Sub 3 hour marathon training: 2nd attempt

My first attempt at running a sub 3 hour marathon back on October 19th in Baltimore didn’t pan out.

I ended up running a ~3:21 per the course clock (26.65 miles) and a 3:18 per Garmin for 26.2.

Even after 13.1 at 1:31 I knew that I wouldn’t make the time, but I learned a lot and have since geared up for a second attempt.

I’ll be doing the NJ Marathon on Sunday, April 26th.

It’s a flat & fast course (unlike Baltimore’s 1,200ft of elevation gain – some of which on a 5 mile climb) that should be a little kinder to me than Baltimore was.

Almost the entire last half of the race is done on the boardwalk – so at least the scenery will be nice.

One of the main things I learned from my training for Baltimore was that I simply didn’t run enough miles, or in some cases, fast enough miles.

I spent some time working with Kevin Love (who did this podcast with me) to develop a sub 3 hour marathon training plan 2.0.

The trial of miles

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”
– John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner

During my training for Baltimore, I simply didn’t run as much as I needed to. I think I ran more than 30 miles in a week 1 time (and it happened to be the week I ran 20 in 1 day).

I thought I’d be ok because I hit all my long runs up to 20 miles, and ran 1-3 times per week otherwise (though I was often inconsistent).

This new training plan has me running under 40 miles only 4 times – so it’s safe to say I’ll have more miles under my belt.

Now, that also means I’m running more days. Instead of 3-4 days per week, I’m running 5-6 days per week often in a rhythm like: Tempo, Recovery, Intervals, Recovery, Race Pace, Long Run.

That way I can get a lot of miles in, but get them in small chunks as to not stress my body toooooo much.

Run fast(er)

During my Baltimore training, I ran many race pace tempo runs. The issue was, I was targeting 6:51/mile (which gets me to exactly the 3:00 cutoff) and was having trouble hitting even that mark.

I’m dropping my pace target to 6:41 (roughly 2:55 marathon pace) and adding in, not only race pace miles (<6:40), but also tempo intervals (6:15-6:30 pace miles).

The goal here is to train faster than is required, so that 6:41 on race day feels ‘easy’ and even gives me a 10 second buffer when I’m tired in the second half of the race.

If the shoe fits, run in it

I’ve also made some ‘gear’ changes since Baltimore.

For this sub 3 hour marathon training block, I’ve made the switch from Altras (which I ran and did all my Ironman training in) to a suite of Nike shoes – specifically the Turbo 2’s and Zoom Fly 3’s.


In part to simply try something new, but in other part to take advantage of the tech that Nike has been developing over the years to help increase runner speed/reduce injury and see if it works for me.

So far so good. I’ve logged about 150 miles in the Turbo’s and much less in the Zoom Fly’s (they’re brand new) and I feel good and can maintain my target paces so far. Not saying it’s the shoes doing that, but they certainly don’t seem to be hurting.

Training progress so far

I currently sit in the middle of week 4 of 20. It’s just after the new year, and also happens to be my first day back to work after enjoying 6 week paternity leave for the birth of my son.

That’ll bring challenges in and of itself.

During leave, I could run whenever it was convenient, and also usually when the sun was up.

Now though, my wife & I are working through a new morning routine to allow me to run, but also allow her to sleep.

We’ll get there one way or another, might just be a bit rocky at the start!

Either way, (barring a setback) this will be my first 40+ mile week of the plan. I’ll have a slight reduction next week down to 38 miles (doing 2 week increases, 1 week deload pattern) and from then on it’s 40+, 50+, even 60+ 2 weeks in the peak portion of the plan.

I’m excited to see where this 2.0 version of the plan takes me, and how much fitter I can be along the way.

As always, I’ll keep you updated.

Until next time!