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Trying to break a 2:30 marathon. Any training plan/reading recommendations?(r/running)
Ok, so here it goes…
Everyone is different, what works for me may not work for you. I broke 2:30 in my second marathon at 20 years old (after only 1.5 years of taking running seriously, and 10 months after running my first marathon in the 2:50s)… I’m now (still) only 22 and I’m training with goals to run in both the 2016 and 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials (I want to run sub 2:15 by the time I’m 28 at the 2020 trials). Some people can train their entire lives and never come close to dipping under 2:30 because they’re physiologically not capable. I recognize I’m lucky to have natural talent for endurance running, and I only point this out to you because at a certain point you have to realize you can’t compare yourself and your training to many others that have accomplished it because they’re physiologically different.
With that said, a PR of 2:34 is pretty damn close (but ever so far), but it’s unlikely you’ve tapped out your limits at only 80 miles a week.
Preface: I advocate 18 weeks of marathon oriented training as a build up, but prior to starting the 18 weeks, you should have built your base weekly mileage to near what you plan to average for training.
1) One thing in common among all of the fastest marathon runners in the world is that they’re all running more than 80 miles per week. So that’s trick number 1, increase your weekly mileage. I trained between 80-100 in the 18 weeks leading up to my last race, average came out to be right around 90, peak was 104… I intend to (attempt to) push that to 120-130ish in the latest stages of marathon training one day, but not soon. Hell, Brian Sell would put in 150/week when training for the 2008 olympic trials and olympics.
2) stemming from more mileage, make sure your breaking it up into doubles. You will likely wear yourself out trying to average 14 miles a day on singles. Break it up so that one of your runs is 4-6 miles and the longer one makes up the difference for the day(so like 8-10)
3) Longer long runs. This is embraced in Daniel’s Running Formula (the advanced training plan), but at least 2 runs of 22 miles, and at least 8 runs (including those 22 milers) of 18+ miles… Within most of these long days, should be incorporated workouts. An example being: 5 mile warm-up, 5 miles marathon pace, 1 mile tempo pace, 5 miles marathon pace, 1 mile tempo pace, 1 mile marathon pace, 2 mile cooldown, all for a total of 20 miles that day. The reason here is because a long run in itself is good for most people just trying to run a marathon, but it only build endurance, not speed. In trying to run a marathon fast, you have to do more than just build up that muscular endurance; you have to build up your glycogen storage and lactate threshold to handle running long and fast. These fast long runs teach your body to do that.
4) Middle week workouts should be incorporated too. The first few weeks of marathon training can be dedicated to leg speed, so shorter intervals, fartleks and fast-short tempos, but the bulk of your training (from 13 weeks to 5 weeks before your race) will benefit from longer workouts. Instead of a singular 40 minutes hard tempo mid-week, you’ll do something like a hard 30 minute tempo, followed by 5 minutes easy, then another 25 minute hard tempo, another 5 minutes easy/rest, followed by a final 15-20 minute hard tempo, and always ending with at least a mile cooldown. The first 30 minute tempo isn’t overly difficult, but it’s just to make you tired. The real benefits come from the second and third tempos. You’re trying to train your legs to run efficiently and fast after you get tired.
5) Nutrition and body weight. You may have heard quotes like, “if the oven is hot enough, it’ll burn anything.” Sure, there’s truth to that, but its dumb advice to follow if you take that to mean your diet doesn’t matter. You wont get fat running over 80 miles per week, but you’ll feel like shit if you don’t eat right, which in turn effects your training. And honestly, if you live off of potato chips and cupcakes, even running 80+ miles a week wont keep off all of the un-needed pudge… I’d recommend Racing Weight to learn a bit more about it. Basically, you need to eat ~3500 calories a day at that mileage, but make sure it’s healthy…. Getting into a little bit more into subjective opinions on the matter, I think people who say your body will naturally find it’s optimal weight are misguided in terms of competitive distance running. This applies to people trying to be healthy, sure, but every extra pound adds 2-3 seconds a mile. You are plenty healthy at 8% body fat, but most men can be healthy at 6-7%, and even some at 5%. So if you sit at 8.5% currently and lets say 164 pounds, dropping to 7% is still healthy and would drop you 3 pounds. Assuming the lower estimate of 2 seconds per mile per pound, that’s a faster time by approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds…. Now this is a slippery slope trying to drop a couple pound when running this much. You still have to be eating over 3000 calories a day, so you have to be careful
6) Weekly mileage structuring outside of workout days doesn’t need to be fancy. This mileage, while necessary, is just filler. The real key is just consistency. Basically, figure out what your weeks mileage should be, deduct the two workout days, and then divide whats left by 5. That’s what you should do each of the remaining 5 days.
