How long usually until a marathon breakthrough?

by Troy Thompson
(St. Joseph, MI USA)

Marathon breakthrough, how long ?

"Hi, Marius,

I've gotten my 3rd consecutive marathon PR today, using your plan. I'm not burned out either, though at the 20-mile mark I really did ask myself if I might be able to get my airfare to Boston this April refunded!

A year ago I ran a 3:15:29, then a 3:13 in May, now 3:11:47 today on the same course as my 3:15 from 2009. I have small tweaks to make (better pacing, support stockings, electrolyte adjustments)and small excuses for not getting down to the 3:08 I wanted: a few extra pounds, tight IT band, a little illness.

Still, I'd like to get under 3 hours, and I was hoping to do it in two years; on my present pace, it will take me about four. I'm 42 now, and started serious marathon training 3 years ago.

Barring injury, could you comment on my liklihood of getting under 3 hours in the next 1-2 years?

Troy Thompson"

Answer:Hi Troy and congratulations on your third marathon PR !

Now, this is my advice to you. In order to get down to your 3:00 goal I would suggest three things. And you want to test this out for the next marathon - or at least next fall (meaning, aim for sub 3:00 already at that time)

1. IF you have time for it, add some morning runs in there to increase the total mileage - at least for parts of the schedule (most important from week 4-5 until week 10-12) 30-45 minutes each tinme. For many this is enough to make a break in terms of times.

2. Work really hard to go down those few pounds you talk about above. If you can go even harder on the principles I talk about in the 100 day plan for healthy weight loss - do this for a limited time leading up to your next marathon. This aspect is underestimated by many, which is why I talk about it in the 100 day plan.

3. Pick FAST marathon courses. Look at the winning times, the profile as well as the usual weather (ideally 5-12 degrees C and no wind) on that course. Do Boston this spring for the experience of it but the next marathon after that, aim for the very fastest courses around. It can save your many minutes ! OR, go for another round of the 100 day plan now, do a marathon on a fast course in February - using the above and then Boston after that.

Those three things could very well bring you down 10-15 minutes from my experience and lead you to a sub 3:00. And you want to try it fairly soon as you are now in a good "training pattern" and it is better to do this now than to use another 2-3 years, as chances are good to achieve it.

I wish you all the best,


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