the loop, OR if I was simply hitting a serious fatigue after 10 miles. For this particular run though, I think it was more the former. I kept the first 10 miles under 7:30, and while the last two were over, they were 7:33 and 7:36 – so not too bad.

The other “bad” is that I’ve missed the last few 4 mile shakeout runs on Monday. Mainly because I’ve had to move long runs to Sundays, but still – I think it has some impact overall as I’m not getting the total milage I’m looking for.

The ugly

Yesterday. Yesterday’s 14 mile run was a complete mess.

I know that not every training session is going to go well, and when things “don’t go well” on my long runs, that usually means I fall to 7:45 pace and get through it.

This was another story though.

From the first mile I felt off. Heart rate higher than normal, legs more fatigued than normal. I could sense some dehydration, but I had my water with me so I kept moving.

Through 8 miles, I was dead on 7:30 pace (which is misleading because I was actually about a minute under it after 6 miles).

At 8.5 I considered quitting.

I stopped running, stood on the side of the road, and really thought about just not finishing.

I had hit some kind of wall whether it be a nutrition issue, a sleep issue, a hydration issue, a fatigue issue, not sure. But I REALLY did not want to keep going.

I told myself I’d stop looking at my watch and just run at a pace where my heart felt ‘slow’ and my breathing wasn’t as erratic as it had been. The goal changed to just complete the mileage.

I did, eventually – 5 minutes over my planned pace, for a run barely more than half of what I’ll need to do in October.

5 of the last 6 miles were over 8 minutes (a rarity for me) and they felt awful.

Certainly discouraging considering even at 8 minute miles, I need to be 1:10 faster than that for race pace on 10/19 – but you know what, it’ll all work out.

Nothing worth doing is easy

I’m doing my best to look past yesterday’s debacle. An outlier, a bad day, that’s what we’ll call it.

Moving forward I have some tough weeks coming up – some of the hardest actually.

My next 3 long speed runs are 9, 10, and 10 miles with 6, 7 and 7 miles at race pace on a loop that has ~1,000ft of elevation gain. Woof.

But if I can do those, and I can get back to ~7:30ish pace on my 16, 18 and 20 miles upcoming long runs, we’ll be laughing about yesterday all the way to the finish line.

Getting back to the 4 mile shakeouts starting tomorrow, doubling down on stretching, and getting back to work. This week, is a new week.

Until next time.