7) Sleep… Don’t neglect it. It’s when your body repairs itself. When you’re in serious training, you’re literally breaking your body down, and along with eating healthy, sleep is the most important aspect to recovery.
8) Run a tune up race (ideally a half-marathon) about 5-6 weeks before the big race. This is when you’ll be in close to your best shape and will give a you a good indication of your current marathon abilities. Any number of race predictors will give you an estimate of what you’re capable of at the full marathon based off the half. I prefer the McMillan Running Calculator. If it says you can run 2:28 based off a half-time, then go out on pace for 2:28, hold it until mile 20-22, and if you’re feeling like you can go under at those later stages, then feel free to try, but don’t pick it up until at least mile 20. This McMillan calculator is usually pretty accurate assuming you trained properly… If you go out too fast, you’ll use up your glycogen stores to early and your body will “self destruct” before the finish; basically, you’ll literally run out of energy and your body turns to burning fat which is far less efficient and will slow you down. There are strategies to pre race eating in terms of percentage of carbs that make up diet (starting 3 days before), look those up for maximum glycogen storage on race day. Also, take gu’s, shot bloc, or whatever form of immediate energy you prefer a few times throughout the race and drink early and constantly, like every 2-3 miles starting at mile 3.
…. Ummm this is already long. If you have any specific questions, feel free to PM me. I have the training logs on my computer somewhere from when I trained for the marathon I broke 2:30 in and I could send it to you if you wanted. I also have a training plan I wrote up and was going to use to train for Boston in 2012, where I was aiming to run 2:24, but got hurt before training even started, just in case you wanted to see an example of what a training plan to run that fast looks like for someone. It’s a plan I still intend to use for my next marathon.
EDIT: As for books and resources, check out Daniel’s Running Formula and Advanced Marathoning. I use those two books primarily, along with various input/advice from coaches, runners, and other resources. I’d also looking up Renato Canova and his training methods that can be found around the web. He’s a coach of many world-class Kenyan athletes, including multiple world-champions and olympic medalists from events in the steeple chase, 5k, 10k, and marathon.
EDIT #2: I actually just got back from a run and was thinking about it, and I remembered a few other things I wanted to add to this list…
9) Read up on running biomechanics and proper running form. The majority of the first world (i.e. people who have grown up with access to modern running shoes), have terrible running form. Most people heel strike, they have tense upper bodies, don’t control their breathing, and have “lazy” leg mechanics. You need to learn to keep your upper body relaxed as possible, body in an upright position, with arms loose. If you’re tense, you’re wasting energy. One of the best things I ever did was train myself to run on my mid/forefoot. Without getting too much into the science behind it, it’s biomechanically more efficient in terms of energy expenditure versus powering forward. Watch any professional runner, they land on the mid part of their foot and their torso’s are upright and bent ever-so-slightly forward… Now don’t go buy minimalist/barefoot shoes, you don’t need them… modern running shoes protect your feet, reduce stress on bones and soft tissues, and you can have a natural running form in them.
10) You may already do this, but a core/ab workout routine is vitally important. Your abs, side, and lower back muscles play a key role in keeping your entire body in good condition. They keep your hips in line, which keep your form more efficient allowing for faster and longer running… light upper body exercise in your chest and shoulders can be beneficial as well, but by light I literally mean pushups and pullups is all you need.
11) Mentality is one of the absolute most important parts about accomplishing your goal… and this applies to anyone and everyone with goals, no matter what they are. You have to believe in yourself; don’t hope to accomplish it, know you’re going to accomplish it.Within 2 hours of finishing my first marathon, I texted my best friend (who ran D1 XC and track) that I would run another that year and I would break 2:40. After months of hard training, 5 weeks before the race I ran a half in 1:10:20, and that’s when I called it, I will run under 2:30… and I did… I’m someone who never broke 19:00 in the 5k in high school, even after 3 years of running XC and track, and now I’ve ran 14:44 on the track. I honestly, 100% believe I am capable of qualifying for the Olympic trials, and I will tell anyone who asks. Don’t get it confused with cockiness, I don’t brag about it… but I’m confident in my potential to do it.
Lastly, thank you kind stranger for the Reddit Gold!